• WisBusiness

Friday, July 25, 2014

MaryBeth Matzek: Vacation destinations make pitch for telecommuters


By MaryBeth Matzek
Who hasn't gone away on vacation and wished they could stay there forever? Perhaps maybe the boss would let you telecommute or you have a job that lets you live anywhere, but then reality sets in and you realize there are too many barriers to make it work.

Two popular tourist destinations in Wisconsin are looking to smash those barriers. Door County and Bayfield County are both looking to convince visitors they can spend more time – living and still getting their work done – in their favorite vacation spots. To make it all work, however, broadband Internet connections are a must.

"We have worked diligently for more than 10 years improving communication technology in Door County. We know it's a necessity for not only businesses that already operate here and our residents, but also to attract businesses," says Sam Perlman, economic development manager for the Door County Economic Development Corp. "Broadband technology is an absolute economic development issue and we would love to have our seasonal residents spend more time here or maybe locate here permanently and technology is part of that."

While it may only be less than four hours north of Chicago, Door County's geology and geography – it's very rural in some spots and much of the peninsula has a thin layer of soil so to put in lines companies to drill into bedrock -- made it tricky to get broadband technology in place. But there's been immense progress in recent years with different telecom firms working in different parts of the county to improve DSL and cellular wireless access throughout the region.

"Off the top of my head, I can think of three headhunters who live and work from their homes in Northern Door. These are jobs where people can live anywhere. There are a lot of other jobs out there like that too and many more are likely to be created as technology continues to improve," Perlman says. "Now there are social media managers – that's a job that didn't exist five years ago – and it's a job you can do from anywhere. We want people to realize they can work and play all in one location."

Bayfield County – another popular Wisconsin tourist destination – is also promoting that theme, says Scottie Sandstrom, executive director of the Bayfield County Economic Development Corp. The organization has a dedicated webpage and campaign "Love Where You Work" showing professionals how they could make it work living and working surrounded by natural beauty. There's a list of telecommuting benefits, such as less stress and increased productivity, along with information about potential telecommuting jobs and how big companies such as IBM, Intel and Deloitte hire telecommuters.

Sandstrom says the county has great access to high-speed Internet and a detailed fiber network, making staying connected easy. The county is working to get out the word about the area's affordable living options, reliable infrastructure and utilities and quality healthcare, he adds.

And the survey says ...

A survey of state business leaders released earlier this week predicted an increase in economic growth and job growth through the end of the year, but a closer look at the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce report shows there is still more that can be done.

When business leaders were asked what one thing Wisconsin leaders can do to improve the state's business climate, 35 percent said reduce taxes, 15 percent picked becoming a Right to Work state and 14 percent said reform employment laws like making sure versions of state and federal laws are the same.

As for the growth expectations, 71 percent of business leaders predict moderate economic growth between now and the end of the year and 22 percent predict flat growth. Back in January, the six month outlook survey found that 65 percent predicted growth and 31 percent didn't expect any growth.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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Comments: 1

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