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Dodge County economic development taking shape: Report details assets, shortfalls, in area resources

JUNEAU — The annual report for THRIVE Economic Development for Jefferson and Dodge counties is in, and some of the results are surprising.

THRIVE has been working with Jefferson County for a decade and has only been working with Dodge County for the last year. Still, Dodge County Board of Supervisors members commended its work.

The report revealed there are plenty of skilled workers who are willing to commute or take on a different job if the pay is high enough, and there is a shortage of affordable housing for people in low-paying jobs.

There aren’t many young people entering the job market, even though there will be plenty of opportunities.

Those are just some of the observations presented to the Dodge County Board Tuesday night by THRIVE CEO Vicky Pratt and Dodge County Planning and Economic Administrator Nate Olson.

THRIVE also markets land and buildings for relocation or building of production and commercial facilities. In the past year, it has impacted 102 jobs and fostered more than $20 million of investment, most of it in Jefferson County.

THRIVE is the organization’s new moniker, having replaced “Glacial Heritage Development Partnership.”

“THRIVE implies movement toward success, which is really who we are,” Pratt said. “We have evolved, and have changed to promote economic development across Dodge and Jefferson counties.”

The organization had an investor fundraising goal of $3.2 million over five years, and to date $2.1 million has been raised. The plan has been adjusted to reflect that dollar total and focuses on three key areas: business development, workforce development and branding and marketing.

In business development, the group provides confidential site or building searches for businesses; assists in meeting financial needs through business lenders, connecting with local, state and federal funding streams; assists in business and marketing plan development; and identifies staffing resources and helps resolve licensing, certification and zoning issues.

“There were 58 new opportunities in the pipeline from Sept. 1, 2017 through Sept. 30, 2018,” said Pratt. “There were 22 in manufacturing, nine in mixed use, eight in food and beverage processing, eight in recreation/accommodation and retail, seven in professional and other services, six in agribusiness and six in warehousing.”

There were 53 site searches in Jefferson County and 15 in Dodge County. Clients determine where the searches take place and Dodge County is relatively new in that field.

In the “wins” category in Dodge County is JCB Flavors, an existing business expanding into Watertown with the purchase of a 70,000-square-foot facility, $3 million invested so far and 40 jobs impacted. Also in Watertown is a new business, BPI Wisconsin, with a 72,000-square-foot building leased, $1.2 million invested so far and seven to nine new jobs created. Other wins include Basin Precision Machining in Jefferson ($13.3 million so far and 30 new jobs), AB E Discovery in Waterloo ($3.5 million invested so far and 20 new jobs), and Hoof Health in Johnson Creek ($3 million invested so far and 40 jobs impacted).

Regarding workforce development, statistics show that there are nearly 658,000 workers in the Dodge County “labor basin,” which includes areas within commuting distance (not including Fond du Lac and Madison). The number of people employed is more than 370,000. Nearly 224,000 are either looking for work or are employed and/or looking for a better opportunity.

A total of 43 percent are interested in jobs at $20 an hour, while 25 percent are interested in jobs at $15 an hour.

About half of those interested in manufacturing jobs are 50 years old. Twenty-eight percent are women.

Statistics are compiled by companies specializing in gathering such data, with thousands of people surveyed or interviewed in the process.

“One of the things that clients always want to know is ‘What do you know about your workforce?’ We know a lot, because we have real data,” Pratt said. “Most people don’t have real data.”

Priorities in the labor pool are: salary and wages, vacation benefits, health benefits, retirement benefits, and on-the-job training or paid training.

A newly launched website covering two counties (thriveed.org) lists 72 available buildings and 61 available sites in a searchable database.

Pratt indicated that much is yet to be done.

“We’re in planning mode now, but we look forward to many good things in the future,” she said.

Article appears on: Daily Citizen. View it here. 

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