In a special meeting of the Fond du Lac City Council on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, the Council voted 5-2 (Mullen/Heisler/Brault/ Zimmerman/ Cassaday – Ricchio/Schuessler) to eliminate the economic development contribution to Envision Greater Fond du Lac and reallocate those funds back into the City’s Community Development Fund.
In this historic move, the City of Fond du Lac no longer contributes financially to the overall economic development work of Envision Greater Fond du Lac, a partnership that dated back to the days when the Association of Commerce and the Fond du Lac Economic Development Corporation were separate entities. No other economic development 0rganization in Wisconsin has a major municipality in their footprint who does not contribute to these efforts.
“Envision Greater Fond du Lac and our predecessors were founded on the principles that public/private partnerships are vital to a thriving local economy,” said Sadie Vander Velde, President/CEO. “No single organization can do it alone. The Board of Directors and members of Envision are disheartened by this change of direction by some members of the Fond du Lac City Council. Our community’s business leaders have concerns about the pattern of decision making by the current City Council.”
In May 2021, the Fond du Lac City Council voted to terminate a contract with Lakeside Forward, a public-private partnership leveraging $6 million of private funding for enhancements to Lakeside Park. Envision advocated in favor of the contract.
In budget discussions in 2022, the City Council voted to slash financial support of Envision by half, from $65,000 to $32,500. In the proposed budget for 2024, that number will be zero.
“Ultimately the citizens of Fond du Lac suffer the most from this decision. Public-private partnerships are the most efficient way to achieve economic growth,” Vander Velde, said. “When a municipality chooses to go it alone, it slows the pace of progress and shifts more cost to the taxpayers.”
Envision Greater Fond du Lac was founded in 2017 through support by leaders in the business community and the public sector. By aligning resources from public and private investors, Envision was established to carry out a unified economic strategy for the greater Fond du Lac County region.
There is still great opportunity for Envision Greater Fond du Lac, the City of Fond du Lac, and its people to work together to address the overwhelming challenges facing this community. Envision’s own economic development team works tirelessly to address the housing shortage by convening a group of developers, real estate professionals, and business leaders; child care professionals, technical college educators, parents, and business leaders to dialogue about the child care crisis facing our parents; and human resource professionals and strategic thinkers to reimagine the perception of our place to attract and retain workers, families, and businesses.
There will be a public hearing on the City’s budget at the October 25, 2023, City Council meeting, beginning at 6:00 p.m. At this time, attendees will have the opportunity to comment on the budget (in person or by Written Public Comment for Non-Attendance Public Participation Form). Envision Greater Fond du Lac encourages business leaders, entrepreneurs, and residents to comment and advocate to reverse this historic decision to eliminate the investment in economic development through the county’s only Economic Development Organization.
For more about Envision Greater Fond du Lac, please visit envisiongreaterfdl.com.