Editor’s note: As a Leadership Development Academy alum (Class of 2013-14), Linda Ross is passionate about the mission of the organization and enjoys working as Executive Director/Program Facilitator. Wisdom acquired at LDA empowers her to continue her success in business. She is excited to work with others to obtain their leadership goals.
Questioning Economic Development
Have you ever wondered what economic development is all about? What does it take to bring a company to Rock County? How many agencies are involved? What is the process? What is the timeline? Is Rock County ready to welcome new businesses?
These questions and more were answered when the Leadership Development Academy (LDA) met in November for an economic development session at Blain Supply.
Our morning began with a welcome and tour with Bill Schendt from Blain Supply. He has been with Blain Supply for 34 years and you can tell his is very passionate about the company. Bill explained to the participants why mentoring is so important. You need to seek one and be one. Leadership, once developed, must be passed on.
Touring Blain Supply was interesting. We met in their conference center, a top-notch facility. They invest a great deal in their people and it shows by their dedication and hard work. Going behind the scenes, we visited the distribution center, photography studio and call center.
Economic Development Tour of Janesville and Milton
The sun was shining as we were touring Janesville and Milton in a VanGalder motor coach. James Otterstein from the Rock County Development Alliance, John Beckord from Forward Janesville and Al Hulick from the City of Milton, shared what was happening in our area.
Rock County was the first place in the country to be shovel-ready. This means there are zero barriers for a company to build. Places on our route included downtown Janesville, the GM property, southside industrial corridor and Milton’s business park.
Advanced Manufacturing Center
In Milton, Dr Tracy Pierner, from Blackhawk Technical College (BTC), welcomed us to the Advanced Manufacturing Center. Many exciting changes are happening at BTC and they are ready and willing to help businesses and students adapt to changing needs. Dr. Garry Krause took us on a tour of the facility. Students will be well equipped after training at this facility.
Back to Blain Supply for a great lunch and team project work. The project teams are narrowing their focus and will soon be announcing their projects. Exciting!
Economic Development 101
Economic Development 101 was the name of the game in the afternoon. There are not many people who have as much information inside their heads as James Otterstein does. He really knows his stuff!
He shared numbers and let the class know Rock County is stronger in our economy today, than we were in 2007. James couldn’t tell us all his secrets, but he let us know several good things are on the horizon. Thankfully, we are moving in the right direction. This wouldn’t happen without the dedication and teamwork of several agencies in our area.
Each project team worked on a case study in the afternoon, trying to convince “Project Cougar,” a new company coming to the area, that Rock County was the place they should locate their business.
They discovered there is a great deal that goes into these presentations, which includes many agencies and organizations working together. The competition is fierce, the stakes are high and it is not as easy as it looks.
The class presented their solutions to James Otterstein, and Dan Cunningham from Forward Janesville. They threw out some economic development questions that stumped the teams and were surprised when they had answers to others. In the end, I think the class decided to leave it to the professionals and be thankful for the great job they are doing in Rock County.
All in all, it was a day packed with information and a day that will be remembered as the class shares with others. Economic development can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time. We are happy to leave it with the professionals and are glad they shared with us this month.