What We Watched in 2012

What We Watched in 2012

Last December we made some calls. We pointed out what to watch in 2012 – predicting cuts to public services, closing non-profits, stalled development and a changed Sturgeon Bay because of a Wal-Mart supercenter. Read on to see how we did.

Budget Battles

What we thought: Thought that was over? Think again. The impact of last June’s state budget deal has only begun to be felt by state and local governments. Expect more cuts in services we’ve come to expect.

In 2012, the state was able to carry forward without a structural deficit for the first time in recent memory and deposit $108.7 million into a rainy day fund. But at this month’s county board meeting, when County Supervisor Ben Meyer asked Jon Hochkammer of the Wisconsin Counties Association if the state’s balanced budget has simply shifted the burden to county services, this is the response he received:

“Definitely… I think we will see wait lists go up,” Hochkammer said. “We’ve seen other examples as well. It’s been pushed to other local units of local government.”

Wal-Mart’s Super Move

What we thought: The long-in-the-works Wal-Mart supercenter will finally open in 2012. The project already re-shaped the look of Egg Harbor Road, but will it re-shape the Sturgeon Bay retail climate as well?

Sturgeon Bay Community Development Director Marty Olejniczak said the Wal-Mart upgrade has been successful so far. Outside of a traffic light that took a while to get operational, traffic concerns never materialized, and the city’s seen some growth as a result of the supercenter.

“We’ve had some spinoff success from that in O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, which was just completed, and Maurices, which is under construction,” said Olejniczak.

Concerns that local businesses may be forced to close their doors because of the corporate giant have gone unfounded so far, but Olejniczak said the city is still watching to make sure there aren’t any ill effects.

“We’ve got to keep our eyes open,” Olejniczak said. “Some of those effects aren’t felt for a year or two or even later. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.”

Nonprofit Pinch

What we thought: High unemployment has forced many more people to rely on social services and charities to get by. But with less revenue and fewer charity dollars to go around, those services and non-profits are in greater need themselves. The year ahead is going to be challenging, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see several offices and non-profits face closure in a county that relies heavily on them.

We got this one wrong, according to Door Community Foundation President Bret Bicoy.

“Anecdotally, we didn’t see a drop-off in charitable giving,” Bicoy said.

Bicoy said giving was down nationally in 2011, but remained steady in Door County. This year was similar, and local giving strengthened with a strengthening local economy.

“The trend has continued again in 2012, and it’s been a pretty good year for most folks,” Bicoy said.

Bottomed Out?

What we thought: The trades that once fed off the peninsula’s development boom have seen work dry up with the bursting of the real estate bubble. Nobody expects a big rebound anytime soon, but with housing stalled, where does that leave the tradesman who fed off the gold rush?

The real estate and development markets seemed to be on the upswing in 2012, according to Bill Chaudoir, executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation.

Development hasn’t rebounded to pre-recession levels, but Chaudoir said that might be a good thing. Lots of unchecked development isn’t a good thing either.

“Certainly some people want to see that – a slowing of growth and building in the county,” Chaudoir said. “There are pros and cons to everything.”