Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a round table discussion at the Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC). If you’re not familiar with the DCEDC, their offices are located adjacent to the highway and the Sturgeon Bay Industrial Park where they conduct their business and manage the small business incubator. Tenants in the incubator (like Tweak) pay competitive rents, share services and equipment, which allows them to keep overhead costs low and get off to a strong start in business. The DCEDC is dedicated to improving the economic vitality of the Door County and its residents. They’ve been successful in helping businesses create and retain thousands of jobs through different programs and incentives.

Christina Studebaker, the Workforce Development Program Manager of the DCEDC, works closely with workforce development, business education and many youth programs in the county. She invited me and a group of people around my age to attend a focus group discussion, selecting all of us from different walks of life, different backgrounds, and different family dynamics. The purpose of the discussion was to start uncovering ways to retain residents in Door County and inspire individuals and families to move here. In order to do this, however, she wanted to pick the brains of some of the county’s younger residents, from Northern Door County down to Southern Door County.

We started by diving into what we all love about Door County: The slower pace of life, nature, being surrounded by water and the arts to name a few. But what things does Door County struggle with? I think it’s no secret that many families struggle finding childcare, some struggle finding year-round work, and our community has more than a few vacant buildings. There’s been much discussion about new things that could be added to our community to make it more desirable. A younger me would have jumped at the idea of a Kohl’s or similar department store, but is that really what our county needs? How can we make our county more appealing to its citizens? We are a tourist destination, so much of our county functions on that, but we also need to think about the people who live here year-round.

I found this focus group thought provoking and I am grateful that I got to participate in the discussion. It really made me feel like some of my ideas might contribute to the future of Door County. For most of my life, I’ve sat on the sidelines and merely existed in this beautiful place we call home. Being able to impact our county is important to me as an individual and as a mother. My son could one day end up raising his own family here, and to know that the DCEDC is striving to make our community better and more productive means a lot. I was very impressed that Christina / the DCEDC took the time to find out what Door County residents really think about the issues we face in order to design solutions that solve problems. I enjoyed getting involved!