A report listing Kewaunee County as the fastest-shrinking local economy in Wisconsin is probably outdated, county officials agreed this week.
24/7 Wall Street, a unit of Gannett’s USATODAY Network, examined gross domestic product (GDP) statistics from all 50 states for an article that appeared online Feb. 22.
Reporter Samuel Stebbins wrote:
To identify the fastest shrinking local economy in every state, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the change in real GDP from 2012 to 2015 with data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. We used Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data for the same period to identify the fastest shrinking industry in each county. Annual unemployment rates also came from the BLS. Population data, including that used to calculate population changes, are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey …
Wisconsin: Kewaunee County
• GDP change 2012-2015: -37.0 percent (county) +4.0 percent (state)
• 2015 county GDP: $557.1 million (0.2 percent of state GDP)
• Fastest shrinking industry: Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (1.5 percent employment decline)
• 2017 unemployment: 3.1 percent (county) 3.3 percent (state)
• Population: 20,378 (0.4 percent of state)
It’s significant that the statistics cover the years that included the closing of the Kewaunee Power Station and the subsequent reduction in the nuclear plant’s staff, County Administrator Scott Feldt said.
“The county lost a major employer that provided high paying wages and created a significant amount of economic activity through its power generation sales,” Feldt said. “The loss of an employer like this is going to have a significant negative effect on the county’s economic well being.”
That conclusion seems to be supported by the other measures listed in the article, he said.
“The fastest shrinking local industry is Arts & Entertainment/ Food Services, which usually does not pay above average wages. Also, the unemployment rate is below the state average,” Feldt said.
County Board Chairman Robert Weidner said he was surprised at the county’s low ranking in the article and would want to see more details about how the information was gathered, but he agreed that the loss of the nuclear plant has had a major impact on the local economy.
Dominion, the nuclear plant’s owner, announced the closing in October 2012, and the facility produced its last electricity in May 2013.
The county has seen a turnaround since 2015, which apparently is the last year for which GDP data was available for all 50 states. Among highlights was hosting the 2017 Farm Technology Days exposition, which contributed to a 13.4 percent in tourism spending, second-highest among the state’s 72 counties.