SHEBOYGAN — Officials announced a game-changing development along Indiana Avenue on Sheboygan’s south side.
Citing the necessity to deliver upon the expectations of present and future skilled workforce, representatives of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation presented their vision for the development of an Innovation Community at last night’s SCEDC Annual Meeting.
Over 350 business and community leaders learned what an innovation district was and how it will help solve Sheboygan County’s employment problem/opportunity; filling existing and future high-wage jobs available for skilled workers.
Innovation districts encourage collaboration between research-oriented anchor institutions, existing firms, tech and creative start-ups in well-designed, amenity-rich dense environments. “For decades Sheboygan County has been suffering from ‘brain drain’ of some of our best and brightest to Milwaukee, Chicago, and the coasts, even at a time that we have some of the most innovative companies in the world headquartered here,” said Jim Schuessler, business development manager at the SCEDC. “And it is clear that having jobs alone is not enough to attract and retain talent.”
As the competition for top-tier talent continues to intensify, employees are increasingly being able to pick their jobs and communities. The upcoming cohorts of talent are looking for reasonable cost living, opportunities to collaborate with other like-minded individuals, a sense of energy, and feeling that they are a part of something bigger. Innovation communities are designed to accomplish this through urban design, tenant mix and entrepreneurial programming.
The stakes are high, as demonstrated by the SCEDC’s Director Dane Checolinski, “since 2010, the county’s population has already declined by over 2 percent.” Successful development will attract skilled workforce by creating the environment they seek while further embedding Sheboygan County’s innovative companies in their respective communities.
Participating firms use innovative communities to provide a space for their skilled workers to work adjacent to professionals from other companies and stimulate the exchange of ideas. “This is about using best practices to help reverse the decline and help our companies attract and retain the workers they need here.”
Chad Pelishek, Director of Planning for the City of Sheboygan stated the municipality is willing to help create a one-of-a-kind urban experience, a crucial foundation found in each successful district. The City recently acquired waterfront property along Indiana Avenue, which may serve as an incredible location for the epicenter of a vibrant innovation community that could enhance the strengths of new apartments, co-working and makerspace already operating in downtown Sheboygan.
Pelishek stated, “The City is willing to partner in world-class placemaking to fit the needs of employees wither they work for a company inside or outside the Sheboygan. All of eastern Wisconsin faces the same challenge.”