/ Articles / VCEDC supports current, potential businesses during COVID-19

VCEDC supports current, potential businesses during COVID-19

April 24, 2020 by Abigail Bostwick

In a board meeting that reflected one of exact opportunities for businesses in Northwoods, the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation (VCEDC) met via online conference earlier this month. 

“We are now experiencing one of the ways to (draw) people to the Northwoods,” VCEDC board president Jim Tuckwell noted. “It’s a beautiful place to work and play.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, VCEDC has expanded its focus to support businesses during ever-changing day to day operations throughout the United States.

“We have some fearful businesses,” Tuckwell observed.

Kathy Schmitz, VCEDC executive director, relayed to board members the corporation is receiving phone calls and emails daily. 

“It’s heart-warming and heart-breaking,” she observed. “We do what we can to be the one stop shopping to get people the help they need.”

In addition to one-on-one consults, webinars and other online courses aimed to help businesses in the altered economy are ongoing. Information is also updated daily on the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation's website, Schmitz added. 

“How do you market your business during this time?” Schmitz asked, noting webinars are typically 30 to 60 minutes long, giving people an opportunity to call and listen in for helpful information. “People still really want to be in business.” 

VCEDC officials are hoping the creative ways people are finding to still operate and even thrive in among COVID will transfer back to everyday operations and life, Tuckwell indicated. 

“I really believe this crisis is going to open a lot of eyes,” Tuckwell said. “People can see, ‘We don’t have to wait until retirement to move. We can work remotely up here.’ I think a lot people will find this does work.” 

The corporations already-underway outreach campaign continues to go well, with the focus on getting remote workers to consider Vilas County, including new businesses and entrepreneurs, Schmitz said. The benefits and experience of remote working are currently in active practice, she added.

“We are working on programming around remote workers,” Schmitz said. “It’s going really well for us.” 

Board member Brad Gauthier highlighted the potential increase in the area should more remote workers opt to live in the county. Those people would pay taxes and spend money on food and fuel and other resources in the area, which could bring in millions of dollars of income from other areas. 

“It’s new money in our area,” Gauthier observed. “It will really change the economy here … there’s so much to be said for filling those second homes with full-time residents.” 

Bill Niemuth, broadband Workgroup Advisor with the Boulder Junction Economic Development Committee shared that many portions of Vilas County are either unserved with no internet service or underserved, with unreliable service. 

“As we recruit new businesses and remote workers, that’s not a sufficient speed to make that work,” he said of unreliable service. 

Schmitz stated VCEDC is currently working on goals and developing objectives to determine if broadband will be a county or town by town effort. 

Abigail Bostwick may be reached at [email protected]

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