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KENOSHA, WISCONSIN

Before the civil unrest of summer 2020, Kenosha, Wisconsin had enjoyed a decade’s worth of
economic wins—namely new jobs and capital investment along the I-94 corridor. Even so, the
community faced several headwinds that needed to be addressed. Neighborhoods were still feeling the direct effects of a shuttered Chrysler plant closed in 2010. 

In addition, the community was losing its skilled talent. Graduates of the town’s three local colleges were leaving for higher paying urban jobs in up-and-coming tech markets like Nashville and Austin. Existing jobs in warehousing and manufacturing faced the threat of automation and didn’t offer sustainable, living wages. As you might imagine, all of these factors were inflamed after a large swath of the central-city, minority-owned businesses were destroyed by the vandalism and riots of August 2020.

Challenge 

Thankfully, the Mayor had a bold and visionary plan dating back to 2018. The City commissioned Waymaker Group to do an exploratory study on the redevelopment of the Chrysler site, a 107-acre parcel one mile from Lake Michigan. 

Waymaker completed an innovation asset inventory and found three industry clusters with strong economic impact: manufacturing, warehousing/distribution, and healthcare. We also discovered Kenosha was home to three outstanding local colleges, each bringing strong industry partnerships and STEM programs to the table. Kenosha did have a skilled STEM workforce — but they were commuting to Illinois. 

Finally, we discovered that Kenosha was within a 100-mile radius of $2+ billion in annual life sciences technology research and development.

Knowing that Kenosha could begin to play an important geographic role within a larger strategic
growth plan, Waymaker projected the technology futures within each of their top three industries and integrated regional industry insight and direction. We hosted a series of conversations with business and higher education leaders and community members about what was possible within the region, pushing to crystalize a bold vision for the future. We also initiated serious conversations about who might initially participate on-site.

To-date, more than 25 partners from across the State have expressed interest in engaging in the Kenosha Innovation Neighborhood, including two research institutions. $21M in EDA infrastructure funding has been secured and another $70M in federal and state funding identified for pursuit in 2023.

Approach

•    Innovation Assessment
•    Vision Development
•    Talent-centric strategic growth plan
•    Master plan development support
•    Organizational development & launch, KIN non-profit
•    Public-private partnerships

Functions

  • 25 local, regional, and state entities identified and qualified as partners

  • $21M in infrastructure and programming funding has been secured with another $70M targeted for 2023

  • 501c3 Non-profit status for KIN, Inc., the independent governing board was established in 2022

Outcomes

“Waymaker leverages their national network, shares best practices for Innovation Districts, leads as collaborators, and provides valuable wisdom to KIN Inc, the non-profit Board of Directors. Waymaker has positioned Kenosha for success as a 21st Century Leader in Innovation!”

- Debbie Ford, Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and President of KIN, Inc.