Defining Economic Development

Economic development is fundamentally about enhancing the factors of productive capacity - land, labor, capital, and technology - of a national, state or local economy. By using its resources and powers to reduce the risks and costs which could prohibit investment, the public sector often has been responsible for setting the stage for employment-generating investment by the private sector.

The public sector generally seeks to increase incomes, the number of jobs, and the productivity of resources in regions, states, counties, cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Its tools and strategies have often been effective in enhancing a community's:

·        labor force (workforce preparation, accessibility, cost);

·        infrastructure (accessibility, capacity, and service of basic utilities, as well as transportation and telecommunications);

·        business and community facilities (access, capacity, and service to business incubators, industrial/technology/science parks, schools/community colleges/universities, sports/tourist facilities);

·        environment (physical, psychological, cultural, and entrepreneurial);

·        economic structure (composition); and

·        institutional capacity (leadership, knowledge, skills) to support economic development and growth.


However, there can be trade-offs between economic development's goals of job creation and wealth generation. Increasing productivity, for instance, may eliminate some types of jobs in the short-run.

There is lively debate within the field about the differing goals for place-based development strategies and also about whether place-based or people-based is best. Value differences, contending ideological positions, and varied theories of how economic development occurs and how it should be practiced are presented in the following section.


Economic Development Theories

Economic development encompasses a wide range of concerns. To most economists, economic development is an issue of more economic growth. To many business leaders, economic development simply involves the wise application of public policy that will increase U.S. competitiveness. To those who think that government should more actively direct the economy, economic development is a code phrase for industrial policy. To environmentalists, economic development should be sustainable development that harmonizes natural and social systems. To labor leaders, it is a vehicle for increasing wages, benefits, basic education, and worker training. To community-based leaders and professionals, economic development is a way to strengthen inner city and rural economies in order to reduce poverty and inequality. To public officials at state and local levels, economic development embodies the range of job creation programs broadened since the 1980s in response to the decline of federal domestic assistance.


Theories of economic development abound. Varying in basic, fundamental ways, they make different behavioral assumptions, use different concepts and categories, explain the development process differently, and suggest different policies. The theories used by economic developers determine, either explicitly or implicitly, how these developers understand economic development, the questions they ask about the process, the information they collect to analyze development, and the development strategies they pursue. Ultimately, theoretical insights influence how successful economic developers are in promoting local competitiveness.


To apply a theory successfully, the economic developer must understand its language. The major theories of economic development are each summarized in terms of five fundamental elements.

·        Basic categories--the fundamental classification or distinctions used to lay out the theory

·        Definition of development--what economic development is or should be according to the theory

·        Essential dynamic--the key variable or relationship that drives the logic of the theory

·        Strengths and weaknesses--how well the theory enables one to understand economic development

·        Applications--the ways in which the theory can be used in economic development practice


Economic Base Theory
The basic categories of economic base theory are the industrial sectors of the regional economy assigned to either the basic sector or the non-basic sector. The definition of local economic development is equivalent to the rate of local economic growth measured in terms of changes in the local levels of output, income, or employment. The essential dynamic of the theory is the response of the basic sector to external demand for local exports, which, in turn, stimulates local growth. The economic base multiplier transmits change in output, income, and employment from the basic sector to the entire regional economy. The theory's major strengths are: (1) its popularity as a basis for understanding economic development in North America; and (2) its simplicity as a theory or tool for prediction. Its major weakness is its in-adequacy as a theory for understanding economic development, especially in the long term. Economic base theory strongly supports attracting industry through recruitment and place marketing.


Staple Theory
Staple theory identifies industrial sectors as its basic categories. It defines economic development as sustained growth over the long term. The essential dynamic is the external investment in, and demand for, the export staple that leads to the successful production and marketing of the export staple in world markets. The theory's major strengths are its historical relevance to North American economic development and its emphasis on understanding the region's economic history. Its major weakness is that it describes, more than explains, the development process. Staple theory provides a general strategy of development by recognizing the connections of the economic base to the political superstructure. Economic developers should continue to build on and improve the export staple as long as it remains competitive in the larger economic system. The idea is to "stick to one's knitting," since strengthening the existing specialization may be more sensible than attempting to diversify the economic base. Eventually, footloose economic activities (that is, those not closely tied to specific resources, inputs, or markets) will be attracted to the area if its market achieves sufficient size or if it offers urbanization economies that can be exploited by other exporters.


Sector Theory
Sector theory uses three aggregate sectors as basic categories. The level of development depends on sectoral diversity, emphasizing a prominent tertiary sector, and labor productivity. The essential dynamic involves the income elasticity of demand and labor productivity of primary and secondary sectors: as incomes rise, the demand for income-elastic products grows; output increases as labor released from primary and secondary sectors is employed in tertiary sectors. Although sector theory is attractive because it can be applied and tested empirically, the primary, secondary, and tertiary categories are too crude to be useful in practice. The overriding application is the need to attend to industries producing income-elastic commodities in order to achieve sustained growth.


Growth Pole Theory
Growth pole theory treats industries as the basic unit of analysis, one that exists in an abstract economic space. Economic development is the structural change caused by the growth of new propulsive industries. Propulsive industries are the poles of growth, which represent the essential dynamic of the theory. Growth poles first initiate, then diffuse, development. Growth pole theory attempts to be a general theory of the initiation and diffusion of development based on François Perroux's domination effect. Although insights drawn from the theory are useful, it has failed as a general theory of development. Growth center strategies are based on this theory. Also summarized in the table are the growth theories of Gunnar Myrdal and Albert Hirschman, which are consonant with Perroux's theory.


Neoclassical Growth Theory
The basic categories of neoclassical growth theory are sectors or regions that comprise the macro economy. Economic development is defined as an increase in the rate of economic growth, measured in terms of changes in output or income per capita. The theory has two essential dynamics. One, in aggregate models, the rate of saving that supports investment and capital formation drives the growth process. Two, in regional models, factor prices--specifically, the relative returns on investment and relative wage rates--stimulate factor flows that result in regional growth. Growth theory suggests that economic developers respect the free market and do what is necessary to support the efficient allocation of resources and the operation of the price mechanism. The simplest growth models imply that economic developers are unnecessary, but more complex formulations would support various economic development activities.


Interregional Trade Theory
The basic categories of interregional trade theory are prices and quantities of commodities and factors of production, just as in microeconomics. The implicit definition of development is economic growth that leads to greater consumer welfare. The essential dynamic is the price mechanism (price-quantity effects) operating to eliminate price differentials and establish equilibrium prices (the terms of trade). The theory has two unique strengths. First, consumer welfare (increases in aggregate consumption benefits), not job creation, is the goal of development. Second, the price/cost-based theory is extremely precise, yet its precision is achieved with numerous restrictive assumptions and largely by ignoring the dynamics of development. Economists use growth theory and trade theory to advocate less government intervention and freer international trade, more open regions, and, in general, more competitive markets. The theories provide strong support for local infrastructure development, improvement in government efficiency, and other measures that could increase local productivity and lower input costs for all producers. Local developers, on the other hand, often ignore the implications of growth and trade theory and instead support protectionist measures and growth strategies that do not always improve the economic well-being of local consumers.


Product-Cycle Theory
Product-cycle theory treats the developmental age of the product as its basic category. Products are classified as new, mature, or standardized. At any point in time, the space economy can be divided into regions where new products tend to arise and regions devoted to the production of standardized commodities. The essential dynamic of product-cycle theory is new product development, which is one form of innovation. From locations where new product innovation takes place, the product is eventually standardized and diffused to other locations in the space economy. The process stimulates economic growth and development in both types of locations, but the character of development is different in each. These differences help explain why levels of development vary from place to place, and why differences can persist. The economic developer who wants to apply product-cycle theory in its most literal form must try to identify and work with manufacturing companies that can create new products. Alternatively, the developer may be able to mobilize the resources needed to improve the local business infrastructure in ways that would support new product development.


Entrepreneurship Theories
The basic category of economic development is the entrepreneurial function as embodied in the entrepreneur. Development proceeds as changes in firms and industries result in more resilient, diverse local economies. The essential dynamic driving the development process is innovation. Innovation is conceptualized variously in different theories as new combinations, improvisation, or creative risk taking. To its credit, entrepreneurship theory is mediated theory; people make development happen. This strength, however, leads to the weakness that entrepreneurship theory is not easy to apply consistently. The most general application is to support an industrial environment or ecology favorable to entrepreneurs.


Flexible Production Theories
Flexible production theories focus on production regimes and related methods of industrial organization as basic categories. The regional development implications of customized, batch, and long-run (or "Fordist") production regimes--as well as outsourcing practices, supplier relations, and processes of vertical integration and disintegration--are the principal concerns. Development is not just quantitative growth but also qualitative change in industrial mix, firm structure, and sources of competitiveness (for example, from least-cost or price-focused competition to that based on innovation, product differentiation, and niche marketing). More recent research has focused on the impact of flexible production on labor practices, compensation, and power relations between large and small firms. The key variable or relationship (essential dynamic) that drives flexible production theories are changes in the nature of demand that require firms to become more agile; standardized, least-cost production is considered less and less viable as consumer tastes in industrialized countries become more sophisticated and global competition intensifies. Firms adapt to this new environment by adopting flexible production technologies, managing supplier relationships, and utilizing interfirm networks for information sharing and joint problem solving. Among the principal strengths of the theory are a focus on rich, complex production dynamics within firms, between firms, and between firms and labor. Weaknesses are related to the strengths in that the focus on specific micro relations means that implications for regional aggregates are often neglected. In terms of application, the theory informs industry cluster strategies, buyer-supplier networking initiatives, technology transfer programs, small-firm programs, and some types of worker ownership and labor management policies applied at the community level[i].


Economic Development vs. Economic Growth

Economists Peter Bearse and Roger Vaughan write that:

·        Development is a qualitative change, which entails changes in the structure of the economy, including innovations in institutions, behavior, and technology.

·        Growth is a quantitative change in the scale of the economy - in terms of investment, output, consumption, and income.


According to this view, economic development and economic growth are not necessarily the same thing. First, development is both a prerequisite to and a result of growth. Development, moreover, is prior to growth in the sense that growth cannot continue long without the sort of innovations and structural changes noted above. But growth, in turn, will drive new changes in the economy, causing new products and firms to be created as well as countless small incremental innovations. Together, these advances allow an economy to increase its productivity, thereby enabling the production of more outputs with fewer inputs over the long haul. Environmental critics and sustainable development advocates, furthermore, often point out that development does not have to imply some types of growth. An economy, for instance, can be developing, but not growing by certain indicators. Indeed, the measure of productivity should not be solely monetary; it should also represent and shed light on how effectively scarce natural resources are being used and how well pollution is being reduced or prevented.


Definitions That Address Equity and Sustainability

Economic development policymakers and practitioners who are concerned about economically disadvantaged and depressed communities highlight some different issues when they define economic development. Community economic development or CED typically has five goals:

·        Stimulating a self-sustaining process of economic development (the dynamic and rate of development);

·        Creating jobs at acceptable wages, with appropriate benefits and career ladders for area residents (the distribution of development);

·        Producing goods and services that meet social needs, like affordable housing, lowered energy costs, better health care, and accessible day care (the composition of development);

·        Establishing greater community control, accountability, and participation in basic economic decisions such as hiring, investment, and location (the control of development); and

·        Broadening business and asset ownership within poor and ethnic minority communities.


The first objective is shared by other more conventional economic and business development strategies. But the last four distinguish community economic development from many traditional approaches and are especially important for both low-income and working class communities. The practice of CED also has a strong institution-building dimension, involving the creation and strengthening of economic organizations controlled or owned by residents of the area where these institutions are located. These might include business firms, industrial parks, banks, credit unions, cooperatives, community development corporations, and mutual housing associations. Lastly, there is an implicit anti-poverty mission implied in this definition, given the goal of creating more family-wage jobs.

The following economic development definition goes further on issues of fairness, environmental compatibility, and quality of life. The Corporation for Enterprise Development has argued that economic development should help to achieve a more widely shared and sustainable quality of life. This overall definition may be broken down into three elements:

·        Development entails the enrichment of material, social well-being, which can be measured in the flow of money and goods over time; increases in a jurisdiction's quality and quantity of public goods (such as clean air and water, freedom from crime, better schools, etc.); and access to good jobs (e.g., with wages and benefits sufficient for supporting a family, and opportunities for advancement).

·        Shared growth means there is broad distribution of opportunities for meaningful participation in the economy and enjoyment of the benefits of an increased standard of living.

·        Sustained growth implies that the above goals are achieved in a manner that does not detract from - but rather enhances - the economy's ability to achieve the same goals in the future.

Obviously, this conception of economic development adds to the debate about the means and ends of development policy. Many economic developers see their job solely as one that concerns employment generation and income growth. They believe that they have little influence on other objectives and are not responsive to constituencies that are most concerned with issues of equity and environmental conservation.


But an increasing number of voices contends that economic development policies must pass the tests suggested by the last few definitions: Are the policies, programs, and practices generating a higher standard of living and more and better jobs? Are programs becoming more accountable, cost-effective, and user-friendly? Are they expanding opportunities for all Americans? And are they becoming more compatible with conserving our environmental assets and promoting a higher quality of life?


Why Is Economic Development Important

Economic development in the U.S. is a big deal. To start, many argue that economic development is necessary for sustaining the competitiveness of the United States economy and raising overall productivity and incomes. Second, additional development can help maintain a high level of employment and job quality for all Americans. Third, it can help to create the jobs necessary for providing middle-class opportunities for the jobless and working poor. Fourth, it can provide the earnings needed to make further investments in education, government services, amenities, infrastructure, and quality of life.


Moreover, economic development policy matters. Federal, state, and local governments spend billions of dollars in its name. So, development policy choices affect taxpayers' pocketbooks. What's more, evidence suggests that many development programs actually work and do achieve the goals listed above.

Economic development issues have a way of dominating most policy debates in state legislatures and city councils. Its prominence is due in part to citizens' tendency to evaluate public officials' success by how well their state or local economy is faring. If jobs are being generated, incomes are growing, and high profile companies are being attracted or retained, then a politician's tenure is likely to be extended. If not, he or she may become history.


But there is another important twist on the significance of economic development. Almost every major state and local policy debate, whether it involves taxation, welfare, environmental regulations, or workforce healthy and safety, quickly becomes a debate over economic development. Indeed, most new social and regulatory policies are fought on the grounds that they will harm the area's business climate and cause private investment to dry up. Similarly, education reform and adult retraining are promoted for their potential impact on economic growth.


What Do Economic Developers Do?

During the last thirty-plus years, the field of economic development has changed significantly. Once an ad hoc art and practice, it is gradually becoming more of a science, an industry and a profession. Today, the field has its own journals and trade associations. It is taught in universities and colleges. Certificates are awarded to those who undergo appropriate training. Regional, national, and international conferences are held from Frankfurt, Germany, to Raleigh, North Carolina.


Many lay people mistakenly believe that economic development is simply a hands-on profession. The economic developer promotes sites, visits existing industries, runs a revolving loan fund, and so forth. But this is only the field's external face.


Economic development activities and outcomes are also shaped by public policies. Funding for infrastructure, tax and regulatory policies, new workforce training grants, and countless other examples influence the environment for investment and commerce. Called "business climate," this contested term refers to the extent to which the political and policy environments of a particular state or locality, compared with other jurisdictions, are seen to be supportive or burdensome to businesses. The implication is that any area whose business climate is not "competitive" will be shunned by the corporate sector and will find it difficult to attract or grow new firms and the jobs they provide.


The business climate is affected by both major cost factors (e.g., land, labor, taxes, regulations) and non-cost factors (e.g., quality of life, attitudes toward business). Government has a big impact on business climate (and hence, economic development practice), for it is that combination of services provided by the public sector, such as education, infrastructure, taxation, and regulation, which creates the context within which companies operate. Moreover, government delivers other direct programs to companies in the form of grants, low interest loans, debt insurance mechanisms, and business advisory services.

There is no complete roster of all who are involved in this field, but here are some indicators of its size.

·        There are more than 2,000 community development corporations (CDCs) operating in low-income areas throughout the U.S. These groups boast 17 statewide associations and a national organization -- the National Congress for Community Economic Development -- with over 800 members.

·        The state of Minnesota has 200 revolving loan funds providing financing and management services to small businesses.

·        The American Economic Development Council, a major national trade association, has nearly 3,000 members, as well as its own research foundation that is affiliated with a major university.

·        The North Carolina Economic Development Association has close to 650 members, with 200 of these based in local and state organizations and agencies and another 400-plus engineers, attorneys, consultants, businesspersons, bankers, and utility personnel. In fact, its director estimates that 85 of the state's 100 counties have at least one economic development staff person in place.


Once it was virtually synonymous with business recruitment efforts; now it has broadened its boundaries. Today's economic development involves initiatives ranging from improving local amenities (e.g., building a museum and aquarium) to reforming the K-12 educational system, from retaining existing businesses to fostering minority ownership of business enterprises.

Indeed, a recent trade association publication that surveyed economic developers found them in general agreement that:

·        The issue of educational quality and workforce preparation will become increasingly critical.

·        Changes in information technology, communications technology, and the growth of the Internet will have a major impact on the profession.

·        Existing business development will be central to economic developers in the years ahead.

·        Economic developers will have to know more about global markets.

·        The ability to forge political consensus within a community will be critical to successful economic development efforts.

·        Because of the scale of investments needed and the speed of economic change, the New Economy places a premium on collaboration. No one can afford to go it alone.


Yet, in many respects the challenge is the same. Economic developers invest to build up their location and promote their assets and opportunities to prospective investors, both inside and outside the community.





This is the twelfth annual report of the economic impact of traveler expenditures on Wisconsin prepared by Davidson-Peterson Associates. This report covers calendar year 2000. The purpose of this study is to measure the economic benefits derived by Wisconsin residents and governments from the dollars spent in the area by travelers.


These economic benefits include:

·        Total expenditures made by visitors;

·        Number of full-time equivalent jobs supported by these expenditures;

·        Wages, salaries and proprietary income earned by area residents; and

·        State and local government revenues generated.


The estimates of economic impact developed from these procedures and analyzed in this report may be used to document the importance of tourism as a key segment of Wisconsin’s economy, to underscore the need to continue to support the expenditure of time, effort and dollars to promote tourism growth, and to track the results of Wisconsin’s tourism marketing efforts.



·        December - April $2,900,557,805

·        May - August $4,793,915,638

·        September - November $2,277,232,204


·        Total jobs created (full-time job equivalents): 282,960

·        Total resident income (wages, salaries and proprietary income) generated: $5,565,720,000

·        Total government revenues generated: State - $894,986,000 Local - $647,979,000






Number of properties




Number of rooms/units/sites




Total available roomnights/

site-nights (millions)




Total occupied roomnights/

site-nights (millions)




Average occupancy rate




Average double rate




Average unit rate




Average site rate




Management’s Estimate:

Average party size




Average length of stay




Guest Origin

Out of State












Other foreign








Trip Purpose1













Note: Length of stay as noted throughout this document represents the average number of nights spent in a hotel/motel/resort. It does not necessarily reflect the total number of nights spent in Wisconsin. Columns of figures may not add to totals shown due to rounding. * Less than 0.5%


1999 (Revised) vs. 2000





Estimated Traveler Expenditures (billions)




Estimated Economic Impact:

Total full-time job equivalents supported




Total resident income (millions)




Total government revenues generated:




State (millions)




Local (millions)



+11.1 %


1999 (Revised) vs. 2000




% Change

December - April




May - August




September - November











By Accommodation Type

More than half of the total estimated traveler expenditures, $5.66 billion (57%), were spent by travelers staying in Wisconsin overnight at hotels/motels/resorts.

Those camping in Wisconsin spent $628 million (6%), and those staying in cabins/cottages/condominiums spent $513 million (5%) while traveling in Wisconsin.


Visitors with no lodging expenses spent 32% of Wisconsin's 2000 traveler expenditures ($3.18 billion). Travelers who stayed at the homes of family and/or friends spent $2.45 billion (25%) while visiting Wisconsin, and those visiting just for the day or passing through Wisconsin spent nearly $722 million (7%).


By Category of Expenditure

More than half of Wisconsin's total estimated travel expenditures came from shopping and food expenditures ($3.0 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively).

Recreation expenditures represent 24% of traveler expenditures ($2.4 billion), and lodging expenses represent 15% of the total estimated traveler expenditures ($1.5 billion). Six percent of Wisconsin traveler expenditures ($583 million) were spent on transportation.

Seasonal Differences in Traveler Expenditures

Half of all traveler expenditures in Wisconsin ($4.8 billion or 48%) were spent in the summer season (May through August). The winter season (December through April) represents 29% of Wisconsin's total traveler expenditures ($2.9 billion), and the fall season (September through November) accounts for 23% of these expenditures ($2.3 billion).

Fall and summer traveler expenditures increased by 10%, compared to 1999 (revised) while the winter season saw a 9% increase.


2000 County by County Traveler Expenditures and Economic Impact


















1999 REV.























































































Tourism Trends and Analysis: The Wisconsin Visitor

The majority of visitors to Wisconsin come from the major markets of Chicago and Northern Illinois, Minnesota, predominately from the Twin Cities, Iowa and a significant number from within Wisconsin. Because of the state’s abundant variety of recreational opportunities, accommodations, attractions and outstanding dining facilities, the tourism industry caters to a broad spectrum of all travelers. Some 1996 visitor characteristics that are worth noting include:


·        A majority of visitors travel by auto.

·        There is a somewhat increasing frequency of slightly younger travelers using motorcoach, and an increase in males.

·        36% visit friends and family.

·        About 93% of leisure travelers are strictly leisure and an additional 7% are on a combination of business and leisure - a trend worth enhancing through business/leisure promotion.

·        The single largest category of recreational spending is food, followed closely by shopping.

·        Satisfaction rates among leisure travelers is high with over 90% stating they would recommend a Wisconsin vacation to a friend or family member.

·        Aspects most enjoyed were scenery and relaxation/getaway - Brand Image.

·        Over 90% of visitors indicate that they will return to Wisconsin for another vacation in the next several years.

·        The majority of the summer and fall vacationers are most likely to return in the months of July through October - Cross-promote fall in summer and summer during fall vacations.

·        About ˝ of vacationers plan about 1 month prior to travel - the other 50% plan within 2-9 months.

·        Planning is driven by availability of good weather and scheduling around travel groups work and domestic schedules.

·        With the aging of the Baby Boom generation, slightly more than 1/2 of our visitors do not have children under 18 living in their homes. This trend is projected to continue until 2010.

·        Summer and fall vacation group make-up is about 35% families, 35% couples and 15% friends.

·        Vacations typically last from 2 - 4 days with the majority of that time spent in the same area.

·        Most important informational materials for "Planning" a trip are AAA Trip-Tics, state maps and atlases and state and local publications and Internet sites.

·        Areas for Improvement: Better variety of food choices, availability of Indoor activities to compensate for weather and better roads where needed.

Wisconsin Tourism Consumer Research

1994/95 Regionalizing Vals Research

1994 telephone survey of 5000 randomly selected consumers (in-state and out-state) who inquired about ten different areas of the state.



1. 69 percent of inquirers actually had vacationed in Wisconsin.

2. Top ten destinations:



1. Door County
2. WI Dells
3. Milwaukee
4. Green Bay
5. Bayfield

6. Eau Claire
7. Madison
8. Minocqua
9. La Crosse
10. Lake Geneva

3. Length of stay:



3-4 days


4. Amount Spent:


$325 average (per group - 3-4 people)


5. Top Accommodations:



Family & Friends


6. Top 10 activities:



Visiting state/county park
Going to historical sites
Wildlife watching
Visiting museum
Visiting friends/relatives
Visiting attractions
Water sports


7. Where they come from:



Chicago area
Mpls/St. Paul




Before any discussion of local economic development approaches and strategies can occur, an understanding of regional workforce and economic conditions must first be established.


The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Division of Workforce Excellence, Bureau of Labor Market Information and Customer Services in its December 2000, Winnebago County Workforce Profile notes:


·        Winnebago County’s population has increased 10.3% between the 1990 census and the 1999 estimates. Winnebago County has grown faster than both Wisconsin and the United States. This faster growth rate in Winnebago County is the result of more people moving into the county than moving out of it. This pattern reflects a positive net migration. Winnebago County’s population has also increased by having more births than deaths. This component of population change is called natural gain.


·        The labor force is the sum of employed and unemployed persons who are 16 years old and older. While Winnebago County’s population has increased by 10.3% since 1990, the labor force has increased by 6.2%. A larger portion of the resident population is 16 and older. Consequently, a larger portion of the population is now available for and in the labor force.

The term used to describe the relationship between the labor force and the population is the participation rate. Winnebago County has a somewhat larger participation rate than does the State of Wisconsin and the United States. Winnebago County’s labor force participation rate is 82.8%. The United State’s participation rate is 67.1%, while the state’s rate is 74.4%. Participation rates are often partly the result of economic conditions of an area and partly the result of demographic conditions of an area.


The 38.4 percent increase in labor force aged population between the ages of 40 and 54 is the result of the aging of baby-boomers. Of major significance to employers has been the negative growth in the number of younger workers. The decline in the number of 16 to 24 year olds and an increase in the number of businesses which traditionally hire large numbers of young workers has contributed to the current labor shortage.


Age Group

1990 Census

1999 Estimate

Percent Change

























Source: Estimated from WI Dept. of Admin., Demographic Services Center. Official Population Projections 1990 – 2020.


In the past five years, the number of nonfarm jobs in Winnebago County has increased from 75,037 to 82,496, an increase of 7,459. In the same period, the number of people in Winnebago County who identify themselves as employed has grown from 90,790 to 96,417, an increase of 5,672. This divergence is chiefly due to the large number of outbound resident commuters. Much of the cross- country travel is between the Fox Cities, which are partly in Winnebago, Outagamie and Calumet Counties. Higher job growth rates than the state and nation have consistently resulted in lower levels of unemployment in Winnebago County than in the U.S. or Wisconsin.









Percent Change








1 - Year

5 - Year










Goods Producing









Construction & Mining




































Service Producing









Trans., Comm. & Utilities









Total Trade



























Finance, Insurance & Real Estate



























Source: WI DWD, BLMICS. Current Employment Statistics program.


Nonfarm wage and salary employment measurers the number of jobs within a county excluding agriculture, military, and self-employed workers. This data measurers the number of jobs within the county without consideration of where the job-holder lives. Thus, this information is often referred to as “place of work” data. Winnebago County has a large number of residents who commute outside the county to their jobs; this is the most significant reason why the labor force in Winnebago County was 13,917 larger than the number of jobs within the county during 19988.


Industrial parks and shopping malls adjacent to the Highway 41 corridor have contributed strongly to job growth from one end of the county to the other. Manufacturing industries, while not being the creators of most job growth in the county, still account for 37.9% of the nonfarm jobs. Service; transportation, communications, and utilities; and construction industries have all demonstrated high percentages of job growth. That is consistant with population and economic growth in Winnebago County.






Percent of

Percent Change

Number of


Average Wage

State Average

1 year

5 year


All Industries






Ag. Forestry & Fishing


















Trans. Comm & Utilities






Wholesale Trade






Retail Trade






Finance, Insurance & Real Estate


















Source: WI DWD, BLMICS. Employment, Wages & Taxes Due Covered by Wisconsin’s U.C. Law, 1993 & 1998 Tables 209 -211


The greatest positive differential in average wages between Winnebago County and statewide averages occurred within manufacturing. Manufacturing annual wages in Winnebago County 1998 were 117.1 percent of the state average. The primary reason for that difference is the predominance of the paper industry and machine manufacturing industries with their high wages.


Manufacturing employment represents 37.8% of total employment but 49.6% of wages paid in Winnebago County. Some of the differential can be attributed to several large employers which have collective bargaining agreements. Overtime wages also influence the total earnings of manufacturing workers.


Retail trade employment represents 13.8% of employment, yet only 6.1% of the wages paid in Winnebago County. The wages in the retail industry represent a significantly smaller portion of total wages than employment, because the industry employees a large number of entry-level workers and over 40% of the employment is part time.


Per Capita income is total income divided by the total number of residents. Income includes wages earned, dividends from investments, and transfer payments from the government. Winnebago County’s per capita income ranked 12th highest of Wisconsin’s 72 counties during 1998. Per capita income in Winnebago County during this period was 1.2% lower than the nations.


Over the past five years, Winnebago County per capita income has increased by 26.5% and wages earned in Winnebago County have increased by 24.3%. A probable reason for the larger increase in average personal income than in per capita income is the large amount of Winnebago County residents who work at jobs in the paper industry as well as technical jobs and skilled trades. Skilled and technical worker wages have escalated as a result of the tight labor supply.


Selected Occupational Wage Data




Automotive Mechanic






Computer Programmer



Customer Service Rep.



General Office Clerk



Industrial Truck Operator









Mechanical Engineer



Paper Goods Machine Operator



Registered Nurse



Salesperson, Retail






Teacher, Secondary School






Source: DWD, 1998 OES Wage Survey Appleton/Oshkosh/Neenah MSA.


Wages paid for work within a county can impact the type of goods and services which may be purchased. Examining wage structures can be an important part of the hiring process for both job seekers and employers. The mean wage is the sum of all wages divided by the number of wage earners; this is often referred to as an “average”. The median wage is the midpoint of all wages; there are exactly the same number of wage earners above and below this wage. If the mean and median are relatively close the labor market for that potential worker is probably tight or very competitive. If the median is significantly below the mean, an employer offering mean wages should capture most of the market. Manufacturing wages in this county are higher than those of the state as a whole due to the larger number of union workers[ii].


Within the State of Wisconsin and Winnebago County, many economic development programs and professionals are already at work. At the state level Forward Wisconsin, WiDOC, WHEDA, the SBA and WI Tourism work to implement many of their programs by assisting local economic development professionals, existing businesses and entrepreneurs.


Forward Wisconsin


Forward Wisconsin, Inc., (forwardWI.com) is a unique public-private state marketing and business recruitment organization. Its job is marketing outside Wisconsin to attract new businesses, jobs and increased economic activity to the state. In July 2000, Forward Wisconsin created a new division - Great Jobs Wisconsin - to recruit workers to Wisconsin from outside the state. The Great Jobs Wisconsin program can be accessed at GreatJobsWI.com


Board of Directors

Forward Wisconsin's Board of Directors reflects that public-private partnership. Governor Scott McCallum is chairman of the board. Private sector representation includes Wisconsin's utilities, banks, educational institutions, investment firms, law firms, and manufacturers. Public sector representation includes four state legislators and the Secretary of the Department of Commerce.



Forward Wisconsin was created in 1984 on the recommendation of a 1983 Marketing Task Force Report. It is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation.



Forward Wisconsin has an annual budget of approximately $1 million. More than half of that funding is provided by private sector contributors, with the balance coming from the state through a contract with the Department of Commerce.


Marketing Strategy

Forward Wisconsin works to boost the state’s image, to project the state's positive business climate and to attract industry and workers to Wisconsin. The group’s marketing plan focuses its resources on six target industries and one primary back-up target. These industries currently thrive in the state, are compatible with the state’s strengths and are projected to have strong growth potential:

·        Computer & Data Processing Services

·        Plastics

·        Business Services

·        Forest Products (Hardwood Plywood)

·        Biotechnology

·        Production Machinery & Equipment


Primary Back-up Target:

·        Customer Service Centers


Marketing Activities

Forward Wisconsin uses a wide range of economic development marketing tools. These include:

·        Direct mail campaigns and follow-up telemarketing to targeted industries and geographic areas.

·        Out-of-state prospecting trips

·        Trade show booth appearances at targeted industry expositions

·        Print advertising campaigns directed toward geographically targeted publications and target industry journals

·        Image-building campaigns

·        Special event promotion

·        Site selection and consultant education


Working with Companies

Forward Wisconsin provides business cost comparisons, financial information and a variety of other business consulting services to prospective expanding businesses. Forward Wisconsin services are provided on a confidential, no-cost basis.

Relationship with the Department of Commerce

Forward Wisconsin gains its primary strength from its unique status as a public-private partnership, its ability to draw upon the resources of both the public and private sectors and its capacity to coordinate these efforts. The corporation’s success in implementing its mission statement depends in large part upon its close working relationship with the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. Forward Wisconsin is responsible for out-of-state marketing and business attraction, while the Department of Commerce is responsible for existing business retention, expansion, financial programs and international development.


Financial Resources for Businesses

The Wisconsin economic development team includes many partners -- Forward Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, other state agencies, local economic development officials, the state's utilities, the Wisconsin Technical College and University Systems, and other groups. Each partner brings valuable resources to helping you with your expansion project.


Listed below are selected financial programs available through the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation that are most commonly utilized by out-of-state businesses expanding to Wisconsin. This is not an all-inclusive list of the financial programs available at the state level-- many local economic development groups and utility companies also have their own programs to assist your business expansion. Please contact Forward Wisconsin if you would like more information on financial assistance and incentives. We can put you in contact with the appropriate partner to get you the specific details you require.


The Customized Labor Training Fund provides training grants to businesses that are implementing new technology or production processes. The program can provide up to 50 percent of the cost of customized training that is not available from the Wisconsin Technical College System.


The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)-Economic Development Program, funded through the federal Small Cities CDBG Program, provides grants to communities to promote local job creation and retention. Local governments then lend the funds to businesses for start-up, retention, and expansion projects through grant funding. Funding levels depend on the number of jobs to be created or retained.


The Dairy 2020 Initiative awards grants and loans for business and feasibility planning to dairy producers and processors considering a modernization or expansion project.


The Employee Ownership Assistance Loan Program can help a group of employees purchase a business by providing individual awards up to $25,000 for feasibility studies or professional assistance. The business under consideration must have expressed its intent to downsize or close.


The COMMERCE/DVR Job Creation Program is designed to increase employment opportunities for DVR clients by providing equipment grants, technical assistance grants, and customized assistance to companies that will hire persons with disabilities as part of a business expansion.


The Rural Economic Development Program makes individual awards up to $30,000 for feasibility studies and other professional assistance to rural businesses with fewer than 25 employees. Businesses that have completed their feasibility evaluations are eligible for individual micro loans up to $25,000 for working capital and the purchase of equipment.


The Major Economic Development Program offers low-interest loans for business development projects that create a significant economic impact.

The Technology Development Fund helps businesses finance Phase I product development research. Firms completing Phase I projects can receive Phase II product- commercialization funding.


Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) helps cities in Wisconsin attract industrial and commercial growth in underdeveloped and blighted areas. A city or village can designate a specific area within its boundaries as a TIF district and develop a plan to improve its property values. Taxes generated by the increased property values pay for land acquisition or needed public works.


The Enterprise Development Zone Program promotes a business start-up or expansion on a particular site in any area of the state that suffers from high unemployment, declining income and property values, and other indicators of economic distress. The program offers tax credits for such activities as hiring disadvantaged workers and undertaking environmental remediation. Tax credits can be taken only on income generated by business activity in the zone. The maximum amount of tax credits per zone is $3 million.


Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) are a means of financing the constructing and equipping of manufacturing plants and a limited number of non-manufacturing facilities. The municipality is not responsible for debt service on IRBs, nor is it liable in the case of default. IRBs are also exempt from federal income tax.


The Wisconsin Transportation Facilities Economic Assistance and Development Program funds transportation facilities improvements (road, rail, harbor, airport) that are part of an economic development project.


The Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) currently operates under the following mission:



The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority serves Wisconsin residents and communities by working with others to provide creative financing resources and information to stimulate and preserve affordable housing, small business, and agribusiness.


It administers this mission through the following programs:


Agricultural Products

Giving Farm Families Credit
Preserving a Proud Tradition


Your production financing resource. CROP provides guarantees for agricultural production loans. Visit our site for
Farmers and Lenders.

Is your operation ready for the 21st Century? FARM provides guarantees for agricultural expansion and modernization loans. Visit our site for
Farmers and Lenders.

Beginning Farmer Bond
Isn't it time for your own operation? Beginning Farmer Bonds offer low interest rates to beginning farmers.

Agribusiness Guarantee
The Agribusiness Guarantee helps small businesses develop new products using Wisconsin's raw commodities.


Small Business Products

You want your small business to grow...
But do you have financing?


WHEDA Small Business Guarantee
The new way to grow your business. The WHEDA Small Business Guarantee helps you acquire or expand your small business.


Linked Deposit Loan (LiDL) Subsidy
The LiDL Subsidy helps women- and minority-owned businesses by reducing the interest rate on loans made by local lenders.


Agribusiness Guarantee
The Agribusiness Guarantee helps small businesses develop or expand production of products using Wisconsin's raw commodities.


Homeownership Products

Homeownership Made Affordable,
and Easy, too.


HOME Loans
Offer a mortgage loan with a low, fixed interest rate to help low- and moderate-income individuals and families buy a home.

Visit our sites designed just for:


The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center assists Wisconsin businesses by:


About Us


The Wisconsin Department of Tourism seeks to assist Wisconsin communities through the execution of its mission and strategies.



Provide leadership and guidance to Wisconsin's tourism industry to ensure that tourism is a top contributor to the state's economy and quality of life.


Make Wisconsin the top travel destination in the Midwest.



1.) Deliver creative marketing strategies that stimulate travel to and within Wisconsin.


A. Market Wisconsin as a premiere destination by developing a consistent brand image for the state that focuses on the state's four distinct seasons and diverse product.

B. Help maintain loyal customers, turn infrequent visitors into more frequent visitors, and lure new visitors to the state through enhanced targeted marketing efforts.

C. Expand niche marketing efforts to reach the meetings and conventions, motorcoach, internationaland multi-cultural audiences as well as the motion picture industry.

D. Continue researching our traveling customers to take advantage of new trends and opportunities.


2.) Utilize the latest technology to provide quality information and exceptional service to our traveling customers and industry partners.


A. Strengthen information technology-based partnerships and solutions with the Wisconsin tourism industry through such tools as integrated customer and product databases and the Internet.

B. Proactively recruit and maintain a talented, customer-friendly staff who possesses the knowledge and skills to plan, deliver, and evaluate services to our customers in the tourism industry.

C. Maintain an organizational structure focused on diversity, integrated teamwork, cooperation and communication.


3.) Encourage the development and growth of Wisconsin's tourism economy.


A. Provide technical assistance to tourism businesses and organizations related to marketing, customer service, research and product development.

B. Identify and promote additional offerings to enhance Wisconsin's tourism product.

C. Continue to provide and identify financing options designed to expand and/or enhance tourism in Wisconsin.

D. Deliver educational tools, research and training - including the Governor's Conference on Tourism - to industry partners for enhancing their competitive edge. Also, promote industry- sponsored educational conferences and opportunities.


4.) Facilitate committed partnerships with stakeholders to develop and grow Wisconsin tourism.


A. Strengthen existing and create new partnerships within Wisconsin's tourism industry by continuing to conduct staff familiarization tours, listening sessions and other approaches to actively seek industry input.

B. Improve and develop partnerships with other state agencies that share the same customers.

C. Create innovative methods to continuously communicate with the tourism industry and other stakeholders about existing and new programs.

D. Continue to seek the input and involvement of the Governor's Council on Tourism and its subcommittees.

E. Expand joint effort marketing programs.


5.) Represent and advocate the value of a vibrant tourism economy.


A. Facilitate dialog and information sharing between the tourism industry and local, state and federal government representatives.

B. Identify and communicate tourism industry interests to government decision-makers at all levels.

C. Identify and communicate pertinent legislative issues to the tourism industry.

D. Maintain a positive image of Wisconsin tourism to the general public.

E. Advocate for a stable and effective funding mechanism for the Department's promotional budget.


Specific Tourism program include:


·        Heritage Tourism

·        Joint effort marketing grant program

·        Consultant services

·        Marketing services

·        Wisconsin Travel information centers

·        Research


Locally, within Winnebago County, economic development efforts have been undertaken by the county Industrial Development Board (IDB) since 1966. The IDB is composed of eleven members who represent all the communities within Winnebago County, the County Board and other municipal organizations involved with economic development. Board members are appointed by the county executive, subject to approval by the County Board. Each serves a voluntary two year term. The Board’s annual budget is drawn from the general fund of Winnebago County and subject to approval annually by the County Board. The Board generally meets once per month.


The IDB supervises and administers three major programs designed to achieve the key objectives of its mission:


“To financially assist communities in Winnebago County to expand their tax base and to create jobs, as well as to promote Winnebago County awareness regionally, nationally and internationally as a good place to do business.”


Revolving Loan Program

In 1979, then County Executive Jim Coughlin initiated County Board approval for the creation of a $1,000,000 revolving loan fund to be administered by the IDB. The fund’s purpose is to provide low interest “seed” money for communities in Winnebago County to develop industrial sites and to assist local business in expanding their facilities.


Per Capita Funding Program

Originally established by the County Board in 1975, the Per Capita Funding Program was placed under the IDB’s administrative control in 1980. The fund provides direct financial support and promotion for local economic development programs. Money for the fund is determined and allocated by the County Board from general revenues received from the property and municipal taxes.


Recipients of funds from the program have been the Village of Winneconne; the Cities of Oshkosh, Neenah, and Omro; and the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the City of Menasha and the Towns of Neenah and Menasha. Other towns within the county have decided to allot their per capita funds to nearby communities within the county that provide employment opportunities for their residents. Since 1980, over $400,000 has been distributed through the per capita funding program.


Marketing & Promotional Program

The purpose of the Marketing & Promotional Program is to create awareness of the industrial development opportunities and benefits of Winnebago County at the local, regional, national and international levels. The IDB directly sponsors programs designed to achieve these goals, and participates in cooperative programs with other local and regional economic development organizations.


Within the Town of Rushford, economic development wants to focus around three specific sub-sectors of the economy. These sub-sectors are the agricultural economy, the tourist economy and the commercial/retail economy. In addition to the need to focus on these three economic sectors, the town also participates in industrial recruitment efforts through its share of the local sales tax, as forwarded to the City of Omro for use within the Winnebago County Industrial Development Board (IDB) program. A local and regional framework must be applied by the town if it is to reach its desired economic development goals.


Agricultural Economy

As outlined in the Agricultural, Cultural & Natural Resource Element of this Comprehensive Plan, agriculture plays a major role in the Town of Rushford. Current economic conditions within agriculture illustrate that the family farm is occupying less of the market place while larger, cooperate type, farms and smaller hobby and niche farms are gaining. With a stated goal of protecting agriculture within its community the Town of Rushford desires to assist the local farm economy by recruiting and supporting agriculture and agricultural related businesses to its community. In addition efforts to support the creation of new and local farm markets will be fully endorsed by the town.


Commercial Business Economy


The Town of Rushford is speckled with numerous independent “garage” type businesses. From farm equipment repair to sheet metal working these local entrepreneurs represent Americas backbone of business growth and development. While the town would like to encourage the start up and operation of new and continuing “at home” businesses, it will need to carefully monitor these operations as they develop and grow. Monitoring will be undertaken to ensure that minimal land use and other potential conflicts do not occur. In addition, monitoring will afford the town an opportunity to request that businesses re-locate to appropriate use areas when they achieve sufficient size to warrant.


In addition to home based businesses the town is also blessed with a number of onsite full-scale commercial operations. While currently somewhat scattered in their distribution the town is not at this time interested in the development of a business park. Using this approach, commercial business will be encouraged to be sited in or adjacent to either of the towns cross roads communities or advised to locate in an existing business park in a neighboring community.


Tourism Business economy


With a large natural resource base in public ownership and amenities such as the Eureka Boat launch and the Rush Creek Nature Preserve in Waukau, the Town of Rushford is poised to capitalize on the tourists which come to utilize these facilities. Several businesses on “Main Street” Wuakau and “Main Street” Eureka take advantage of both local expenditures and tourist expenditures. Maintaining and enhancing these commercial retail corridors will greatly assist the town with capitalizing on its tourism trade capture potential. In addition the proposed addition and development of a commercial corner on the southwest corner of STH 91 in Waukau will aid in the capture of travel related expenditures.


Another proposed commercial corner at the intersection of STH 21 and County Road “E” will serve to supplement an existing general store. In combination, each of these strategies will assist the town in capturing tourism expenditures and assisting local residents by increasing the availability of goods and services.


While strategies to allow for the construction and operation of retail business establishments in the town are key to the capture of tourism, tourism promotion is key to making the public aware of the amenities and facilities that the town has to offer. Local efforts to work with the Winnebago County Parks & Recreation Department for tourism promotion and other groups such as the Oshkosh Convention & Visitors bureau are critical to the town’s ability to recruit tourists. Additional consideration should also be given towards the development of a regional tourism promotion group that could develop and distribute marketing and promotional materials on behalf of the town and its attractions.

Goals, Objectives & Policies


Goal #1

To provide adequate land area for commercial developments needs within the town.


Objective: Illustrate on the town’s future land use map sufficient area and a variety of locations for potential commercial land use.


Objective: Concentrate commercial land use areas in and around the crossroads communities or Eureka and Waukau.


Objective: Maintain concentrated commercial zoning on the “Main Street” corridors of Eureka and Waukau.


Goal #2

Insure that commercial businesses are located properly for their operations within the township.


Objective: Monitor at home business operations to minimize land use conflicts and to ensure relocation if warranted.


Objective: Encourage perspective commercial businesses to locate in the Eureka or Waukau area.


Objective: Refer larger potential commercial or industrial businesses to adjoining community business parks.


Goal #3

Encourage and participate in economic development efforts.


Objective: Continue to support Industrial development efforts in the City of Omro through the contribution of IDB program funds.


Objective: Inquire with several c-store franchises about the feasibility of placing a store in Eureka.


Objective: Participate with local and regional groups and organizations in the promotion of tourism based amenities.


Objective: Work with county, state and federal agencies on property and facilities management issues.


[i] .*Malizia, Emil E. and Edward J. Feser. 1999. Understanding Local Economic Development. New Brunswick, NJ: Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University.

[ii] Winnebago County Workforce Profile. Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Division of Workforce Excellence, Bureau of Labor Market Information and Customer Service December 2000. DWEI-10663-P (R. 12/2000).