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In Focus: Directions of Change

Executive Director of Heart of Wisconsin Business & Economic Alliance Connie Loden ().
Executive Director of Heart of Wisconsin Business & Economic Alliance Connie Loden ().

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

How one community overcame an collapse, not unlike Del Norte County recently experienced, marks the topic of the featured speaker at this Saturday's Del Norte County's 2007 Economic Summit.

Connie Loden, executive director of Heart of Wisconsin Business & Economic Alliance, will speak during the summit's morning program.

Her connection to Del Norte County is through David Beurle, the Australian entrepreneur who held a host of meetings earlier this month.

Loden's organization and the Community Foundation of South Wood County, in Wisconsin, with which she partners, have both worked with Beurle.

Beurle calls Loden's community, Wisconsin Rapids in Wood County, Wis., one of his success stories.

"It took us about three years to change things," Loden said.

Heart of Wisconsin, begun three years ago in April, is one of the developments that enabled Wood County to recover from a series of "economic shifts" that hit the community from 2000-2003.

"Since then it's been fun stopping (the hits) and creating a new community," Loden said. "The two organizations have developed the community progress initiative that played a role in the economic development of our county."

Loden will explain to Del Norters how the effort was funded and what its results were.

Triplicate letters to the editor and op-ed pieces written after Beurle's visit ran a gamut of emotions and opinions familiar to Loden.

"There were similar reactions to the first mention of change, but other parts of the community saw a need for economic change," she said. "It doesn't mean you have to have one or the other, you need to decide what you want to occur."

The main city in Loden's area is home to 18,000 people.

"In some ways it's easier to rally and get the community message out than in larger communities," Loden said as she compared South Wood County's 40,000 people to Del Norte County's population.

The Wisconsin county relied heavily on its timber industry and on mines that closed during the 1960s. Surprisingly, Loden said, former timber industry areas lend themselves well to tourism.

"Tourism has a good synergy because of some of the aesthetics of the area and terrain and its natural quality of life aspects," Loden said.

Regarding her town's reactions to change, Loden said that group dynamics between residents and people who move in are "a little different."

Similarities include "the commonalities are the quality of life and having a healthy community."

"We realized that we need an economy (that) can provide them to the community," she said. "I'm looking forward to sharing what's worked, and some of the ways of appropriate community development."

The event has a full slate of speakers and vendors' booths.

During the summit, several Del Norte civic and business leaders will address local issues, including:

•John Irwin, fiberoptics consultant to Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority

•Grant Scholes, Sutter Coast Hospital spokesman

•Dr. Mark Davis, California Medical Association board of trustees

•Dan Brattain, Cal-Ore Life Flight owner

•Kim Schmidt, Economic Development Project Director and Administrator for the Tri-

Agency Economic Development Authority

•Tamera Buchanan, Del Norte Local Transportation Commission, director

•Jay Freeman, Hambro Forest Products Inc. vice president/controller

If you go

•What: 2007 Economic Summit

•When: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. March 24, catered lunch

•Where: Del Norte County Cultural Center

•Cost: $20/advance, $25 at door

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