Holly Brenner on the future for Fond du Lac

Posted on Jun 1, 2016 :: Face Time
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Holly Brenner, vice president of strategic development and marketing for Agnesian Health Care and president of the Agnesian Health Care Foundation, serves as the chair of Envision Fond du Lac, a community planning process launched in 2015. Senior Associate Editor Sean Johnson sat down with her to discuss the group’s plans for Fond du Lac’s future. 

We don’t have to be a midway point between Milwaukee and Green Bay. We can stand on our own.

Envision Fond du Lac came out of an Association of Commerce Leadership Fond du Lac small group project exploring opportunities and issues in the community. What we found is that there was a lot of great work already being done — great work — toward the betterment of greater Fond du Lac. The challenge we found was that they weren’t necessarily aligned in how they defined “better.” They were close, but when you can align the resources you can also maximize the resources.

What is unique about Envision Fond du Lac is that it is not a city or county or government run initiative. We started out with nine individuals representing seven organizations: The Association of Commerce, FCEDC, the city, the county, the visitors’ bureau, Mercury Marine and Agnesian Health Care. We got their buy-in for financial support to hire a consultant.

Sure, we saw some skeptics. I had someone tell me that this was a once-in-a-generation wakeup call and if we didn’t get this right and get the community on board we would not be able to talk about it for another generation. I want to be proud of where I come from. I want Fond du Lac to be a place where my three children can grow up, go out and see the world, and when they are ready to come back, I want Fond du Lac to be a place that they want to come back to because they can find great jobs, they have plenty to do and it’s just a great community to be in.

We wanted to make sure this didn’t become something that just adorns a credenza. Once we got to the point where we were ready to do the work, we assembled an advisory committee made up of 23 individuals that represent all different parts of Fond du Lac — businesses, not-for-profit, for-profit — because we knew this was something that couldn’t be successful if it’s just kept around a boardroom table. I’ve lost count of the number of community input sessions where we got input on a certain topic or from a certain demographic we wanted to make sure was included. We’ve done a lot of work to make sure we have reached out to those parties that will build this plan so that it is something they will buy into.

There are so many generous and hard-working people in our community. People are generous, they want things to be great, and they are willing to roll up their sleeves and to pitch in and make that happen. Also, we really work well together. When the vision is aligned, people who in certain instances would be considered competitors are at the same table and they are working toward what we believe collectively is going to make for a better future.

This plan, like any good strategic plan, is something that will continue to evolve. There are dozens and dozens of action items. It’s not reasonable to believe there will be action on all of those year one.

In the interests of giving people direction of where we want to go, we have set three strategic priorities: economy, identity and next generation. For year one, we’ve identified about 10 initiatives around those three areas of focus and we are working on those. We’ve tried to get a mix of quick wins and those that we know will be longer term. We meet quarterly as a committee to measure progress and make sure things are staying on track and make sure resources are available where they are needed. Envision Fond du Lac is something that does not have an end date.