BY EILEEN PERSIKE
Several Northwoods manufacturing and businesses are working together to promote awareness of the employment opportunities in the area, and also to help those businesses find and retain skilled workers.
Northwoods Innovations has been in existence for about two years and currently includes representatives from about a dozen equipment, paper, manufacturing and fabricating industries, among others.
“We reach out to the different schools and let people know who we are and also to create awareness of these jobs that are available in this area so people can see that, right here in the surrounding communities, we have a lot of well-paying jobs that people can support their families with and have a really good lifestyle,” said organization president Ricky Brice, who works at CrossTrac. “We’re trying to get away from the idea people have that they need to leave the area in order to be successful.”
Each of the member businesses pay dues, which Brice said helps them do things in the community, such as volunteering for and supporting important events, and providing a scholarship to a high school student. Recently, two community businesses, Spectrum Insurance Group and Associated Bank, joined the group as associate members and presented Brice with $3,000 for membership dues. Associated Bank branch manager Brad Kowieski said supporting Northwoods Innovations was an easy choice.
“We want to support growing industry and developing more,” Kowieski said. “Those are the kinds of clients we like to have, and want more of in the future, so it’s a very easy thing for us to support, to help promote better business and more employment in the communities.”
One of the ways the group promotes industry is by visiting schools.
“We go into area schools and educate (teachers) on the jobs that are available in this area, as well as the skills that we are looking for as employers,” Brice explained. “That way, when they are planning their curriculum, they can kind of incorporate some of those skills into it. We also make them aware of our businesses that exist here – a lot of them don’t know what’s here. Same with the students, we talk about their opportunities and the avenues they can go down.”
Brice said that once students realize “how cool” some of the local businesses are, and that things often taken for granted are made in the Northwoods, the response has been very eye opening. For more information, visit www.northwoodsinnovation.org.