Executive Summary and Highlights

Sawyer County Economic Summit
Executive Summary and Highlights
November 9, 2005


On November 9th, 2005 more than 135 Sawyer County citizens gathered to create a vision and strategies for our economic future. This diverse group representing various groups, organizations, and perspectives learned about regional, national, and global influences on our economy and then identified vision themes and actions for achieving our economic future. The idea and need for an economic summit was borne out of the Sawyer County Economic Development and Planning Committee and was supported by the Sawyer County Board. Presenting and facilitating at the summit were staff members from UW-Extension and from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. All the presentations, results, and detailed individual comments from the summit can be found at the Sawyer County website. www.sawyercountygov.org

Summit Presentations

Several themes emerged from the economic summit presentations that we must factor into our economic development efforts and initiatives. Major themes emerging from the presentations include:

ü        Our aging population at the county, state, and national level will have a significant impact on our economic future and services.

ü        The population of northwest Wisconsin is notably older than that of the state and nation. The older population impacts the demand for goods and services.

ü        Population growth in Sawyer County has been and will continue to be due solely to the in-migration of residents.

ü        Wages in Sawyer County are lower than state averages across all major occupation groups.

ü        Our workforce participation rates are greater than average, but the size of the labor force in northwest Wisconsin is projected to peak in the near future and then decline in size.

      ü        Regional economic approaches and strategies are a recommended response to globalizing markets.

Vision Themes for our Economic Future - 2025

Several vision themes were summarized and consolidated into key themes for action planning and further development. The vision themes that follow attempt to capture and summarize the many thoughtful and articulate individual vision statements developed by summit participants.

In 2025

ü        Sawyer County citizens, organizations, and governments plan, cooperate, and work together effectively and efficiently to achieve our outstanding quality of life both locally and within northern Wisconsin.

ü        Natural Resources and Lakes are the backbone of our economy and are recognized as fundamental to our economic future and quality of life.

ü        Business and economic development are supported and appreciated. A long-term, sustainable development approach builds a strong and lasting economic base. Entrepreneurs are encouraged and appreciated and small, local businesses contribute to higher paying wages. Tourism and recreation opportunities abound contributing to peoples desire to live here.

ü        Quality programs and services help meet the needs of Sawyer County citizens and build a strong and stable economic base. Human services, public transportation, affordable housing, and opportunities for seniors contribute to our diverse social fabric.

ü        Education is valued, available, and vital to our growing economy. There are quality formal and informal educational opportunities for all ages.

ü        Sawyer County is unique. Its quality of life, culture, history, and heritage create a location where people aspire to live, work, and recreate.

Action Ideas for Top Themes

The top 3 themes ranked by priority were Planning and Collaboration, Natural Resources/Lakes, and Sustainable Development. Groups of participants at tables were asked to forward their top ideas related to the three themes. The following ideas were expressed (See summit website for a ranking of all themes):



  • Seek input from diverse groups
  • NWRPC coordinates multi-county planning meetings
  • Create regional board from existing development/gov’t boards to review and develop Smart Growth plan
  • Dialogue across county lines
  • County board lead in a county comprehensive plan for Sawyer County
  • Create and implement growth plan
  • Four regional service centers
  • Planning strategies that recognize disparity between year-round and seasonal residents
  • Develop county-wide plan w/citizen input
  • Consolidating government
  • Regional economic development initiatives
  • Continue open public (not political) forums/planning.  All interests invited and included.
  • All government entities meet to plan for regional unity/goals.
  • Inventory both public natural and municipal resources.  Publicize info and share info.
  • Develop organizational structure.  Involve governmental entities.  Establish funding to sustain the process.


Natural Resources/Lakes

  • Educate, preserve and enhance natural resources
  • Implement regional planning with public feedback and updates
  • Designated heavy recreational use lakes for multi-purpose dev. ie, marinas, condos, campgrounds, etc.
  • Maintain -  grow – promote – public access
  • Restrictions on clearing for building
  • Build sustainable recreation
  • Alternative energy resources.  Biomass: cow manure – wood byproducts
  • Units of government base decisions on facts, sci data, and research
  • Plan to protect lakes and natural resources


Sustainable Development

  • Build a regional community center to educate, plan, develop and preserve our area
  • Promote local facilities and hotels for hosting small business meetings and conventions
  • Provide education and support for grass-based and organic agriculture
  • Increase education and funding
  • Address mental health – AODA problems
  • Promote and execute plan to use biofuel and solar energy
  • Educate public with need to work together with planning and sensible growth
  • Green-type development
  • Assist entrepreneurial/bus growth w/financial assistance
  • Educate children on sustainable development to share with family

 How will we build our economic future?

There is no one right way to approach building our economic future. The economic summit has provided us with an opportunity to share our important ideas and concerns. Making those concerns and visions a reality will be much harder and no one citizen, group, or organization will have sole responsibility for the results. There are many initiatives currently underway. The governor’s Grow Wisconsin program, local and regional affordable housing initiatives, tourism and recreation developments, public service improvements, lake association initiatives, and economic development activities are a few examples. It is hoped that the lines of communication opened at the summit will allow all of us to take ownership in our economic future and work together effectively to achieve our vision. It is anticipated that additional events and activities will follow which will bring clarity to focus to the roles of existing and new organizations as well as identify specific, tangible, and achievable strategies for achieving our dreams.