Business Pulse: DCEDC Sets Its Sights on Housing Development

by Jim Schuessler, DCEDC Executive Director

The Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) has never been more excited about the future of our area.

Door County’s most recent reported unemployment rate (3.0 percent in November) was at its lowest level for the month of November in recorded history, and hundreds of jobs are currently available. The challenge has now shifted to welcoming new residents to fill our jobs.

Attacking the job issue head on, the DCEDC had been working on several initiatives. Last October, we launched our first job fair during Manufacturing Days, and many people seeking opportunities came to Door County from outside the area. People are seeking a high quality of life, good schools and opportunity. All of these ideals can be found here.

Local print and radio media greatly aided the event through their coverage, and every news station in Green Bay filed multiple stories on Door County’s strong job market.

New residents need a place to live: a concern that we hear consistently. Just this past summer, there were virtually no apartments available for new residents to rent, but we have started to see a spark in housing development. Many new apartment units are now completed, under construction or proposed – particularly in Sturgeon Bay.

Last spring, the DCEDC, along with several partners from the public and private sectors, committed to a housing study to determine the need. The study should be available in the next few weeks, but the preliminary data reveal that lack of construction during the Great Recession has resulted in the need for hundreds of new apartment units across north, central and southern Door County.

This lack of apartment construction may be a key reason why Door County’s population has not grown materially since 1997 – a long stretch.

By the year 2020, we hope to see some modest population growth driven in part by housing development. Still more units will be needed during the next several years to accommodate projected future employment growth.

Door County employers have done the hard part in creating jobs. Now it’s important that the DCEDC, working with housing developers and interested municipalities, collaborate on sites to address our unmet need for housing.

Next week I will discuss the DCEDC’s Strategic Work Plan.