Senate candidate talks innovation, economic development at Nicolet College
By Eileen Persike
RHINELANDER – U.S. Senate candidate Democrat Alex Lasry made a stop this week at Nicolet College. He said he was there to learn more about college’s collaborative economic development and entrepreneurship programs. One of those programs, The GRID, which stands for Guiding Rural Innovation and Development, is getting attention around the state as a hub-and-spoke model of connecting people for economic growth.
“We’re learning about some of the great things that are happening to create jobs and move more investment and educate our students that is happening around the state, but especially here in northern Wisconsin,” said Lasry. “If we’re able to bring more resources and more funding to replicate what [Nicolet is] doing around the state, I’m going to feel really good about where Wisconsin is heading in the next ten years.”
During the meeting with Lasry, Sandy Bishop, executive director for Economic and Community Development at Nicolet, said key to success in rural areas is partnering with area organizations such as Grow North regional economic Development organization Grow North and UW-Extension-Oneida County.
“That’s how we roll up here,” Bishop said.
In spite of the “rural challenges,” including lack of broadband, housing, childcare and access to education, Bishop said embracing what makes the Northwoods “cool” is a big part of economic and community development.
“What we’ve done of late the last few years is really embrace what makes us unique up here … the entrepreneurial spirit, the in-migration of adults that are at or nearing retirement. Take advantage of what it is about our rural recreational beautiful place to live and attracting others to start a business, grow a business, mentor others.”
Lasry said there are things the federal government can do to make sure places like Nicolet College have the resources they need to continue to grow the economy. As a senator, Lasry said he would work with Sen. Tammy Baldwin to bring federal resources back to Wisconsin and work to grow and improve the state.
“When you look at the latest census data, we grew at half the national rate,” Lasry said. “Our greatest export is our people. So when I look at what this state needs, and I think what the voters say they need is someone who is actually going to work on behalf of them rather than yourself.”
Lasry is one of a dozen people running for the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. The Wisconsin primary is Aug. 9.