Knowing which way to turn

Posted on Sep 6, 2011 :: Editor’s Insights , Margaret LeBrun
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Photo by Image Studios

You want to know. What will the future hold? Or, better yet, what will it require?

The feeling of uncertainty has been heavy in the air lately. It was the topic of discussion in a panel on regulation hosted by the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce last month. It’s especially in the minds of manufacturers, who may feel like Alice in Wonderland imploring the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

Will current regulations hold? Will provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act stick? With volatile global markets, what will happen to the value of the dollar?

The health care industry, for one, is following through with the new federal law as required, in spite of recent court challenges. Industry leaders are preparing for the possibility that in 2014, many businesses may decide to drop health benefits and pay a fine – leading to a potential demand for more individuals seeking coverage (see “Still Waiting,” page 40).

Uncertainty was also top of mind for John Davis, CEO of Great Northern Corp., when I spoke to him for this month’s Face Time interview. As a founding member and past president of the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance, he said not knowing what tomorrow will bring is keeping members on the edge. Manufacturers don’t want to buy and warehouse parts and materials before they know what orders will come in. Yet, as those orders do come, they have to be ready to move – fast.

“That is probably the No. 1 complaint from business leaders that I talk to – they can’t look far ahead and plan,” Davis says. “We’re very much in a reactive mode.”

Also on the minds of manufacturers: Finding skilled workers to fill their many vacant positions – in spite of a state unemployment rate of 7.8 percent. With a shift to sophisticated technology, combined with global pressures to produce goods cheaper and faster, industry is suffering a lack of skilled workers who can walk in and get the job done. To hear Davis’s take on the topic, turn to page 23.

Incidentally, if your business is manufacturing or related to the industry in any way, you’ll want to save this date: Oct. 26. That’s when Insight Publications will co-sponsor the Manufacturing First conference with First Business Bank and the NEW Manufacturing Alliance at the KI Center in Green Bay. It will be the first region-wide event focused specifically on issues concerning manufacturers. For details, go to www.manufacturingfirst.com.

At Insight, our goal is to be your resource for connecting with like-minded businesspeople throughout the New North. This month, we have revamped Connections to focus on what’s coming up (see page 26). We’ll highlight one important event and then offer a listing of upcoming events we consider important to a broad audience in the New North. Watch for updates on our website.

A big date for Community First Credit Union, our cover story, is the weekend of Sept. 16-18, when the region’s largest credit union hosts the annual Fox Cities Marathon. CEO Cathie Tierney will be involved on the sidelines again this year. Many who know her will notice she’s in the best shape she’s been in for years. She credits a serious decision to have bariatric surgery not quite one year ago, combined with careful attention to her personal health, that has her feeling terrific. She’s lost 103 pounds.

If one thing’s for certain, it’s that businesses in our region care deeply about doing right by their communities. This month, United Way agencies kick off their annual pledge drives. Our Brown County and Fox Cities readers will find annual campaign booklets in this issue of Insight.

We plan to kick off the season in style, hosting our first “Karaoke for a Cause” event Sept. 22 at the Outer Edge in Appleton. Watch for details on our website,

www.insightonbusiness.com.

We are absolutely certain it will be a good time!

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →