News & Media

Kelly Ryan Blog: People are talking

Thu. Jul 18, 2013

Last week, as thousands of copies of Vital Signs were delivered to the homes of
Daily Tribune subscribers, I wrote a column asking that residents use the report to have conversations with their friends, neighbors and elected officials for our region’s future.

In the days since the report was released, I’m happy to report that the conversation has begun. Residents have shared that they appreciate the addition of new data to this year’s report, and feel excited about the opportunities Vital Signs presents.

What makes Vital Signs so important to our community?

Vital Signs is a snapshot of us – the people and institutions that make up the south Wood County area.

Inside is up-to-date information about south Wood County’s schools, businesses, economy, and the engagement of its residents. Vital Signs tells us where we’ve been and where we’re going.

At Incourage, we continue to invest in this research and report because we believe good data is needed to make good decisions and measure impact. As you flip through Vital Signs’ pages, take note of the places where we succeed. The latest edition shows that our area continues to be a beautiful and vibrant place to live. Our high school dropout rate is lower than state and national averages, while the percentage of our residents who’ve earned an associate degree is higher. Crime is low in our area, with society crimes falling 30 percent over the last six years, and OWIs falling by 32 percent. The people of south Wood County also care about one another. Volunteerism increased in 2012, with the United Way of Inner Wisconsin reporting 193,000 hours worked – the equivalent of 96 full-time jobs.

But while we celebrate our successes, let us also acknowledge the challenges (and opportunities) the data presents in areas such as the changing manufacturing employment base and our aging population.

Inside the report you will also find information about our many community partnerships, including: Workforce Central, which matches local worker skills with employer needs, and the Regional Economic Growth Initiative (REGI), a forward-thinking partnership that promotes collaboration to pursue common economic growth strategies. There is also the new Business-Education Partnership Committee designed to increase communication and improve understanding between students and business owners. It also works to coordinate investments for local job growth projects and industry.

These are just a few of the efforts underway in the community. I’m sure you are aware of more. The data in this report is not meant to sit on a shelf. It is meant to spur conversations, partnerships and action.

Let’s keep the conversation going. Call, e-mail, Facebook, tweet or post your thoughts below. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thanks for reading.


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  • About Incourage

    Established in rural Wisconsin in 1994 to serve the changing needs of the south Wood County area, Incourage has become a nationally-recognized leader in place-based philanthropy and community development. Guided by values of equity, opportunity, and shared stewardship, Incourage envisions a community that works well for all people. One physical manifestation of this vision is the redevelopment of the Tribune building, which demonstrates Incourage’s user-centered approach to growing a strong and inclusive local economy.