ChallengeThe Kenosha Area Business Alliance (KABA) engaged TIP Strategies to assist in the development of a strategic plan and target marketing study for Kenosha County. Home to approximately 165,000 residents, Kenosha County is located in southeast Wisconsin and is strategically positioned within the Chicago-Milwaukee Corridor. While the region has seen a great deal of growth in recent years, it also faces significant economic vulnerabilities.
Long dependent on traditional manufacturing sectors, the county’s economy is making the transition to knowledge-based industries, professional services, and entrepreneurship. This transition, however, is not without pain. The closure of a Chrysler engine plant signals the end of Kenosha’s century-old history of automotive production. In addition, the county faces growing competition within the region for talented workers and knowledge-based jobs. Already, a growing number of Kenosha County’s highest earning and most skilled workers commute out of the county, especially to jobs in Lake and Cook County, Illinois. Attracting and retaining talent, especially younger professionals, will be key to Kenosha’s long-term economic vitality.
ApproachTIP, with the strong encouragement of the county’s leadership, sought to address the question of Kenosha County’s future economic vitality in a practical way. Based on TIP’s understanding of the county’s opportunities and challenges, and in light of deteriorating economic conditions, we designed strategies for building awareness of Kenosha County among employers in and around Chicago and Milwaukee; realigning the funding priorities of the KABA-managed revolving loan funds; bringing the business, workforce training, and education communities closer together; placing greater emphasis on entrepreneurship and small business development; continuing to make investments in economic development infrastructure; and, elevating the image of Kenosha County internally and regionally.
The plan also recommended strategies to address other critical issues, such as engaging young professionals and new residents and creating a more vibrant downtown Kenosha and lakefront.
OutcomeTIP Strategies presented the final plan to Kenosha County in May 2009.Success Story
Among the recommendations, Goal Four of our plan suggested enhancing connections within the county. This recommendation is a recognition that long-term economic vitality requires healthy and sustainable regional growth. As the commercial and residential center of Kenosha County moves westward, there is a danger the economic competitiveness of downtown Kenosha will weaken. We emphasized a retail strategy for existing business and for the attraction of new specialty retail boutiques in downtown Kenosha.
Specifically, the plan recommended that KABA encourage existing Kenosha County companies and retailers to establish downtown anchors. In response to the plan, KABA assisted one of its major employers, Jockey International, Inc., in considering a downtown location. In May 2011, Jockey opened the doors to the new 6,000 square foot Jockey Factory Store at 5500 Sixth Avenue in downtown Kenosha. KABA also announced its move to the same historic building in June of the same year. They are situated in the heart of downtown with beautiful views of Kenosha’s Harbor and Lake Michigan. According to the June 23, 2011, press release, KABA’s office will include the TDS Training Center, a name that recognizes a generous donation of cash and equipment from TDS, a local telephone and internet service provider and KABA member. In addition, the space will be used to showcase Lemon Street Gallery and to hold Gateway Technical College classes.