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Public Listening Sessions To Focus On Driftless Growth

Public listening sessions to focus on Driftless growth

Driftless Development, Inc., the newly-formed area economic development organization in Crawford County, is leading a strategic visioning process called “Forward Together” to facilitate growth and prosperity for the greater Crawford County area. The organization will use a method developed by the Purdue Center for Regional Development called Strategic Doing, which links community networks across organizational and political boundaries to quickly translate ideas into action.

The group will begin by asking for ideas from the larger community. That feedback will occur through listening sessions, surveys and interviews with individuals and communities throughout the Crawford County area. Listening sessions are scheduled in the Soldiers Grove Village Hall on Tuesday, April 10 from 6:30-8 p.m.; Gays Mills Village Hall on Wednesday, April 11, 6-7:30 p.m.; Seneca Village Hall on Thursday, April 12 from 6:30-8 p.m.; Prairie du Chien City Hall on Wednesday, April 18, 6-7:30 p.m.; and Wauzeka Century Hall on Thursday, May 3, 7-8:30 p.m. Listening sessions will seek to determine the concerns and the vision residents hold for the future of Crawford County. 

“We know that we’ll hear a lot of great ideas in the listening sessions, so we encourage everyone to come,” said Crawford County Board Chairman Tom Cornford.

Forward Together will address the challenges that Crawford County faces: a declining and aging population; declining school enrollment; a low median household income compared to state and national averages; record levels of children receiving free and subsidized school lunch-evidence of low incomes-and a shrinking labor force. All of these economic indicators reflect a need to leverage the assets of the county-a close-knit population with a strong sense of community, a labor force with a strong work ethic, and a natural setting replete with outdoor recreational opportunities second to none-to address these challenges. 

“We have so many things to offer prospective businesses in Crawford County beyond our dedicated workforce and transportation hub. It’s just a great place to live,” said Prairie du Chien Mayor Dave Hemmer.

Driftless Development will also gather input from area businesses and residents through an online survey developed by UW-Extension, which will seek to understand the needs of business owners to compete in the marketplace and the preferences of residents for retail and service business development. The survey, which focuses on the physical, financial, operational and marketing challenges facing area businesses, will be used to develop a plan to support existing businesses and create a vision for revitalizing the region.

Strategic doing allows the information gathered through listening sessions and surveys to answer two simple questions: Where are we going? And how do we get there? Rather than determining that direction through hierarchies, or from “the top down.” Strategic doing incorporates lateral communications; the way people naturally talk with one another in the workplace and in the community. It emphasizes these natural networks we use to communicate on a daily basis rather than artificial networks imposed by others. Everyone has a network. Collaboration starts when we bring those networks into the room.

Rather than summarizing these interactions in a strategic planning document, which often sits on the shelf after many hours and much effort put into development, a Strategic Doing process emphasizes the steps needed to translate the plan into action. It provides an intuitive process in which practitioners can easily cross boundaries and strengthen relationships. The popularity of strategic doing is spreading because of its proven success in getting results.

In the end, the best way to learn strategic doing is to do strategic doing. And the “doing” brings with it the excitement in building a community vision together.

“We are really excited to get started with this process,” said Driftless Development president Dan Kanis. “This is an important step for the entire area in preparing for the future.”

Those with questions about the Forward Together initiative, listening sessions, or survey can call Jim Bowman, Executive Director of Driftless Development, Inc. at 326-0234.

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