Community - Jul 1, 2022
Governor visits New LondonRobert Cloud | waupacanow.com
Gov. Tony Evers came to New London June 29 and announced two state grants to encourage local job growth.
The Waupaca County Economic Development Corp. will receive $3.2 million for 24-hour workforce transportation services in Waupaca and Outagamie counties.
Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin was awarded $6.5 million to enlist 200 trainers who will help people who have experienced trauma to prepare for careers.
Both programs seek to help solve the ongoing labor shortage in Wisconsin.
“During the pandemic we came face-to-face with the fact that if parents couldn’t find affordable, quality health care, they maybe had to leave their jobs and stay at home with the kids,” Evers said. “We also know if folks couldn’t find reliable transportation, they couldn’t get from home to work.”
The local grants are part of the $130 million Wisconsin Innovative Grants program to help businesses find workers to fill job vacancies.
Since 2021, the program’s total statewide investment has reached $150 million, according to the administration. The money comes from Wisconsin’s $2.5 billion share in federal pandemic relief.
“Wisconsin is No. 1 in the country for deployment of federal dollars to businesses and No. 2 in the country for deployment of dollars for economic development,” according to Secretary Missy Hughes, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
She was among those from state and local agencies who spoke at the New London press conference.
Jeff Mikorski, executive director of the Waupaca County Economic Development Corp., said the effort to provide affordable and reliable transportation services in the area has been through the combined efforts of a number of organizations, including the municipalities and chambers of commerce of Waupaca, New London and Clintonville, Waupaca County, and area businesses.
“Currently, there are very little ride-share programs, a few taxi services, but there’s no mass transit in the county,” Mikorski said. “We know that there are many workers who do not have affordable or dependable transportation, lack a care even lack a driver’s license.”
Lack of transportation has been a barrier to getting workers to their jobs, he said.
“One local company identified that one-third of their new employee terminations were due to a lack of transportation,” Mikorski said.
WCEDC’s program “will work with existing transportation resources, and add a microtransit system in the county, providing nearly 66,000 rides over the first three years,” Mikorski said.
He noted that the plan is to provide 24/7 dispatching to cover all work shifts, as well as offer pickup and delivery for child care.
Chris Hess, CEO of Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, said his organization has for more than 50 years “been on a mission to elevate people by eliminating barriers to employment. And we do this by providing pathways for people who are underserved, underrepresented and/or disadvantaged to have a goal of building skills to lead to sustained employment and improve financial stability.”
Goodwill is collaborating with Fox Valley Technical College and Rawhide Youth Services to recruit 200 trainers who will not only help participants build skills, but provide case management services that focus on their mental health and well-being.
“We know that trauma and mental health conditions have been a barrier to employment,” state Department of Workforce Development Secretary Amy Pechacek said. “We are thrilled with their vision for a trauma-informed approach to education and services that people need to land a job and find a career with family-supporting wages.”
Noting that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is at 2.9%, Pechacek said, “Our labor force has increased for the sixth month consecutively and our labor force participation rate in Wisconsin continues to be a full 4 percentage points higher than the national average.”