Officials discuss county economic development
By Heather Graves
BROWN COUNTY – Brown County’s economic outlook was up for discussion Oct. 5 at the 2021 State of the County at the Resch Expo.
Dozens of officials and members of the public gathered to discuss the county’s successes, as well as issues impacting the lives of residents now and into the future.
“Persistence Is Key To Brown County Prosperity” was the theme County Executive Troy Streckenbach shared as he started the discussion.
“I’m deeply honored that the community has entrusted me with the opportunity to lead Brown County,” Streckenbach said. “I continue to stand by my pledge of making our community an attractive place to live, work and play.”
He went through through numbers of his budget proposal.
Streckenbach also highlighted recent county projects including:
Building projects: $93 million Resch Expo, $14 million jail pod, $12 million regional medical examiner’s facility and $2.9 million crisis center.
Workforce investment: $15 million STEM Innovation Center, $5.6 million for Fox River Papermaking Corridor/Green Bay Packaging and UW-Green Bay Innovation Park.
Community investments: Library System modernizations; Neville Public Museum improvements and park system improvements.
Marc Schaffer, associate professor of economics at St. Norbert College, discussed the county’s economic outlook as it continues to muddle through the COVID-19 pandemic.
His presentation consisted of six main takeaways.
Schaffer said unemployment is trending down from the 2020 peak.
He said job losses in Brown County are trending toward recovery, but still have a ways to become more favorable.
Schaffer said fractured recovery continues with low-wage workers feeling more of the impact than high-wage workers.
He said industry job switching at the regional level is happening and many workers are still working from home.
Consumer spending has risen above pre-pandemic levels for the county and state, but Schaffer said there are still recovery threats in the hospitality, entertainment and recreation sectors.
Schaffer said housing prices in the region have been on the rise, which is linked to rising input costs, as well as supply-and-demand factors in the housing market.
He said inflation is running high at the moment with key questions surrounding transitory versus permanent behavior, and more will be learned in the coming months.
Schaffer said the gross domestic product baseline projections are optimistic for the upcoming year with projected increases, but uncertainty weighs heavy in the wake of COVID-19.
The discussion of development continued when county municipality leaders took the podium.
Leaders from Green Bay, De Pere, Allouez, Ashwaubenon, Suamico, Howard, Denmark and Ledgeview, discussed of economic development in their communities.
Green Bay Development Director Neil Stechschulte highlighted some of the city’s priority projects, including the Shipyard, land donated by JBS and the new coal pile site.
De Pere Economic Development Director Dan Lindstrom spoke on the growth of the city’s business park.
Allouez Village President Jim Rafter touched on the village’s vision, which is supported by the major corridor study, bike and pedestrian plan/comprehensive plan and the Webster redevelopment plan.
They agreed development in one community benefits all municipalities in the county.
“It was very informative both from development opportunities with our area municipalities and what the economic forecast for 2022 looks like,” Streckenbach said.