Economic Development Addressed at Joint County and Tribal Meeting
The Sawyer County Board of Supervisors and Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) held a joint meeting Thursday, December 7, 2017, at the LCO Casino, hosted by the TGB. One of the agenda items included economic development.
The county and the tribe have a current partnership in regards to economic development through the Sawyer County/LCO Economic Development Corporation. The EDC director, Don Semler, addressed the board on four issues the EDC is working on.
Workforce Development is a major concern for local business owners, according to Semler. He said businesses can’t find employees.
Semler remarked on the current drug crisis facing the county. “The drug crisis has spilled over to economic development. Business owners are saying they interview people and are ready to hire them, but they don’t pass the drug tests.”
Semler said there are many businesses in the Hayward area that can’t find employees. This is discouraging potential new business in the community. He said currently they are planning a summit of people getting together from Hayward schools, LCO schools, the college, WITC, Northwest Regional Planning, Visions Northwest, and other organizations to gather ideas and find resources.
“Young people need to know what opportunities are available in our area,” Semler said. “They don’t need to move to the big city to find work and we need to help them understand.”
Semler said businesses in the area are interested in participating in the summit.
Semler said the number one economic development issue is expanding broadband into Sawyer County. Semler said Governor Walker recently allocated $7.5 million to rural communities to get or expand broadband services. Semler said our area would be able to get a grant if CenturyLink, the tribe, EDC, Sawyer County, all came together and went after it.
He said Sawyer County has never received a grant for these services and they are due.
Semler also said Norvado has a line running to the corners of Highway B and K. He said another thing that would help economic development in the area is if they could get Norvado to expand the line into the reservation.
Semler said they are getting information on other broadband providers to see if they will come into Sawyer County.
Affordable housing has also become a major issue for local business owners. Semler said he hears it a lot from business owners how they find great prospects for employment but they can’t find rentals or affordable housing to move here.
“Some of the things we are working on is supporting local construction companies who plan to build apartment complexes with eight or 12 units,” Semler said. He stated there is also a plan to build low cost housing these potential workers can buy.
Semler said ATV riders are working with local town boards to expand the ATV trails in the county, which will make it easier for the riders to get to local businesses and provide them more business they woudn’t have had.
“We are here to help businesses grow and prosper, tribal and non-tribal,” Semler said. “We also want to help people with an idea, help them start a business and get funding.”