Planning for the economic future of a community is one of the most important duties that local elected officials perform. In the interest of transparency, Alderman Winters has summed up his ideas about economic development for Wausau in a short, readable “white paper” on the topic.
Given its brevity, it is not a complete or all-inclusive plan. However, we hope that it contains enough ideas and details to start a community conversation about an economic development strategy for Wausau and finding our place in the global economy of the 21st Century.
Read Keene Winters’ economic development strategy for Wausau (PDF), including sections on 21st Century water and data technologies.
The white paper contains discussions of mega-trends in the global economy. For more information about economic trends see the attached presentation by Frost & Sullivan (PDF) or the one by Dr. David Ward of Northstar Economic (PDF).
A September 2015 feature article by Tim Hanna, Mayor of Appleton, discusses the need for communities to make the shift to a 21st Century, knowledge economy. (Posted with permission from League of Wisconsin Municipalities).
Wausau Center Mall
For 35 years, the Wausau Center Mall has been an anchor to the downtown and an important part of our local economy. However, the way we shop is changing, and the components of the mall will have to change too. Simply giving taxpayer dollars to the existing configuration is not going to work. Read Keene Winters’ January 26th opinion editorial on how to reposition the mall (PDF). Also see the Wausau Daily Herald’s December 28th editorial on the need to reposition the mall (PDF).
Bloomberg has produced an article discussing the difference between investing in a profitable mall or poor performing mall. Investments can be made through a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). Note that the C Grade mall in the example has a profile very similar to the Wausau Center Mall. In the third to last paragraph, CBL & Associates is mentioned as a REIT that investors should avoid.
Peer Group Comparisons
Once and a while it is useful to take a snapshot of how Wausau compares to similar communities in Wisconsin. In this analysis, the peer group has been defined as all 14 cities in Wisconsin that have a population within 10,000 of Wausau (a range of 29,000 to 49,000). Here are two comparisons:
- Statistics from MuniFacts ’14 and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development
- Statistics from MuniFacts ’15 and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development
Some observations can be made from these comparisons:
- Wausau is growing more slowly than its peers. The average population for the group grew from 37,830 to 37,929 or 0.26%. Wausau went from 39,160 to 39,180 or 0.05%
- Income per household in Wausau dropped slightly from 2012 to 2013 while average income for the group as a whole rose. Wausau’s household income in 2013 was $43,250 or about 25% below the peer group average of $57,393.
- Wausau continues to have the 2nd highest tax rate in the group. Only Beloit has a higher tax rate.
- Unemployment rates have improved. Wausau has gone from having the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the group to the 3rd highest out of the 14 cities listed.
The combination of relatively high unemployment, relatively high tax rates, slow population growth and relatively low incomes probably contribute to the feeling that the community is “over-taxed” and has become less competitive at attracting new businesses and new residents.
Authorized and paid for by Friends of Keene Winters
Greg Strasser, Treasurer