A lot of positive things are happening in Kewaunee County, the director of the county’s economic development coalition said Wednesday.
The county’s unemployment rate is about 3.4 percent, the lowest in 10 years, said Jennifer Brown, executive director of the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp., reported to the approximately 90 guests at the corporation’s annual meeting at the Rendezvous in Neuren.
There are 904 businesses in Kewaunee County, and 65 percent are small businesses with one to four employees, she said.
Among highlights Brown cited from the last year were groundbreaking for the $4.2 million Kewaunee Harbor Project that is rebuilding the city’s seawall and adding other public waterfront amenities; business expansions that saw Dramm Corp. and Quali T Inc. facilities double in size; the new 4 Legged Friends Veterinary Clinic building in Luxemburg; the success of the Team Clean business that opened in Kewaunee with a handful of employees in 2016 and is already expanding to Green Bay with almost 20 workers; the first Manufacturing Career Day that brought 300 ninth-graders to four local businesses; and the annual Agriculture Career Days that drew more than 900 students to learn more about farming.
Brown said those developments were part of the effort to attract and retain young people as baby boomers – 43 percent of the county’s current population – exit the workforce in increasing numbers.
“What’s unique about a rural community … is that you get an opportunity to offer value-added programming and services that you may not get to do in an urban community or when you’re focused on municipal economic development,” Brown said, noting that “leveraging resources and partnerships” is an important part of KCEDC’s mission. “We are a small county, we all have limited resources, so we all need to band together and work together.”
Brown also recognized Scott Bortolini, who stepped down from the KCEDC board after two three-year terms.
“He actually was with the organization when we launched the Buy Local program, and that was no small feat and it’s turned out to be a phenomenal initiative and effort,” she said. He also was part of the leadership team and helped developed an economic response to the closure of the Kewaunee Power Station nuclear plant in 2013.