Private, public timelines on different planes
By Roger Pitt
Act in haste, repent in leisure.
That old warning about making a rash decision without weighing consequences, seldom applies to government, where slow or no action is the norm.
Failing to act, or make a timely decision, often is even worse when it involves a government body and a private party.
During my career, beginning in 1964, covering local government — municipalities, counties, schools and state agencies — few decisions were made quickly, and the few that were, had no controversy and no cost. Often a decision was left in limbo, to be forgotten.
It is a difference that separates government from private interests — commercial, industrial and/or individual — that require quick action because of timeliness, need and available financing.
It is something I discussed with Roger Steingraber, who built a business in New London and has served on various boards — both private and public.
The gist of that conversation: Making a decision by government is like the current social media, where everybody has an opinion and those in local government often get the message in person or at a hearing.
Setting a public hearing is a common way to postpone or evade a decision altogether.
Clintonville, New London, Hortonville and Waupaca have professionals with dual roles — administrator and economic development — that draw scrutiny because of the nature of the jobs.
Their duties are determined by elected officials that set the tone for the job. Several during my career were aggressive in community development, growing the tax base and jobs with commercial, industrial and residential expansion.
It’s natural that being aggressive, that over time several toes are stepped on and social media becomes more personal and public. The economic development successor often has the parameters of the job redefined and limited by the elected body.
Years ago local interests would limit development in their area because of competition for business or workers that grow wages. Most of those decisions preceded hiring a professional administrator.
Two recent stories in the New London Press Star, which shares several east Waupaca County pages with the Clintonville Tribune Gazette, led to this column that has been mulled over for years.
In one story a New London economic development committee rejected an $800 contract with the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Entrepreneur Resource Center on Millennials.
Reasons given for rejecting, what is a bargain as the cost of studies go, were it should include all entrepreneurs, and Millennials don’t have the money and are “not a driving force” right now in the financial world.
Millennials are loosely defined as born between the early 1980s and 2000s.
It is a period which I have served on the Tomorrow Rivers Scholarship Foundation board and have gained insight through essays required of applicants to earn a scholarship.
Rejecting a study is underselling that generation. They may favor a different lifestyle and priorities, but that does not limit their intelligence, goals and aspirations.
The essays were revealing because many are budding entrepreneurs with their goals and aspirations. In addition, most have been active in school extracurricular activities and community work.
Think about it. Much of today’s economy and jobs are related to technology created and developed by Millennials or entrepreneurs with similar lifestyles.
The second was from Hortonville, where North Central Technical College, Wausau, was seeking two or three businesses to participate in an architecture project.
Participants would get a free rendering of their building. The 3D renderings, using Sketch-Up software is an architecture class capstone project, in collaboration with East Central Regional Planning Commission.
The designs will include interior and exterior schematics that could be used to renovate the building in the future, potentially saving design costs.
Clintonville capitalized on similar assistance participating in the state’s Main Street Program that helped improve the downtown area. Waupaca also used Main Street as impetus for its downtown project.
Main Street required local commitment by businesses within the defined area and investment locally for some study costs. The state also helped with design, studies and other services.
The New London Economic Development Committee, a week later, supported expansion plans by Northland Electrical Services also creating residual opportunities for growth.
A development agreement would give Northland 3.6 acres adjacent to its existing building with a commitment to construct at least a 25,000 square foot building by Dec. 31, 2018.
Northland started in 2002 with six employees and now employs 65 fulltime and 10 to 15 part-time workers. It has an apprentice program to train workers, including seven or eight New London High School graduates, according to Northland Vice President Tom Collar.
The new facility would accommodate 100 to 150 workers. It would be large enough to accommodate a start up business.
Having a building or available space is crucial in courting new business, because there is an immediacy in getting started. It is why Northland is planning years ahead to accommodate unknown future needs for space.