by Jim Schuessler, DCEDC Executive Director
The Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) is very excited about Door County’s future. Local unemployment is at an all-time low. Retail sales are at an all-time high. Median household income is growing.
Still, there are headwinds: The county’s population has declined 2.7 percent in the past 15 years, and Sturgeon Bay’s population has fallen more than 6 percent during that same period. Aging demographics point to the need to retain and attract more youth.
The businesses and citizens of Door County need growth to stimulate a vibrant economic ecosystem that keeps our schools, businesses and overall economy advancing.
DCEDC developed its current Work Plan to support Door County’s future. Here are some highlights:
Legislative Days: Every two years, DCEDC collaborates with Kewaunee County to make our regional issues known to legislators and suggest solutions. Past accomplishments include Highway 57 improvements, seawalls and phosphorus reduction. The topics the Steering Committee chooses will help advance our collective future.
Business & Education Partnership: DCEDC’s work with Door County’s five school districts is important to the sustainability of our county. Last year, Christina Studebaker joined DCEDC as our workforce-development project manager. Her mission is to help address the workforce needs of today and the future.
The Inspire Door County digital platform helps all county students prepare for their future by learning more about local employers and careers. Inspire Door County also provides opportunities for students to get hands-on experiences through job shadows, apprenticeships and more.
The High School Home Construction Project, which has resulted in 10 new homes in Door and Kewaunee counties, will change because student participation in the project has declined. We hope that by making changes to the project model, we can connect more students to careers in the homebuilding trades and high-wage-earning opportunities.
Housing: The week of Feb. 4, we will release the results of the long-awaited housing study. A key finding is that we have not built enough housing since the Great Recession. The report will provide information on the number and type of housing needed in the county.
DCEDC has already begun working with several municipalities on specific solutions to address housing needs. We will engage with all municipalities interested in helping meet housing needs.
Entrepreneurial Development: This week, DCEDC kicks off its annual Entrepreneurial Training Program, which has helped many businesses to launch. We will work with this year’s class to help fund ideas for starting or growing a business.
In April, DCEDC will offer a Food, Beverage and Consumer Product Boot Camp. Tera Johnson, founder of the successful Tera’s Whey, will deliver a four-day business-development camp to help local companies optimize their business models. Door County has great potential to grow in this sector.
With food and beverage manufacturing in mind, we will work to advance the Northern Door Enterprise Center to help new and existing businesses grow.
Broadband: This issue has been discussed for years, and through DCEDC’s Technology Council, we have outlined a path forward. Some municipalities have been more progressive than others in providing necessary foundational support, such as community surveys. With the information available, we have started to lay out a path to ensure that Door County businesses, residents and visitors have access to fast, reliable and economical broadband.
In a future column, DCEDC’s Christina Studebaker will provide information about employment opportunities in the county and how DCEDC is partnering with employers to attract and retain the workforce we need.