While cities like Madison, Waukesha and Green Bay thrive economically, northern Wisconsin counties have been left behind in the state’s economic development efforts. Local economic development leaders share stories of being ineligible for economic development programs brought by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental agency created in 2011 by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Northern counties are also receiving proportionally less help from the WEDC, with many local leaders saying they are ineligible or unable to meet basic requirements for certain programs or incentives.
One day before the U.S. Supreme Court opened new spigots of campaign cash, well-funded groups seeking to sway elections in two northern Wisconsin counties, Polk and Iron, inadvertently drove home another point: Throwing money into the process can hurt as well as help.
In Iron County, which lost one of every seven residents from 2000 to 2010, residents say a controversial taconite mine may be the only way to reverse devastating population loss. Part one of three in the Center’s Rural Slide series.