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State of Brown County: We are in a very good spot

Brown County leaders give economic updates, information on upcoming projects

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April 3, 2024

BROWN COUNTY — Following the 2024 State of Brown County — it’s safe to say Brown County is in a good spot — both economically and in terms of growth when compared to the rest of the country.

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach — and other local municipality officials — spoke of the county’s success recently in the annual economic-update event at the Resch Expo.

“Overall, we are in a very good spot,” Streckenbach said. “Ultimately, when we think of economic development in a community, it’s the municipalities that drive what’s happening in our neighborhoods, our commerce districts and our industrial parks. When you look at the stats of Northeast Wisconsin, we heavily rely on each area of Brown County, not only for our recreation but also for workflow.”

When looking at the big picture, Streckenbach said “what’s good for Brown County is also good for the surrounding counties.”
“It’s good for Brown County to have the counties around us be successful, too,” he said. “But, it all starts with the municipalities in our county.”

Streckenbach said the county’s operations are divided into 30 different departments.

“A lot of that stuff, with what we hear from people, is ‘what does the county do and what kinds of services does it provide?'” he said. “Oftentimes, we’re in the background of what’s going on — things you might not normally associate with a government.”

Overall, Streckenbach said, though Brown County continues to face challenges, it faces them “head-on by fully funding our mandated services utilizing the resources available to us.”

“We demonstrate that smart infrastructure investments lead to economic development and growth for everyone in Brown County, initiating a high quality of life,” he said.

Streckenbach said most people look at what it costs the county to operate.

The good news, he said, is that Brown County does well in that area.

“First and foremost, our tax rates (or mill rate) went down 27 cents per our last budget,” he said. “Overall, our outstanding debt has dropped about $10 million (since our last budget). I’ve been on a mission to cut our debt, and since taking over as (county) executive, we’ve eliminated more than $100 million in debt.”

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach spoke at the 2024 State of Brown County event last month at the Resch Expo in Ashwaubenon. Submitted Photo

Streckenbach also said the average taxes on a $200,000 Brown County house, depending on the municipality one lives in, has also dropped $54.

“Our equalized value also increased by $3 billion,” he said. “When you think about the value of a community in that growth, it’s happening because of the municipalities — Brown County is a byproduct of that.”

Recent investments
In partnership with the municipalities, Streckenbach said Brown County has made “significant investments” that in turn drive economic development and construction in the county.

“The VV/Highway 29 interchange — Brown County was successful in obtaining a $20 million build grant from the federal government in partnership with the villages of Howard and Hobart,” he said. “Because of that investment at that interchange, which was desperately needed because of safety reasons, we’re seeing the growth coming from it. We know interchanges bring development.”

Another major investment, Streckenbach said, is the South Bridge Connector in De Pere — which is currently in the planning stages.

“The interchange project will begin in 2025,” he said. “Development is already happening (compared to a map in 2020) where that future interchange will happen.”

Streckenbach said Brown County saw more single-family home construction activity in 2023 than any other county in the New North region, with three of the county’s largest four municipalities being in areas of the South Bridge Connector project.

In the area of fiber optics and internet connectivity, Brown County, Streckenbach said he “wants to become the most connected county in the state.”

“We’re trying to figure out how to bring fiber to the rural areas of Brown County,” he said. “We’re in a partnership with Bug Tussel to help us connect our 911 towers and connect all of our municipalities along this fiber network. It won’t solve all the problems, but it’s a step in the right direction. We know a connected county helps bring in and retain talent and allows our economy to grow.”

Upcoming investments
Looking ahead, Streckenbach said it’s also important to be forward-thinking regarding economic development and county growth.

“In partnership with Howard and Suamico, we are starting the $21 million project on Lineville Road,” he said. “You’ll be seeing a transformative situation in the next two years, which will bring more growth to that area.”

Efforts, Streckenbach said, will also be made to utilize the under-used space inside the 90,000-square-foot Brown County Central Library.

He said renovations are set to take place this year, and the county hopes to bring partners into the space.

“Right now, we’re working with the ADRC (Aging & Disability Resource Center), the Wisconsin Job Center and the County Veterans Service Office to move into the space to create more synergetic operations,” he said. “At the same time (it will) take advantage of the under-utilized space in the library — we’re about to make some investments in that.”

Another project being shepherded by Brown County, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) is the Phoenix Innovation Park plan.

The Resch Expo in Ashwaubenon, which opened in early January 2021, Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach said, is one of the successes of Brown County. Submitted Photo

UWGB Economic Development Executive Alan Peters laid out the vision for the development of approximately 40 acres on campus — which intends to craft an amenity-rich environment where technology, research and science thrive, with collaborative spaces that incubate and foster growth.

“Right now, we’re just building the foundation, the infrastructure to come alive and then it will be the private sector that makes it work,” Streckenbach said.

Population growth, innovation
Also in attendance was Marc Schaffer — St. Norbert College Executive Director of the Center for Business and Economic Analysis — who discussed the economic and innovation trends for the region.

“Brown County continues to grow at a decent pace in terms of population and establishments, boasting low unemployment rates and incomes in line with state and national trends,” Schaffer said. “If we go back to 2000, Brown County’s population grew by about 9.3% (to 2010). That growth continued from 2010 to 2020, but it slowed a bit.”

As for innovation, Schaffer said Brown County’s rankings are also on the rise.

“(In the NEW North region), we are trending above the national average, with Brown County leading the way with economic well-being, employment productivity and human capital being the foundation of our region’s success,” he said.

Representatives from Brown County municipalities also presented updates during the event.

Highlights from those presentations include:

Bellevue — Future development, Village Community Development Director Andrew Vissers said, is happening in multiple parcels along the Monroe Road Commercial Corridor (County Highway GV/Highway 172), which features restaurants, a pilates studio and a bank, all under construction or in the planning phase. Residential growth and construction are also taking place in the Huron Road Corridor (County Highway EA), including both single-family, missing middle and mixed-use developments.Ashwaubenon — Village Administrator Joel Gregozeski said a five-story, mixed-use development called The Promenade on San Luis Place is in the planning stages, which aims to develop active adult market-rate apartments and to provide space for the Ashwaubenon branch of the Brown County Library. A new four-story Cambria Hotel, complete with a restaurant and bar, is also under development on South Oneida Street at the former Acts 1:8 site and is expected to open in 2025.De Pere — City Economic Development Director Dan Lindstrom said highlighted growth is in the city’s east and west business parks, along with new infrastructure planning for its Main Avenue corridor downtown. Lindstrom said the city has also engaged in several affordable housing efforts, including upper-story activation, a housing stock improvement plan and an affordable lot purchase program.Green Bay — Several projects, City Development Director Cheryl Renier-Wigg said, are either underway or are being marketed to interested parties, which will involve a mix of commercial and residential opportunities. City East Apartments on E. Walnut Street, which Renier-Wigg said has a majority affordable housing component, is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. Work on the destination park and street construction, he said, will begin in 2024 at the JBS Neighborhood Development. Phase 2 of the Shipyard development, Renier-Wigg said, featuring an urban beach, dog park and event lawn, will break ground in early 2025.

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