The WISE Plan

Workforce Innovation for a Strong Economy

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The Workforce Innovation for a Strong Economy (WISE) Plan is the culmination of a nearly yearlong effort to understand and address the workforce preparation, retention and recruitment challenges faced by businesses and communities across the 7 Rivers Alliance Region.

For a full version of The WISE plan, click here 

For a summary version of The WISE plan, click here

Through a series of interviews, working group sessions, subject matter forums and significant economic research, the WISE Plan workforce gap analysis revealed that the 7 Rivers Region needs to attract and retain 1,500-2,000 more workers each year during the next decade to keep up with employer demand.

This is a daunting challenge, but the WISE Talent Plan outlines strategies for tackling these overarching issues, and identifies champions who can lead efforts to improve Talent Preparation, Recruitment, and Retention prospects throughout the region.

The reg18902682_1550247758328419_1665661079_nion covers 14 counties across Southwest Wisconsin, Southeast Minnesota, and Northeast Iowa, a predominantly rural area with two urban centers in La Crosse, WI and Winona, MN. And for the purposes of this study, we included Pierce County in Wisconsin and Fayette County in Iowa. The development of the WISE Plan included involvement from more than 500 business and community leaders during 28 small group interviews, three talent working group sessions, six subject matter forums, four Steering Committee working sessions and research.

The WISE Plan focuses on three areas for action: Talent Preparation, Talent Retention and Talent Recruitment. Interwoven throughout the WISE Plan are strategies and actions designed to address critical workforce impediments related to housing, transportation and childcare.

The WISE Plan highlights the region’s key challenges regarding the workforce, including:

  • — Declining population
  • — Aging workforce
  • — Misperceptions about the region’s employment opportunities
  • — Mismatch of skills between what is being produced by the region’s post-secondary institutions and the needs of local employers
  • — Lack of diversity within the region
  • — Outmigration and out-commuting
  • — Limited childcare options and affordability
  • — Attracting people to the area
  • — Competition from nearby employment centers

The WISE Plan addresses these challenges through several strategies and actions to achieve the following goals:

  • — Increase student and worker employability skills
  • — Educate students, educators, parents, and other community members about the educational requirements for high paying, in-demand careers
  • — Prepare incumbent workers and mature jobseekers to have greater flexibility in the workplace
  • — Promote the 7 Rivers Region to targeted groups about the region’s benefits
  • — Foster inclusive regional communities to better attract minority and underrepresented individuals
  • — Assist and engage newly arriving families to area communities
  • — Provide businesses and jobseekers with comparative economic information
  • — Ensure the availability of affordable housing for the region’s workforce
  • — Provide information and tools that help companies prepare for pending retirements
  • — Develop public-private childcare partnerships to increase childcare facility capacity and address affordability gaps
  • — Bolster more connections and relationships between currently enrolled students, regional employers, and local communities
  • — Inspire businesses to implement initiatives that position them as “Employers of Choice”
  • — Improve transit, ridesharing, and multi-modal transportation options, and make transportation system more accessible

Talent Preparation

Talent Preparation strategies include programs and activities that build stronger connections between the region’s students and business and industry, and inform and educate guidance/career counselors and other influencing adults about the opportunities that exist within the region.

Talent Recruitment

Talent Recruitment strategies include marketing the region and its assets to well-defined targets, sharing stories and messages of success and inclusion, and ensuring that new families are welcomed and supported upon arrival.

Talent Retention

Talent Retention strategies include collecting and sharing best practices with the region’s employers that support and enhance the experiences of their current employees. Worker retention might occur by reducing the out-migration, but it may be even more important to slow the rate of retirements over time to allow the economy to adjust.

UltimateWorkforce Summit 2 Page Flyer (2)-page-001ly, the success of the WISE Plan will be dependent upon sound implementation of the strategies and actions put forth in this plan.  True progress can only be achieved when a diverse set of local partners coalesce around a shared vision and clear goals. The ambitious, comprehensive nature of the WISE Plan requires a concerted effort across many organizations in the public and private sectors.

Guided by the 7 Rivers Alliance, champion organizations from all areas of local life must be engaged throughout the plan’s implementation.  The plan identifies leaders and many have already agreed to convene key partners.  Now the work should focus on advancing the strategies identified in this plan.



WISE Gap Analysis

This analysis pinpoints key talent needs of targeted WISE region industries.

The purpose is to:

  • -Identify gaps in the region’s talent pool
  • -Aid educators and trainers in aligning and targeting their resources for the needs of these industries.

Click here to view WISE Gap Analysis



Collaboration to Improve Childcare at WISE Meeting


August News Letter


On July 17th, a WISE Childcare meeting was held at The Parenting Place to discuss strategies to improve Childcare in our region. Success stories, practice suggestions, and challenges were considered in order to enhance our childcare. Thank you to First Children’s Finance and Rhonda, Daycare owner in Davenport Iowa, for sharing your experience with the group.



2017 Workforce Summit 

Below are pictures and the best practices speaker presentation links from the event!











Cardinal Manufacturing

Future Careers


Bonus: Information and Registration Link 

Trailing Spouse Concierge Service 

Employee Profit Sharing

Fox Cities Talent Upload

Bonus: Talent Upload Video 

Innovative Flex Scheduling Models 

Talent Sharing Companies

Bonus: ManpowerGroup Employement Outlook Survey 

Family Friendly Workplace

Bonus: First Five Years Video

CREC WISE Presentation


Click here to view full Strategic Briefing Paper!


Click here to read La Crosse Tribune’s report on how 120 businesses connected and collaborated at the 2017 Workforce Summit!


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WISE Work Groups


To learn more about the different WISE Workgroups click on the link below!

WISE Work Groups



WISE Partner











WISE in the News!

childcare summit

Childcare summit addresses needs

March, 21, 2017





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Consultants help local employers prepare for future workforce

February 15, 2017








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Nationally renowned economic consultants hired to help with 7 Rivers WISE plan

January 30, 2017






Workforce development focus of LADCO forum 

October 14, 2016









7 Rivers Alliance planning for the next decade of workforce development 

October 3, 2016


For more information about The WISE plan, please contact 7 Rivers Alliance Chris Hardie or 608.787.8777