Native Ohioan Christina Studebaker had only been on the job for less than a month in the newly created position of workforce development project manager for the Door County Economic Development Corp. (DCEDC) when asked about how things were going.
“Definitely busy. I’ve been meeting a lot of people and everyone’s very helpful,” she said.
She is one of the people who felt the Door County attraction so strongly that she bought a home here about 18 months ago and waited for the right job opportunity to present itself.
“I was looking for a job to apply my skills and I was so fortunate that this came along at this time,” she said.
DCEDC Executive Director Jim Schuessler said Studebaker “is already off to a tremendous start.”
“Christina brings a solution-oriented philosophy to workforce development. Her approach matches the philosophy that I’m working to instill at Door County Economic Development Corporation,” he said.
The challenge he said is to retain talent already in the county while also attracting new talent to the area.
“Many of our companies have told us they would add additional work shifts if workers were available. That means there is opportunity here,” Schuessler said. “Christina will also be garnering compensation information so our companies know what pay scale is available in the region. We want to provide any opportunity to help our companies to become as competitive as they choose. With good information they are in a position to do that.”
While the recent focus has been on manufacturing, both Schuessler and Studebaker said they are aware that the need for employees is also strong in the tourism/hospitality industry that is so important to the county.
“Looking forward it’s my expectation that DCEDC can become a strong resource for our hospitality industry. That means helping create opportunities for attracting workers for seasonal employment as well as addressing seasonal housing needs. We also have to solve our transportation issues,” Schuessler said. “Christina is smart, resourceful, and capable of helping put in place the systems and resources necessary for Door County to thrive.”
Studebaker grew up and went to school in Dayton, Ohio, not far from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. She went to Northwestern for grad school, where she studied social psychology, which she said is not a familiar area for most people.
“I refer to it as the psychology of every day – it’s judgment and decision-making, how interacting with other people influences your behavior, how you perceive the world, all of those interesting things,” she said. “I studied that, and applied it in the area of the legal arena. I ended up studying juror decision-making. I did various stints around the country, studying and working. I’ve been in Vermont, Nebraska, Chicago, Washington, D.C., most recently Indianapolis.”
Just as she was thinking about applying her skills to the community rather than litigation, she said, “I found myself being drawn to Door County, having come up here a few years ago and deciding I want to settle here. The more time I spent up here, I knew I liked it more than where I was in Indianapolis, and was OK moving from my family, which is essentially in Ohio. It just felt right.”
She believes the timing was right, with Schuessler coming on board in July as the new executive director of the organization.
“I think he was open to people outside of Door County and being able to contribute, just as he’s doing. Jim being in this role at this time is a key factor in me getting this job,” she said.
Studebaker said this is still the early data-gathering phase for her as she attempts to advance the cause of employment needs in the county.
“I view this situation holistically,” she said. “It’s not all directly on my plate, but it’s all linked. We have to be able to address things like housing, transportation and trailing spouse issues and support services, learning about those things and how they fit into the big picture in order to be able to talk intelligently.”
The long-awaited housing study the DCEDC commissioned will help offer direction for the future, she said.
Rather than all the flailing around the issue of housing that has gone on the last few years, with ideas tossed out by various entities but nothing happening, Studebaker said it should be a more fruitful discussion “when everyone gets the data and analysis in front of them and we all have something specific to look at and add to the discussion.”
“The economic vitality depends on this,” Studebaker said. “None of us are interested in continuing to talk about it. We want to make some movement on it. It’s got to happen.”