WEDC launches new initiative: THINK. MAKE. HAPPEN.

Wisconsin is facing a workforce shortage.

According to a survey by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, 70 percent of businesses have a tough time filling positions, and many delay business growth because of this insufficient labor pool.

Even worse, a survey from the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment for 2014-2018 shows that need for workers will outpace population growth before 2030.

To deal with the issue, WEDC is launching an initiative emphasizing the state’s breadth of opportunities for young, talented workers. Its unified message platform, THINK. MAKE. HAPPEN., was debuted today at WMC’s Future Wisconsin Economic Summit in Madison.

“The reality is, it can’t happen soon enough,” said WEDC Deputy Secretary Tricia Braun. “This is such a critical issue.”

According to Braun, the timing of the new initiative aligned perfectly with this year’s Future Wisconsin Economic Summit, where the conversation started last year.

“This is truly a unique approach in that it’s not top-down,” said Braun. “We were deliberate about the grass-roots approach, for the regions and partners who have been asking for this, who will embrace and use it.”

The initiative will be supported by the website, which will showcase the message in action as related content is shared and spread online.

WEDC has been gathering information across the state, engaging with young professional groups and businesses, holding listening sessions, as well as collecting survey data on people’s’ desire for economic growth. Its survey received over 2,600 responses.

“The one thing that citizens said repeatedly is that they want some sort of toolkit, resource space or guiding document,” said Braun. “They said, ‘we want to have consistent messages and stories,’ or ‘we want to showcase regional initiatives.’”

While the website will support this initiative, Braun emphasized that it is “only a starting spot,” adding that “we anticipate it growing over time as people add content, or WEDC puts in content.”

Mark Maley, spokesman for WEDC, expects evolution as people add their own ideas and content.

“There’s going to be a lot of good material, but that is just one component,” said Maley. “This message will evolve on other platforms as we move forward. We want the use of this platform to inspire people to come up with great ideas of their own.”

To support the idea of THINK. MAKE. HAPPEN., different groups from across Wisconsin will have to come together under a common attitude toward the future of the state, said Braun.

“We don’t want to call it a brand,” said Braun. “The reality is, we want people to believe it.”

She pointed to the common alignment of Wisconsin with beer, cheese and Packers football as a good thing, but thinks the state can “take it to the next level; tell the bigger story of why we are advancing in these economic clusters that will change the world.”

According to Braun, regional economic development groups will be the first adopters, as the idea behind the initiative aligns with their missions and objectives, but the possibilities for high schools, businesses and universities are limitless.

The initiative was launched by WEDC in partnership with Young Professionals of Fond du Lac; Momentum West, WEDC’s regional economic development partner in west-central Wisconsin; Global Finishing Solutions of Osseo; Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce; and Waunakee High School.

See the website here: 

–By Alex Moe