|Local business leaders say building relationships key to creating jobs|
|Written by Todd Mishler/Walworth County Sunday|
|Monday, 14 November 2011 07:57|
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch talks about helping Wisconsin companies to retain and create jobs during Wednesday’s annual meeting of the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance. Terry Mayer/staff photo.
(Read the full story in the e-edition HERE.)
LAKE GENEVA — Starting relationships and building partnerships emerged as the theme during the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance’s annual meeting last week at the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa.
Business owners and leaders — the real job creators — and state power brokers agreed that that combination is what will help dig the area and the state out of the economic doldrums and prepare them to be ahead of the game when things improve.
Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dipped 0.1 percent to 7.8 percent in September after four consecutive months of increases, while Walworth County’s rate dropped 0.3 percent from August to 7.1 percent, which isn’t a huge difference from the 7.3 percent rate from September 2010.
However, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO Paul Jadin, Kikkoman Foods President and CEO Kazuo Shimizu and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch remained optimistic about a brighter future when they took the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa stage in front of more than 200 attendees.
“Wisconsin has been woeful in selling itself and what we have to offer, and we’ll use whatever tools we have available at WEDC to improve that,” said Jadin, a former mayor of Green Bay. “One of the myths out there is that we’re trying to lure businesses from Illinois, Iowa and elsewhere. We won’t turn those opportunities down, but our goal is to work with and retain what we have and grow from there.
“We were on pace — 62,000 jobs per year — before all of the trouble with the U.S. debt and credit rating issues took over,” Jadin added about Governor Scott Walker’s goal of creating 250,000 private-sector jobs by 2015. “We’re back on track again. We want to make your jobs easier, and in turn you will make our job easier. Kikkoman’s is a good example of fostering an environment for growth, real job growth.”
The 640-square foot company, which opened in Walworth in 1972, employs more than 160 workers and continued to show its commitment to the area when it donated five acres to the town of Walworth for its new town hall.
“We want to partner with WCEDA in preserving and continuing the quality of life we have in Walworth County,” said Shimizu, the event’s keynote speaker.
Kleefisch pinch-hit for Walker, whose appearance was derailed by the wintry weather conditions in the Fox Valley. She repeated the refrain that the administration is “focused like a laser beam” on creating jobs and reiterated that small businesses have to lead the way.
“It’s not government that creates jobs, but the private sector,” Kleefisch said. “Economic development during an economic downturn is a Herculean task, and we thank you for taking on that task. The challenge facing us is that a lot of people are waiting, and we need to shake those dollars loose and put them back into businesses so they can create more jobs.
“We need to create an atmosphere of certainty and stability,” Kleefisch added. “By summertime, we were creating jobs at twice the national rate. But then what was going on at the federal level put a wet blanket over everything, and it’s tough to break out of this. The biggest challenge is getting people back to work, and the vast majority of jobs come from what we call our existing customers. We need to keep and grow them, and we need your input.”
Mike Van Den Bosch is executive director of WCEDA and said that the attendance at Wednesday’s meeting in and of itself proves that area companies are ready to embrace new ideas and partnerships in turning the economy around.
“I told members that if we got 100 people that I’d be happy, and then when we passed the 200 mark you made me the happiest person in Walworth County,” Van Den Bosch said. “But all of these people didn’t come for Governor Walker, because they didn’t know he was supposed to be here until last week. They came because of their support for economic development in the county.”
Van Den Bosch said that knowing the state isn’t just paying lip service to the challenge provides encouragement, and the key to success remains business retention and collaborating with government, businesses and educational institutions to match workers with the right jobs.
“We know that 80 percent of new job growth comes from businesses already here,” Van Den Bosch said, “and that’s where we want to invest most of our time and efforts. And recent examples of what’s going on at Birds Eye and Generac are huge for this area.”
The event also featured a recognition segment in which Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center earned the Workforce Development Investment Award and Birds Eye was named the WCEDA Capital Investment Award winner, while Robert Spitzer received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Florian Schach said:
|Last Updated on Monday, 14 November 2011 08:15|