By Joe Bachman
Incourage teamed up with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on Wednesday in efforts to bring forth ideas and action for local economic growth.
The all-day conference brought over 250 business representatives to the Hotel Mead from all over the Midwest region. The event, called ‘Investing in Healthy Communities’, looks at a nexus between economic development and public health, and looks to find the overlap between those areas.
“When you stand back and look at it from a broader picture, what we’ve found is that often times the missions of organizations that deal with public health, and the missions of organizations that deal with economic development tend to deal with the same individuals,” said Steven Kuehl, Economic Development and Wisconsin State Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. “The idea of healthy communities is to bring these two silos together at the same time to focus on a way for better coordination.”
According to Kuehl, who is a Port Edwards, Wis. native, the Federal Reserve Bank has a specific role, mandated by the government — that of a stable economy, and full employment.
“Often times what we look at in these lower to moderate income areas, is that people aren’t fully employed,” said Kuehl. “There are many people that aren’t participating in the economic recovery — our interest in it flows from the second part of our mandate, which is full employment.”
Incourage is already looking at avenues of economic development, most recently with the Tribune building project, but seeks other ways to affect the community. Partnering with the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, Incourage has set it sights on not just rural development, but urban development, as well.
“To partner with the Chicago fed, which is the epitome of urban, in a nation that is so divided along those lines, is a great example of how we can come together,” said Incourage Representative Rick Merdan. “We both have barriers, we both have needs — but how can we collectively address those? We’ve got so many examples of successful collaborations that are working now — so I think it’s a ray of light.”
The conference not only seeks a way to bring collaboration between public health officials and economic officials, but ways for investors to put their stock on growing local economies. What started as a discussion a couple years ago has turned into a plethora of economic opportunity, according to Incourage CEO Kelly Ryan.
“Our role with them is a co-presenter of the event,” said Ryan. We help design the content, helped coordinate the planning committee, and we helped designed the sessions.”
According to Ryan, the goal is finding how Incourage and other foundations can use their investment portfolios locally to produce a growing economy, as well as increased public health. This also has a noticeable community impact on multiple levels, including awareness and appreciation for opportunities that exist in the area.
“This is without a doubt bringing a higher level of awareness of what’s happening in the central part of the State of Wisconsin, along with the fact that there is opportunity here,” said Ryan.
However, you don’t need to be a wealthy investor to get involved in growing the local economy. Contributions range from small investments to helping others in efforts to complete their college education by various means. The most important aspect of this, according to Ryan, is maintaining a positive image of the community.
“Speak positive about your community,” said Ryan. “If we don’t believe in the potential and future of this place, ourselves, then why would anyone else?”