By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — In 2017, Incourage conducted a county-wide survey on what matters to residents in the area.
The survey was based around the following criteria:
-Residents’ overall satisfaction with south Wood County area
-Strengths of the community as well as most important problems facing the
-Key words or phrases that residents use to describe their community
-How well different organizations are doing in addressing community
-Residents’ priorities for the future
-Resident participation in civic activities
-Respondent demographic characteristics – age, education, zip code, time
living in area, income
Many areas, including Nekoosa, Vesper, Port Edwards, Ruudolph, and Pittsville were surveyed along with Wisconsin Rapids. All ages took part, from 18-65, with the biggest response (37 percent) coming from ages 45-64.
According to the results, most residents find their community “hardworking and caring”, with a smaller number referring to the area as “innovative”. Many survey are ready for a change, however, 75 percent believe that the area is “stuck in the past” to some extent.
More results show that many community members blame drugs in the area (33%) and a lack of good jobs (40%) as reasons why it is difficult to retain young adults in the area.
”Chamber and Mayor make decisions but don’t give us “young people” a voice, so decisions aren’t what we would want or do.”
“City council people need to stop turning away businesses… because we can’t just rely on being a mill town.”
“I can’t afford a YMCA membership, so the new Y won’t work for me. Needs to be options we can all afford.”
Charitable organizations and public schools take the top spots in regards to being seen favorably by the community and meeting challenges, with a 64-69 percent rating among residents. The bottom two in this survey not meeting challenges, according to residents, are elected officials, (33%) and economic development organizations. (28%)
In regards to assets, community members find natural resources, and recreation as the top two assets to the area.
“There are efforts happening to develop it for young families. The splash pad on the west side was a fantastic addition, and the addition of small businesses add something to do (wine and beer shop, clothing shops, home décor shops). I am excited about the YMCA/ Boys and Girls Club.”
“The area offers many themed events celebrating our natural resources: cranberry fest, sand hill cranes, monarch butterflies.”
For the future, most survey believe that education, quality jobs, and youth retention are vital to the success of the communities.
To view this survey in full, please visit https://incouragecf.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Incourage2017CommunitySurveyHighlights-3.13.18-for-web.pdf