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Despite challenges of 2020, transformation, growth of county economy continues
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FROM THE COUNTY EXECUTIVE

Despite challenges of 2020, transformation, growth of county economy continues

From the SPECIAL REPORT: Forward Kenosha County -- A look at the development and innovation in our community series
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About a year ago, I wrote to you on these pages about the wholesale transformation of Kenosha County’s economy that occurred over the 12 years that began in 2008.

Today, I’m pleased to report that this transformation is carrying on in earnest, that Kenosha County remains the hotspot for economic development in our region and our state, and that we’re continuing to attract attention from across the nation and, in fact, the world.

I don’t need to tell you that the last 12 months have been difficult, in a number of ways.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was in its early days and were just beginning to process the effects it would have on our economy and our way of life — and, sadly, we haven’t quite yet crossed the finish line.

And a year ago, it would have been hard to imagine the challenges, the emotions, and the opportunities for further improvement that would come from the unrest in our community late last summer. Now, people are coming together like never before to tackle systemic and structural racism in our community. I’m optimistic we are going to continue to move forward together.

Through all of this, I remain sure of our community’s ability to rise above these setbacks — and I am highly confident that Kenosha County will only keep growing in its standing as the best place to live, work, play and raise a family.

Growth of employers

Consider how far we’ve come since those dark days of the Great Recession.

I’ve pointed this out before, but I believe it bears repeating: A list of major employers in Kenosha County compiled by our economic development partner, the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, had 23 names on it in 2008. It now totals roughly 50 and is continuing to grow.

Making strategic, long-term investments in our infrastructure, we laid the groundwork to attract dozens of major employers and thousands of jobs to our county. And we’re continuing to make these investments.

Later this year, Kenosha County will complete the largest county highway project in our history: The expansion of Highway S into a four-lane, divided highway between Highway 31 and Interstate 94. This much-needed improvement will give Kenosha’s northwest side and the Village of Somers a gateway for people and products comparable to Highway 165 leading into Pleasant Prairie.

Speaking of Highway 165, the next frontier of development in that area is just west of I-94, where County Trunk Highway Q — the name of 104th Street west of the I — takes you to Uline’s world headquarters (one of our great economic development gains since 2008), the new Aurora Health Center-Pleasant Prairie and the future Haribo manufacturing facility that’s now under construction.

Slightly west of those developments is the soon-to-be-developed Bristol Business Park, and to the north along Highway U lies the future Bristol Highlands Commerce Center.

Looking further ahead in the future, there remains an ample supply of land available for development in Kenosha County, and there remain many reasons for companies to choose our great community to relocate, expand or start up.

Quality-of-life enhancements

To that end, we have made and will continue to make many efforts to assure a quality of life that attracts businesses and talent to our county.

Our second-to-none Kenosha County Parks system provides many opportunities for recreation and relaxation, and our ever-expanding trail system offers a means for people to safely travel on two wheels or on foot. I should note that we accomplish and sustain many of these improvements through innovative, public-private partnerships and strategic efforts to secure outside funding.

We know that our location right in the middle of two major metropolitan areas puts us in a great position to grow and prosper as a county. And we are working every day with our local and state government partners and the Kenosha Area Business Alliance to leverage our opportunities to the highest level.

Over the years, Kenosha County has demonstrated itself as a resilient community, able to take on and overcome the challenges that it faces, however significant they may be. I am confident — bullish, in fact — that Kenosha County is poised for continued success, and that our best days are yet to come.

Jim Kreuser has served as Kenosha County executive

since 2008.

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