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Politics & Government

Kleefisch: Attracting Millenials Key To Rural Economic Development

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Wisconsin.gov
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Revitalization in rural Wisconsin was the theme as Wisconsin Rural Partners held it's key meeting at the Potawatomi Carter Casino and Hotel.

Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was keynote speaker. Kleefisch says people tend to overlook the positive economics of rural Wisconsin...

"....we are still an economy largely based on manufacturing and agriculture. These are two things we do very well in the rural areas of the state. You add in tourism and additionally, woods, lumber and paper-pulp industries, you have a bustling economy....."

Kleefisch says attracting young professionals to rural areas is key to growing rural economies....

"....so the challenges we're looking at in the rural economy are going to be unique to the areas that struggle to attract and retain Millenials. Those are people who are graduating and choosing where to put down roots. We want to make sure to make sure we're keeping those young people in our fantastic rural communities...".

Rural Partners Executive Director Rick Rolfsmeyer says much of rural Wisconsin was hit hard by the Great Recession, and the recovery has been slow. He says many people left to find a job in a larger area. When that happened in his community, much of the volunteer fire department left, too, leaving the community vulnerable...

".....in my little community of Hollandale, there are only five firefighters, but there's a school with 220 children in it.There will only be one(fire) engine there for the first 20 minutes. So when you talk about job export and economic problems, it's a lot more than a paycheck...."

Attendees Wednesday took a day-long trip around Forest county to see communities and their success stories. Armstrong Creek town chair Walter Leja says conference attendees had their eyes opened to some economic engines in Forest county, including the Brush Run grounds, a walkway in Crandon and businesses, and developments at Mole Lake Sokaogon and at Potawatomi tribal facilities...

"....the Mole Lake tribe has been working on their fish hatchery. and solar building. They have quite a bit of building going on there. the Potawatomi are also involved in a lot of that. But the towns are trying to capitalize on some of this, too..."

Rick Rolfsmeyer says one of the keys to a meeting like this is the chance for people to network with others and explore new possibilities, such as successful grant opportunities attracting new business.

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