Friday, February 05, 2010

Real progress

USDA Rural Development

I greatly appreciated the invitation to give a presentation at a Wisconsin USDA Rural Development jobs forum last week in Chippewa Falls.

Wisconsin state Director Stan Gruszynski invited me to discuss our Iowa County initiative for doing rural economic development and making jobs.

I couldn't speak directly for Mark and the Driftless Development group (see below) of course. However the presentation centered on the design Mark and I have been working on this past year. (Now thrown into hyper-drive by the coolest bunch of scary-smart advocate/adventurers I've ever worked with.)

The gathering was called 'Forum for the Future… Pathways to Wisconsin Job Creation", and was held at Chippewa Valley Technical College. I'll link a couple of articles below.

Speaking only for myself, I told them having meetings about making jobs in rural economies was fine, but we needed action steps more than anything else. It was my position that we should start running market-based experiments that have a real chance of making jobs, especially in rural economies.

I said there will be mistakes and zigs and zags. I told them that's the REAL value of the experiment. What gets learned. What works. What (importantly!) doesn't work. After we finish prototyping this in Iowa County and the region, teams will be trained and in place to effectively ramp this up to make jobs and do economic development from the ground up in lots of widespread places.

The speaker before me, Scott Schultz, Executive Director of Wisconsin Farmer's Union, really set up the subject well. He talked about how strategic plans for making jobs and growing rural economies had been written and then executed poorly over the last decades, with clear losses across wide swaths of rural economic development. He called for trying new experiments that served all parts of ag, especially the 'ag in the middle' piece our project is designed for.

I really enjoyed this USDA Rural Development forum and am very grateful for the invitation.

Movement on the first vegetable processing and freezing hub in Highland.

Lawyers and money are on the move. Reminds me of Warren Zevon's wonderful title 'Send lawyers, guns and money', with vegetables instead of guns. My goodness, this feels refreshing after all the time laying groundwork and building the network.

Spring is in the air.

Granted, it takes a certain kind of wiring to be able to say that in Wisconsin in early February. That's why I so much appreciate the chance to work with Mark and the entire scary-smart leadership team contributing to this adventure.

New Hollandale Library open for business.

The good folks of Hollandale, in the beautiful Southeast part of Iowa County, opened their first library this week (pictured above). What a thing of wonder and beauty. Many congratulations to Hollandale and thank you very much for the chance to share your economic development ideas this week.

Creating experiments in job creation for rural economies.
Movement on our regional food processing model.
Best of all perhaps, a new library.

That's real progress.

Chippewa Valley Newspaper article, by Mark Gunderman

Chippewa Valley Community College Spotlight

Mark's Renaissance Farm

Wisconsin Farmer's Union

Chippewa Valley Tech College

Beautiful Hollandale, WI Iowa County, WI. Come grow with us.

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