By Todd Kuckkahn
Wisconsin must take a new approach to rural economic development. While more populated areas of the state are thriving, the economic performance of rural Wisconsin continues to fall behind.
Fortunately, Gov. Scott Walker recently proposed creation of the Rural Economic Development Fund that would help transform the state’s investment in rural communities and provide new opportunities for sustainable economic success in Portage County. Legislation to establish the fund is currently being considered by the state legislature.
The proposal would invest $1 billion over the next 20 years in economic development programs to promote business growth, attract private investment, and build critical infrastructure in rural areas of the state. The investment will also help address the biggest challenge facing rural communities, the loss of young people and the shortage of available workers.
Like other rural parts of the state, economic development in Portage County is unique, with its own set of challenges. The Rural Economic Development Fund would give us greater ability to meet those challenges and provide the necessary tools to drive business innovation and expansion and grow the workforce in our region.
Last month, the state assembly unanimously passed the Rural Economic Development Fund legislation. However, the bill has not yet been considered by the senate.
I have asked the senate to act swiftly on the legislation, and I would encourage other members of the community to contact their senator to make the same request.
Kuckkahn is the executive director of the Portage County Business Council