UP FRONT: A bigger picture

Posted on Mar 1, 2015 :: Up Front
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Connie Loden’s newest venture is all about scaling up.

New North Inc. announced in January that Loden, who has spent the past four years leading Progress Lakeshore, would join its staff as a senior project manager to bolster region-wide initiatives, particularly the next phase of work on the Defense Industry Initiative assisting the region’s defense suppliers.

In her work with Progress Lakeshore, Loden successfully guided the development of the Lakeshore Industry Cluster Initiative, which established a five-county regional approach for key industries in that area such as agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.

New North will draw heavily on that experience to see how similar initiatives can integrate into the larger efforts of the economic development group.

“This is an opportunity to bring those concepts into the broader regional basis and see how they can fit,” says Loden, who began her new role with New North on Feb. 1.

“When you first start to work with clusters, you realize that boundaries don’t necessarily apply. It’s really about taking it to the next step and expanding the work.”

In 2014, Loden received the Wisconsin Leadership Award from the U.S. Institute for Advancement of Trade and Commerce for her work with the Lakeshore Cluster Initiative. Her familiarity with New North should allow Loden to integrate quickly. In addition to her work with Progress Lakeshore, she has served on the New North board of directors since 2011.

New North Executive Director Jerry Murphy is eager to put Loden’s experience to work.

“Having someone with her experience tackling complex challenges is going to accelerate that project,” Murphy says. “That accelerates New North and benefits the subregions.”

Certainly, the Defense Industry Initiative will accelerate in 2015.

Awarded to the region to help suppliers to Oshkosh Defense since that company completed several large contracts and scaled back operations, several of the project’s phases will ramp up this year after months of surveys and research. Work funded by the grant is expected to establish or strengthen several industry clusters throughout the New North region.

Loden’s addition is the latest indicator of the growth New North has been experiencing. While still a lean operation — there are four full-time employees — the organization recently moved from De Pere into larger quarters on the WPS campus in Green Bay. Loden joins a full-time team that includes: Murphy; Ann Duginski, director of marketing and development; and Lorri LaPratt, office manager. New North also has two part-time marketing and research interns.

As New North has grown as an organization, so has its involvement in initiatives to market and grow the region. While it is a collaborative agency that can bring together and leverage the assets of a wide range of partners, there is always technical work that has to be done, Murphy says. As New North’s body of work has grown, so has that workload.

“In 2014, we teed up a lot of projects,” Murphy says. “There is a back office workload that needs to be accomplished.”

While Loden is anxious to jump into her new position, she will also continue to work with the Lakeshore Cluster Initiative. For her, it’s a chance to continue to explore how the work at the local level can be scaled up across the entire region.

“The other thing is ‘how do we fit into the state and federal level? What are the broader applications for what we go through as a regional organization?’” Loden says. “New North is large enough to attract the interest of federal funding.”

Connie LodenThe Loden File
2015, senior project manager, New North, Inc.
2010-14, executive director, Progress Lakeshore
2002-10, president/CEO, Heart of Wisconsin Business & Economic Alliance
1993-2002, Iron County Development Zone Council
Member: New North Board of Directors, International Community Development Society, NEWREP and the Wisconsin Economic Development Association.

Loden has also owned and operated several private businesses in Wisconsin.