During last month’s episode of Economic Development Secrets, we asked Steve Jenkins, President of the Fond du Lac County Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, what challenges he was facing within his county. He discussed diversification and why economic developers shouldn’t focus solely on high paying jobs. Here’s what Steve had to say:
I think we always face the what’s happening to manufacturing challenge. I talked about that a little bit as it related to the county but it also relates to the entire region because we are heavily dependent upon manufacturing. We’re looking at other opportunities particularly in aerospace. We see some tremendous opportunities to grow the aerospace cluster for this region, because so many companies here are doing work for aerospace companies and we believe that offers some tremendous opportunities for us to develop a more diversified economy. I think that the challenge, is always to first diversify your economy so that when those down turns occur, it softens the blow. It doesn’t eliminate the blow, but it certainly softens the blow. That’s a challenge for any economic development organization. I think moving forward is constant diversification, both in sectors but also in job types, and pay skills, because it’s not all about high-paying jobs.
People get started moving up the ladder with jobs that necessarily aren’t the most high-paying jobs, but it begins a process for them to move up the economic ladder. I think that sometimes we leave those people behind and get too focused on the quality jobs or whatever you want to refer to, but we also have a responsibility as economic developers to give opportunities to everyone. That’s the reason we have 5 core values and the first one is servant leadership. We believe that that means serving every person who lives in our county directly or indirectly so that they can have a better life and a better standard of living.
Click below to listen to our full discussion with Steve.