Bright Future for Polk Workforce
25 June 2019
Last summer, a successful businessman committed to paying for two years of tuition and books to any 2019 Luck High School graduate who attends a technical college. Dennis Frandsen and his wife, Jeannette, wanted to help the people of Luck, the place where Dennis was born. Their gift, as it turns out, is having a quick and dramatic effect.
Of the 30 Luck graduates, 26 are now enrolled in WITC and are entering programs such as welding, nursing, manufacturing and business. In the past, maybe only a handful of students from Luck enrolled in a technical college. Most of the remainder of students either went to a 4-year college, found a low-paying job nearby, or hung at home until they had a clearer idea as to what adulthood was all about. And as time went by, some of these young people felt the only good option was to move to the city.
Astonishingly, the Frandsen gift has done more than offer free tuition. It generated new conversations around the dinner table between parents and students. These conversations were about dreams, skills, jobs, and debt. Four-year colleges and universities are great but are not for everyone. There are smart alternatives to these colleges such as Tech schools that can prepare one for a great job or career that do not automatically put the student under back-breaking debt.
Big cities are not for everyone, either. The cost-of-living, housing, crime, commute time, and lifestyle may not be right for many of our young people. The option of staying closer to home and learning a skill is starting to come into focus for students in Luck.
This trend in staying closer to home and considering technical schools is not the only positive indicator for the future of Polk County’s workforce. WITC has recently opened an outreach center in Balsam Lake enabling our residents to take courses without the longer commute to New Richmond or Rice Lake. In addition, local wages have risen considerably over the last few years and employers are working harder to entice workers to join their teams.
The Polk County EDC is also working to make our county more attractive to workers. By coordinating a county-wide housing study we hope to increase the type and number of homes and apartments available to workers and seniors. We also plan on kicking off a campaign that highlights the many benefits of living, working and playing here. As more people see Polk County as an opportunity for raising a family and earning a good living, our businesses will continue to flourish and develop newer opportunities for future generations.
Polk County has over 400 lakes. It has outdoor resources and recreation that few other counties can offer. We also have good jobs. Keeping our local talent home and enticing others to return to their small-town roots offers wonderful potential for our businesses and communities.
The Polk County Economic Development Corporation is a public-private organization that was created to encourage and promote economic development and capital investment, create and retain quality jobs, enhance the tax base and facilitate positive sustainable growth throughout Polk County, Wisconsin.
Polk County Economic Development Corporation
100 Polk Plaza
Balsam Lake, WI 54810