Driftless Development

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Developing communities where the Wisconsin, Kickapoo 

and Mississippi rivers meet is the goal of Driftless Development

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The newly formed Driftless Development, Inc., the economic development organization for Crawford County, has taken the bull by the horns and already has much going on in its continuing effort to improve the economy of the county and the region.

“With economic conditions improving around the state and in many parts of the nation, now is a perfect time to aggressively work on and position this area to capture its share of growth and prosperity with a focused economic development program,” said Driftless Development Executive Director Jim Bowman.

The Driftless Development Transition Board is working diligently to achieve an aggressive agenda over the next six months with a focus on quickly getting organized while working on impactful initiatives, said Bowman.

On Jan. 1, the new organization was officially and legally born. A permanent board of directors will be seated by July 1. Bowman said that county citizens might want to consider serving on the permanent board, and that Driftless Development is actively seeking board members.

The transitional board has met twice since the Prairie du Chien Economic Development Corporation and the Crawford County Economic Development Corporation boards voted to merge into one new economic development organization.

Officers of the board have been elected and they are: Dan Kanis, president; Duane Rogers, vice president; Pete Flesch, secretary; and Dawn Hillenburg, treasurer.

The board has a clear and aggressive agenda to achieve critical organizational objectives over the next six months, Bowman said. 

Their top deliverables are:

•Establish the Advisory Council – Consider the Advisory Council to be the stakeholders who truly care about the future of the area. It must be a broad-based and diverse collection of concerned citizens who will provide support and advice to the Driftless Development Board, said Bowman. All members of the two former economic development corporations and the Prairie du Chien Main Street organization, along with other public and private individuals will automatically become, or will be invited to become, members of the Advisory Council, Bowman said. Efforts to organize this very important component will be launched as soon as possible and led by a well-known leader, he said. The Advisory Council will essentially become the shareholders of Driftless Development and will be the formal assembly, eligible to serve on the permanent board and committees. They will meet at least once annually and will receive regular communications of the activities of the organization.

•Conduct a “Strategic Doing Process” – A carefully planned exercise to identify and declare clear economic development strategic initiatives will occur in February, said Bowman. “The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will assist us with this process which was developed at Purdue University,” Bowman said. “Numerous methods will be used to collect ideas and opinions from any interested persons.”

•Conduct a Fundraising Campaign – A coordinated and high-profile campaign to raise funds to operate the organization’s programs and services over a five-year period will be conducted immediately following and based upon the Strategic Doing Process.

•Setup committees and task forces – Much of the work efforts to achieve success must be performed by work groups in formal committees. Key current initiatives along with new strategies identified in the Strategic Doing Process will be achieved through work conducted in short and long-term committees or task forces. 

The following is a committee list, and Driftless Development Board President Dan Kanis said county residents should consider joining any of these committees.

Strategic Planning

Fundraising Campaign

Brand Development

Downtown/Business Districts

Trade Area Study

Broadband Development

HR Mastermind Group

Business Retention and Expansion

Entrepreneurship and Small Business Start-up/Expansion

Housing Development

Rapid Response Team

People should please strongly consider joining any of these committees,” said Kanis. “We need their help and input. The real work will occur within these groups. We promise to utilize their time wisely and conduct only one-hour meetings.”

•Recruit staff and setup operations – Once the planning and funding activities are complete, staffing and office arrangements will immediately occur. The goal is to be delivering a full set of programs and services by professional staff in a business setting during the summer/fall.

Ongoing economic development activities will continue to occur, with an exciting business expansion project soon to be announced, Bowman said.  Activity updates will be provided in a new report format.

“The overall goal of this merger is to create a new full-service economic development organization that’s well-funded, professionally staffed and working hard on growth priorities set forth by county residents and those stakeholders who desire prosperity and growth for the greater Crawford County and Prairie du Chien region,” said Bowman.

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