The chairman of the board of Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. rolled out the familiar Mark Twain quote to describe KCEDC Tuesday morning: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
“We’re here; we’re not going anywhere; we need relevant feedback,” Lynie Vincent said as he greeted a crowd of about 100 people attending the organization’s annual meeting at the new James May North facility in downtown Algoma.
The two facts regarding KCEDC are that the Kewaunee County Board did reduce its contribution to $18,000 this year from $30,000, and longtime executive director Jennifer Brown did resign.
The board is looking to rebrand and revitalize the organization as it moves forward with an eye toward the long term, Vincent said.
“Economic development is not just a shot in the arm for right now; it is a long marathon,” he said.
During a strategizing session, the board found out its executive director was performing as many as 19-23 different duties every year. The organization needed to refocus, Vincent said.
“We aren’t rolling out new initiatives,” he said. “We aren’t going to look at 19 or 23 things. We’re going to focus on five, maybe six, might be four.”
Rather than decide what those areas of concentration will be, KCEDC will be seeking feedback from its partners, Vincent said. That includes working more closely with county government and holding a series of roundtable conversations with business owners and the community.
Also at the KCEDC annual meeting:
+ Lynn Kroll gave a brief overview of the revised KCEDC website, which has more photos from around the county.
“The idea is to put the image and the place forward,” Kroll said.
+ Russ Nowak of D&S Machine talked about how after he and his wife bought the company in 2002, they aimed to run it as a small company serving the region, but they found a much broader market with customers from all over the country.
What began as a firm with 30 employees and about $3 million in annual sales has expanded five times, currently with nearly 160 employees and an estimated $38 million in sales this year, Nowak said.
“As we expanded one thing I learned about the Midwest was this part of the country is highly respected for the craftsmanship of the folks who live here … the loyalty and the work ethic,” he said. “People care, they were brought up to care, and that’s what’s key about Kewaunee County.”
D&S is planning further expansions, Nowak said.
+ Kewaunee City Administrator Fred Schnook gave and overview of the recent waterfront development plan that a citizens committee is drafting with help from KCEDC and the University of Wisconsin-Extension.
+ Algoma Mayor Wayne Schmidt provided an update on his city’s economic development efforts, noting that the Chamber of Commerce has scheduled three ribbon cuttings this week.
“My goal is to make Algoma a destination,” Schmitt said.
+ Keynote speaker Jerry Murphy of New North Inc. addressed essentials for economic development from the perspective of his 18-county regional organization.
[Top photo: Lynie Vincent, chairman of the board of Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp.