Kenosha County’s economic development projects helped to propel the local economy in 2018 and are expected to boost it to robust proportions this year.
Kenosha Area Business Alliance president Todd Battle told an audience of more than 350 gathered Friday at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside ballroom for KABA’s annual meeting that the economy remains strong as more companies have relocated and others have expanded this past year.
He noted the economic development growth since 2013 has helped to create 11,000 jobs, $1.5 billion in capital investment and more than 11.6 million square feet of development.
Battle, referring to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported that industrial employment has surged. Kenosha County now ranks in the top 10 nationally for job growth in the logistics and distribution sector. As a result, Kenosha County leads Wisconsin in private sector employment growth over the last several years, a 23 percent gain since 2014.
Under the new theme of “Life Balanced Kenosha County,” a marketing website campaign designed to attract more development and human resources to the region, KABA expects new energy that will continue to boost overall growth.
He noted that KABA, with its strong partnership with the Milwaukee 7 economic development organization, will continue to push growth in the region.
More growth expected
And more growth is expected this year as German candy maker Haribo breaks ground on the first phase of its $242 million investment production facility in Pleasant Prairie that is expected to employ 400.
Battle told how Crown Brands, the Advocate Aurora Health Care facility and the Kings & Convicts Brewing Co., are also welcome additions headed to the area.
Battle said new corporate parks have helped to usher in new business and industrial development. They offer more opportunity for growth to companies that want to relocate to Kenosha County.
New areas of opportunity are to come in the Prairie Highlands Corporate Park, the Kenosha Corporate Park, the Midwest Innovation Center, 94 Logistics Park, the Midwest transportation Center, Stateline 94 Corporate Park, the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant site, downtown Kenosha and the Pleasant Prairie Village Green.
Keynote speakers Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and Jim Paetsch, vice president of Milwaukee 7, told the audience that economic development efforts and business growth are products of the region.
They explained that the seven counties in the southeastern Wisconsin region are no longer competing against each other; they are being looked at as a region, and the region is competing in a global economy.
While the region now features business and industrial diversity, “manufacturing is still our fast ball,” Sheehy said. He noted that the region now is a $100 billion entity.
Sheehy said talent attraction and retention are challenges.
He said too many people, some 59,000 in the region, “do not have a high school diploma or a GED.”
Paetsch reminded the audience that the seven counties in southeastern Wisconsin are struggling to compete with other economies globally.
Paetsch said luring companies to the area means selling the assets of the region as a whole. “Companies don’t really see county borders,” he said. “It’s a regional game.”