More NEW jobs, not more OLD jobs

Date:    February 9, 2014

From:    Mikey O’Connor

To:        Buffalo County Land Resources Committee

Re:        Testimony OPPOSED to the Starkey request to rezone the Starkey property to “Industrial”

More NEW jobs, not more OLD jobs

I hope you think about the future of Buffalo County’s younger generation and deny a rezone application that will put a 19th-century style rail-loading facility in the heart of Buffalo County — a project that will focus our county economy on mining and wreck one of the best chances for Buffalo County has to compete and win in the 21st century.

Much has been said about all the disadvantages Buffalo County has, and how we need the new jobs that sand mining will bring. But don’t overlook what we have going for us as we prepare our kids (and ourselves) to compete in the “Information Economy.”

Internet Infrastructure: Buffalo County has fiber-to-the-home – which is some of the best Internet access in the country and far ahead of most big cities. This is especially true in the portion of the county served by Nelson Telephone Cooperative.

Unspoiled environment: Buffalo County is in the heart of the Driftless Area – some of the most beautiful and unique natural habitat in the world.

Air travel: Buffalo County is within 2 hours of an international hub airport offering convenient, reliable and diverse travel options, worldwide.

A solid economy: Buffalo County was, in a 2007 WI Revenue Department report, the fastest growing county in Wisconsin terms of personal income, and in the top 10% of all counties in the country

There are a lot more of these attractions, but you get the point. Buffalo County could focus on developing 21st Century jobs (which, like the one I do, can be done anywhere there’s good Internet access). We could teach our kids how to compete on a world-class playing field without leaving their houses, never mind leaving the county.  Remember, most kids don’t want to leave home, family and friends behind, they have to in order to get good jobs.  That’s changing.

What do 21st century Information Economy workers want when they’re choosing a place to live and work? They want the very things that Buffalo County has. They want a vibrant community, beautiful places and great access to the world. We have all these and more, right now. Many county economic development officers would kill to have the “future proofing” amenities that we can offer here in Buffalo County.

What are our future, and opportunities for the next generation, going to be? 19th century jobs? Or 21st century jobs?

I’m for looking forward, not back.  I hope you are too.  Please deny this application and put Buffalo County on a course toward the future.

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