What will it take to get people back to work?
The June unemployment rate in Walworth County rose to 8.5 percent — up from 7.6 percent — according to the latest figures from the state Department of Workforce Development. That’s discouraging news for people in Walworth County who continue to look for work.
However, over the past month, their concerns have been overshadowed by the debate over government debt and deficits, both in Wisconsin and nationally. Although election campaigns and political maneuvering are couched in terms of job creation, the reality appears to be that politicians have taken their eyes off the ball.
Rather than jobs, Washington has for weeks been consumed by its cat-and-mouse game over raising the federal debt limit. I’d bet most people — liberal and conservative alike — agree that governments need to balance their budgets. But when did the national debt become the top priority? We’ve run deficits during many trying times in our history, and while certainly a serious issue, one could argue the debt isn’t a crisis, but unemployment is.
As federal and state leaders focus on budgets, most actual job-creation initiatives are left to local governments. That’s certainly true in Walworth County.
The tourism industry remains our best hope for job growth in Walworth County. Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan recently welcomed its first overnight guests since closing last November after foreclosure.
And, slowly, the resort has begun to hire back many of its former employees.
Without concessions from the city of Delavan, chances are Lake Lawn would not have reopened.
A community’s greatest power is to create an environment conducive to job creation.
Like other industries, the more resorts we have, the more paying customers they’ll attract. Just look at Wisconsin Dells.
The challenge for local leaders is to figure out how to leverage our reputation as a tourism and recreation destination to attract similar businesses.
On both the state and national levels, Democrats have promoted short-term government spending to keep the economy moving, and Republicans pitch tax cuts designed to promote job creation. But neither government spending nor tax cuts are the foundation of a responsible business plan.
When I talk to small business owners, what they really want are regular, paying customers. That comes from not only getting people to work, but from having those people make a decent living.
The economy really won’t get on solid ground until unemployment begins to drop and wages begin to grow.
Yes, people are frustrated after years of economic struggle, but we need to not only support local efforts to boost business growth but wage growth as well.
Without both, it will be a long time before our economy shakes off the doldrums.
Dan Plutchak is an associate editor for CSI Media, publisher of Walworth County Sunday, the Janesville Messenger and the Stateline News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.