Making Tracks: Building the future of the Northwoods
It’s an interesting time right now for the Northwoods. While the economic outlook for both our state and nation isn’t always a rosy one, we’re seeing encouraging signs locally of continued economic development and prosperity.
Recent investments and reinvestments by local, regional and national businesses in our area promise good paying jobs and new opportunities for many people. Meanwhile, our local tourism industry is seeing outsider spending greater than that of any other year since the economic downturn of 2008.
Both of these trends are countered, however, by the visual impact of businesses closing their doors and already-empty storefronts around the city. It’s hard to say everything is moving in a good direction when we drive by the same empty building on our way to work every morning.
What I encourage residents and visitors of the Northwoods to focus on instead is the potential over the next 10 years to make a valuable investment in our local economy. As a large part of the current working-age population gets ready for retirement, some of our largest local employers will be looking to fill those positions with a younger batch of employees seeking to make careers in the Northwoods. These positions won’t only be entry-level jobs, either – some of the primary needs I hear from these businesses are for skilled and professional employees who can make immediate contributions to the company.
What will be key to helping attract that younger generation of workers will be continuing to provide an area that offers a viable and enjoyable place to start and raise a family, and offers a higher quality of life than can be found in other areas.
The Northwoods starts at an advantage with its natural beauty and easy access to outdoor recreation at a very low cost. What can make it even more attractive is continued investment in urban development like the one we’ll be seeing in downtown Rhinelander in 2016. Providing equal parts of natural beauty and modern convenience will be, in my opinion, one of the biggest drivers of economic success in the Northwoods over the next decade.
As parents and students ready themselves for another school year that’s just around the corner (hard to believe, I know), I encourage you to begin conversations with your children or other young people you encounter about the possibilities for them here in the Northwoods. High school and college students should understand that getting out to other parts of the country can be a very valuable opportunity to gain perspective and experience. What they should also understand is that there are many opportunities for them to return to the Northwoods with that perspective and quickly become valuable contributors to our community.
It will be our job to ensure that we are constantly striving to maintain and improve the quality of our community so that it will be attractive to those generations as they look to relocate back to their hometown.
I encourage you to educate and involve yourself in this process as the city and county seek the public’s input on infrastructure projects, broadband initiatives and other development projects we have yet to pursue. Varied input from all parts of the community is the most valuable feedback community leaders can get throughout these processes.
I encourage you to contact us here at the Rhinelander Chamber or to contact your city, county and state representatives at any time with ideas or input you have about the future of the Northwoods.
Dana DeMet is available at (715) 365-7464.