Langlade County has a Strong Economic Development Force
Antigo may be in the driver’s seat as the economic engine revs up across the northwoods.
A rare three-agency shuffle has placed Langlade County residents—all women—in charge of public entities guiding development efforts at the local and regional level. Angie Close is now the director of the Langlade County Economic Development Board while her old boss, Chris Berry, has assumed duties as regional account manager for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. And Angi Schreiber, who has worked with Berry and Close on a variety of projects, has been named executive director of the Grow North Regional Economic Development Board.
“It’s very positive to have all three positions filled locally,” Mark Desotell, administrator for the city of Antigo, said. “It makes planning more seamless at all levels. Because of their familiarity with this area, when we get together we can spend our time dealing with issues instead of reviewing the history.”
The agencies Schreiber, Close and Berry represent are a variety of intersecting counties and responsibilities, but all have a common purpose of helping the northwoods—including Antigo and Langlade County—grow.
“There are going to be many times when we are in the same room, working on the same projects from various angles,” Berry said.
An example was a recent business expansion in Antigo, she said. The company came to the county economic corporation who brought it together with loan opportunities available through WEDC. The result? A successful expansion and jobs saved and added.
“We have connection at each level, and businesses need to take advantage of that,” Close said. “We can call each other and bounce ideas off. We’re comfortable with one another and try to think of everything we can do to help a project.”
At WEDC, Berry is responsible for matching partners to programs within a 10-county region, including Lincoln, Langlade, Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties. Her job includes promoting available tax credits, job training grants and state business loan funds for projects that may be too large for the private sector or one single county to sponsor.
“We offer technical assistance as well,” Berry said. “Through our outreach efforts, we focus on putting people together with the resources that can assist them.”
Driven by investors, Grow North focuses on boosting northern Wisconsin’s economy through concrete initiatives such as improving broadband access, promoting forestry and wood products, and enhancing the workforce.
“That is a common challenge within all the counties,” Schreiber said. “Just about everything these days seems to be centered around the Internet and if you aren’t well-connected, you are really at a competitive disadvantage. And the forestry industry is huge across the region.”
Locally, Close brings together local businesses and resources such as Northcentral Technical College to improve opportunities for everyone from manufacturers and retailers to high school graduates looking for their first job.
“Economic development strategies should be based on the needs, assets and goals of the community,” Close said. “Langlade County Economic Development Corporation needs to be a facilitator. We need to be the organization that provides a forum that brings together the economic stakeholders of the county to collaborate in growing our economy.”
Berry, Close and Schreiber all come to their positions from a marketing and small business background, something that they said brings a fresh set of eyes to often familiar concerns.
“We can identify with the northern businesses because we know them,” Berry said. “And we also know people in the southern parts of the region and the state who can help.”
“Growing up here, you really understand the culture,” Schreiber said. “We’re not outsiders looking at trying to rate projects. It’s not just a job for us, it’s a passion.”
While the three agencies are not linear, they are entangled, the directors stressed. And that can only mean good things for local and regional economic development efforts.
“We are not Madison, we’re not Milwaukee,” Schreiber said. “We’re the northwoods. And they are noticing us.”
Source: Antigo Daily Journal