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Blue Ribbon Commission Report Lays Out Priorities for Rural Wisconsin

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Better and faster broadband access, childcare support, and getting a fair share of state and federal resources. These are things people in the Northwoods have likely heard and recognize as needs in our communities.

Now, these and other recommendations are being laid out in a report to the Governor’s office.

“The work of the commission was very practical, and they wanted to find things that were tangible and could move forward. So I’m encouraged so there’s a lot of places here where we can get some quick wins,” said Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes.

WEDC assisted the commission in it work. Hughes says this report is a key step in making sure rural Wisconsin has a voice.

“We tend to believe that there’s a divide between rural Wisconsin and urban Wisconsin or Madison and the rest of the state and by intentionally including rural and tribal communities at the table we can make sure is bridged,” said Hughes.

Brittany Beyer is one of the commissioners. Beyer is the Executive Director of Grow North based in Rhinelander and she’s also the chair on the Governor’s task force on broadband.

She says the feedback the commission heard during the listening sessions helped confirmed what she recognized as needs in rural communities.

“So many of the individuals who are participating go their voices heard and the stories, the questioning was positive, but getting to the real grit of what would make a difference in the rural communities all over the state,” said Beyer.

Beyer says forestry, broadband, and childcare were major concerns in the Northwoods.

“Interestingly, I had personally been trying to get childcare on the radar of our business community for some time now. There has to be private/public partnerships to figure this out. And that one item just came so highly to the top of the needs for multiple rural communities,” said Beyer.

In the short term, WEDC will identify which items is can accomplish as quickly as possible.

“In the short term, it’s our job at WEDC and at the administrative level to take the commission’s recommendations and think about where we can get some quick wins, where can we move forward on things,” said Hughes.

Hughes and Beyer said the commission plans to keep working make sure these and other needs are met in the Northwoods.

“By having some more resources and quite frankly investments going to our rural communities, that’s how things are going to get much better,” said Beyer.

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