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Column: Not just cooperation—now is the time to collaborate

In my very first week as the executive director, I was told about wasting my time with those who want to cooperate—and focus on those who want to collaborate.

Now that I have been here for five months I am understanding that statement more clearly each day. Do not get me wrong, I am very interested in those people, businesses, and organizations that cooperate with the Portage County Business Council; however, the richness of the community is in collaboration.

There are two major collaborations going on in the community right now. One is dealing with healthcare costs and the other is dealing with childcare.

These are both crucial to workforce development, attraction, and retention of employees and it is the right thing to do in the community.

Businesses are very focused on one part of the childcare issue. Another group of organizations is focused on collaborating with employers, providers, and businesses to collaborate on the Dream Up! Child Care Supply-Building Grant Program.

This program, through the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, will offer support to 30 communities around the state over the next two years; however, it must be a collaborative approach. The team will work together to evaluate, plan and sustain existing child care and expand it in areas where there is a need.

Gamber-Johnson led the healthcare charge with a Best Practice Conference on Employer Healthcare on April 7 along with Team Schierl, Walker Forge, and others to help employers bring better cost containment to the spiraling cost of healthcare.

Even though these are both different needs in our business community, they are still needs. This is not just cooperation but collaboration.

No one company or organization can tackle this alone or even solve the problem by themselves. True collaboration will allow us to absolutely achieve remarkable goals.

We do not have to look too far away. Collaboration was the secret sauce in Gov. Tony Evers’ award to Mid-State for the Workforce Innovation Grant application, submitted in collaboration with Centergy and other community organizations. The $9 million grant includes $4 million for the construction of the Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering Technology, and Apprenticeship Center in Stevens Point.

At present current Chambers of Commerce in Central Wisconsin have also collaborated for a Workforce Solutions Summit scheduled for June 1. Stay tuned.

Michael Witte is the executive director for the Portage Co. Business Council. He can be reached at 715-344-1940.