When Governor Evers (D, WI) announced that $130 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars will be allocated to assist unemployed and underemployed workers find opportunities and return to the workforce, Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation [CCEDC] representatives attended a meeting to learn more about these funding opportunities. Held at the CoLab facility in Eau Claire, CCEDC Board Member Ed Holand and CCEDC President Charlie Walker met with Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation [WEDC] and Amy Pechacek, Department of Workforce Development [DWD] Secretary, where they updated the current economic development conditions and the challenges local businesses face in getting workers back into the workforce.

“The federal supplement to the unemployment insurance is definitely having a negative impact on area manufacturers in trying to convince workers to return to work,” expressed Ed Holand, CCEDC Board Member and CEO of C & N Manufacturing. “Many manufacturing companies have seen an increase in expenses in their HR departments because of the increased cost of recruiting employees, as well as rising supply chain costs. This has forced companies to become more creative in getting product to their customers.”

“We are encouraging employers, especially manufacturing companies, to look at a few of the alternative talent pools to fill some of their immediate worker needs,” said Amy Pechacek, DWD Secretary. “That includes people who are just as involved and are re-entering the job market after an incarceration, or those citizens with a disability.”

“The idea behind this funding is to let each region of the state develop their unique solution to the workforce issues, and request funding to help support that solution,” noted Missy Hughes, Secretary and CEO of the WEDC. “In some regions, housing is an issue that impacts finding workers, while in others it might be daycare or access to transportation. Hence, these funds are designed to have flexibility to help solve those particular community problems.”

Topics of further discussion in the meeting dealt with ways to recruit new citizens to the state of Wisconsin beyond university alumni. There were suggestions that the Department of Tourism should “tagline” the importance of Wisconsin as a place to live, to help reinforce the Wisconsin brand. There were also suggestions that there should be tax credits for companies that increase their out-of-state talent recruitment programs. Finally, there was a discussion of possible incentives to get more workers that are telecommuting to live in the Chippewa Valley.

One of the CCEDC’s core missions is to continually invest into the Chippewa Valley workforce and strive to provide them with as many opportunities as possible. This meeting was aimed to navigate post-pandemic workforce and economic development, as well as communicate local workforce issues to these cabinet secretaries. Discussions like these help state agencies better understand where they can help.

“Our next step is to meet with our local legislators and provide them the same feedback and have a discussion with them on these talent attraction issues,” explained Charlie Walker, CCEDC President and CEO. “We plan to do this in the second week of August. Stay tuned for those conversations.”