Our View: Now develop vision for our economy

March 22, 2007 12:00 am

This weekend's summit featuring Connie Loden is a must see for Del Norte County's civic and business leaders. As director of the Heart of Wisconsin Business & Economic Alliance, Loden will tell the story of a community not unlike our own that turned itself around.

It's clear that Del Norte County's economy needs bolstering. About a third of this county's residents live below the poverty line. Nearly as many rely on food shelves for their meals. Every 13th person you pass on the street doesn't have a job. Our county is overreliant on government payouts to make ends meet, leaving us at the mercy of Washington and Sacramento. Indeed, the four-days of workshops headed by Australian economic guru David Beurle last month helped establish that local residents and leaders recognize the need for bolstering our economy.

To turn the economy around, as a community, we'll need to develop objectives to aim for and a comprehensive strategy for achieving them. That's the step we're at with this weekend's economic summit: Developing a vision for what we'd like our community to look like.

Loden will describe how we just might do that by showing what her community did. At one time, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., faced a similar crisis as our own: Its main industry, paper mills from nearby logging, collapsed thanks to environmental concerns, government regulation and various economic factors. In addition, that area's dairy industry has shrunk dramatically, causing many family farmers to go out of business, not unlike our own fishing industry. Unemployment and poverty quickly rose. Local governments and schools soon found themselves without revenue to provide needed services.

In response, businesses, governments and civic groups allied themselves in hopes of reversing the crisis. They're now engaged in business recruitment, helping businesses obtain financial assistance to relocate, expand and upgrade, and offering employee recruitment services. Most importantly, they've got local entities cooperatively heading in the same direction to maximize economic growth.

That's a point we need to reach. On Saturday, we can hear a success story about how another community did just that. It should prove inspiring.