ELLSWORTH -- The Office of Rural Prosperity has identified several areas of improvement to help rural Wisconsin communities prosper. Paul Bauer, CEO of Ellsworth Creamery, told officials this week about one that tops his list: Pierce County needs affordable apartments to entice young people to move to the area.
The Blue Ribbon Commission from the Office of Rural Prosperity recently released the report titled “Rural Voices for Prosperity” which offers recommendations to help rural Wisconsin communities prosper.
On Thursday, May 27, the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce held a presentation for local leaders to hear more about the report’s findings and recommendations from Marcy West, Office of Rural Prosperity director, and Brittany Beyer, Blue Ribbon Commission member.
In January 2020, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity and the Office of Rural Prosperity, the women explained. The Office of Rural Prosperity’s mission is to help foster resilient and prosperous rural communities.
Housing: Affordable housing for rural workforces is a major concern. Obtaining better housing options is crucial to attract more workers and keep the ones already in place.
Bauer explained that Ellsworth needs such housing for younger people just starting out, so they can plant their roots and perhaps be the next generation of residents. Bauer said that some of his workers are driving from Hudson and other areas to get to work every day because they can't afford to live in Ellsworth.
West agreed that this was an issue and said she would bring this up to their superiors for a larger scale conversation.
Broadband: Rural communities lack access to quality high-speed broadband services, which is crucial for online learning, remote working and entertainment.
Beyer said that even though people may be returning to their places of business, a lot of people are deciding to permanently work from home and it is necessary to be able to accommodate that.
Sections of western Wisconsin have dial-up and satellite service only.
Child care: Rural families are finding it extremely difficult to find high-quality, affordable child care and this is affecting the parents’ ability to work.
West said now that things are getting back to normal from COVID-19 having accessible child care is going to be necessary for families to thrive.
Transit: Workers are having a hard time finding reliable transportation, which is affecting rural economies. Although public transportation is difficult to obtain in rural areas, state resources may be able to replicate and scale transit options.
Health care: There is a lack of access to physical and mental health services in rural communities.
Create and appropriately resource a place within the Wisconsin state government that understands and champions the unique attributes of rural Wisconsin — including Native Nations.
Continue the governor’s efforts to make the needs and priorities of rural communities and Native Nations a forethought, rather than an afterthought.
Take an “all-of-government approach" to doing right by rural and tribal communities.
Ensure rural places and Native Nations in rural Wisconsin get a fair shake in accessing state and federal resources.
Look beyond Wisconsin’s borders for good ideas.
Unleash the full power of communities to innovate and act by updating state laws that restrict local agency.
Reinvest in the Wisconsin Idea and the University of Wisconsin, its satellite campuses, and our state’s network of community and technical colleges as unique and valuable assets.
Rebalance state business incentives to ensure economic development prioritizes the assets of Wisconsin people, communities and businesses.
Invest in vital ingredients for our better future.
Continue the work of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity.
The community leaders of Ellsworth said they plan on digging deeper into this report, understanding what needs to be done and taking the next steps to creating a more prosperous city.