There’s No Finish Line in Economic Development

by Jim Schuessler, Executive Director, DCEDC

Every August, 32 professional football teams assemble on the practice field, each with one goal in mind: to hoist the Lombardi trophy as champions the following February. That achievement, in essence, is the ultimate “finish line” in football, and only one team each season can successfully cross that line.

By contrast, there is no finish line in economic development. Instead, measuring the success of an economic-development organization depends on the initiatives it focuses on and the metrics that measure whether it has been successful. The DCEDC metrics of 2019 are based on our current Strategic Work Plan.

Bear in mind that there is a “zig and zag” in economic development.

For example, in the depths of the Great Recession, many people were seeking jobs when there were few jobs to come by. Today there are more jobs available than people to fill them.

As artificial intelligence expands, millions of jobs will become obsolete, so retraining workers will become more important. Two Oxford researchers claim technology will transform many sectors of life. They studied 702 occupational groupings and found that 47 percent of U.S workers have a high probability of seeing their jobs automated during the next 20 years.

You can see that we have had steady employment growth since the Great Recession, yet it has not yet returned to pre-recession levels.

Housing is a prominent issue in our Strategic Work Plan, and the recently completed Door County Housing Analysis has outlined some specific metrics for now – to catch up with where we should already be – and for the near future because construction requires lead time.

Workforce Housing
Senior Housing
Seasonal Housing

Both Sturgeon Bay and Sister Bay have done an excellent job of facilitating apartment development, but the housing analysis makes it even more clear that we just need more to overcome the current deficit and the near-term need for development. The current housing gap is hurting the ability of county companies to attract and retain employees.

This housing gap creates both an opportunity and a sense of urgency for other communities in central and northern Door County that wish to enhance their sustainability and tax base through housing development – particularly housing that supports the people who live, work and raise families here. These residents help keep Door County’s economy moving all year long.

The Town of Liberty Grove has also started taking important steps that could ultimately lead to housing development.

It takes good partnerships with local government to create the  needed housing. Working with groups such as the Interfaith Prosperity Coalition will be invaluable as we seek to inform communities of both the need and the opportunity.

Other metrics include new business starts, business expansions, capital investment, job creation and retention, and broadband expansion.

Future changes in the economy will impact our Strategic Work Plan and the corresponding metrics. Though the race is never over, DCEDC will keep advancing the priorities that help ensure we are achieving our mission to improve the county’s economic vitality.