DCEDC’s Systemic Approach to Sustainable Economic Development

by Christina Studebaker, Workforce Development Project Manager

Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) is a public/private partnership whose mission is to improve the economic vitality of Door County and its residents. That mission is straightforward and simple, and the goal is clear. But if you ask 10 people how to achieve the goal, you will likely get 10 different answers. Any particular answer isn’t necessarily “right” or “wrong” – the answers just reflect differences in perception, perspective and priorities. There are different paths to the goal, and the challenge is not to let disagreements about how to reach the goal derail us from making progress.

The overarching goal is to have a healthy and sustainable economy and community. Characteristics that have been identified by researchers, governments and community organizations as supporting a healthy and sustainable community include a strong economy and employment opportunities; housing; transportation; good educational systems; safety; good health care and preventive health services; opportunities for active living; access to healthful food; a stable, sustainable ecosystem and environment; equity; supportive public policy and an empowered population.

DCEDC recognizes the interconnectedness of these characteristics and the need for a systemic approach to achieving its mission. We are proud that Door County already excels in many of these characteristics, and we want to help maintain a positive, forward momentum. Making progress in one area often depends on making progress – or at least having a plan for future work – in another area. Being mindful of the system helps to ensure the coordination of efforts, all geared toward achieving the end goal.

DCEDC’s 2019 work plan includes:

• initiatives to attract and retain a qualified workforce, including updating DCEDC’s website to include helpful resources and tools for job seekers inside and outside the county

• connecting schools with businesses to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students through events such as career fairs, youth apprenticeships and job shadows

• working with schools to help ensure that all students are prepared for their next step after high school, whether that includes immediately entering the workforce or the military, or pursuing postsecondary education (e.g., certification, tech college, four-year college)

• helping to develop attainable housing that addresses shortages in year-round and seasonal housing

• supporting NexGen Door County and the opportunities it provides for younger community members to network, collaborate and develop as business and community leaders

• helping to establish reliable broadband service countywide

• ensuring that existing businesses have the resources and support necessary to grow and thrive

• supporting and assisting entrepreneurial development through business training and counseling (e.g., housing new businesses at DCEDC’s incubator space and organizing a “boot camp” for food-manufacturing entrepreneurs April 4-7)

• supporting policies that advance economic development

• evaluating DCEDC’s environmental practices (e.g., assessing the energy usage at its facilities and sustainability practices at community events) and developing a plan to improve practices going forward

(DCEDC’s Executive Director, Jim Schuessler, also discussed the organization’s 2019 work plan in the Peninsula Pulse’s Jan. 18-25, 2019, publication.)

DCEDC recognizes the importance and benefit of participation by individuals and organizations from all regions and sectors of the county, collaboration among community partners and using data to guide and measure efforts.

Some may see DCEDC’s 2019 work plan as ambitious. We at DCEDC see it as reflecting the system of interconnected characteristics that make Door County great and that will help us grow and remain a vibrant, sustainable community. We invite you to join us in our work.