In 2018, the city of Wausau had stagnant population growth due to outmigration of residents moving to bigger, high-growth cities as a consequence of a national economy with record low unemployment. The area’s agriculture and food processing industry faced major headwinds due to global competition, automation, and labor shortages. In addition, the long-standing insurance sector in the Wausau region had undergone multiple rounds of downsizing, consolidation, and relocations that shifted investments and labor away from the region. A lack of entrepreneurial culture and place-making contributed to Wausau’s struggles to retain talent and keep its economy competitive.
The Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce hired TIP Strategies to jumpstart the city’s economy and put it on a new path to success. TIP stressed the importance of an innovation economy and the imperative to address the fundamental changes occurring to the long-standing industries in the region. In order to radically transform its economy, Wausau needed to target upstream technologies, prioritize technology inputs (research & development, data analytics, engineering, etc.), and focus on creating high demand jobs to recapture talent that had previously left the region. Given the ambitious agenda set out by the plan, a clear and unequivocal leadership role was required. To that end, a new organization provisionally called the Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership (GWPP) was recommended to fill this role. Collective support for this recommendation came from leaders in business and industry, higher education, and local government. Creation of the GWPP helped signal the start of a new chapter in Wausau’s economic future.