Workforce issues will be the “hot topic” of the eighth annual Monroe County Economic Development Conference, said Steve Peterson, Monroe County Economic Development coordinator.

The conference will be held Feb. 27-28 at Three Bears Resort in Warrens.

Peterson said much of the conference will focus on issues in the workforce such as retention and recruitment. It’s something the entire nation is dealing with, he said.

Peterson said the issue is “not only to hire new employees and keep them, but to improve the lifestyle in the workplace. It’s how to make a workplace an enjoyable space for your workers, where there’s better communication between department heads, employees and leadership.”

He said it also includes “ways to kill stress and improve time management, it’s what you can do to improve the work place so people are happy to work there.”

Besides workforce issues, other topics include mental health in the workplace; Google and getting found online; tourism; growing the talent pipeline with hiring people with disabilities, veterans and former inmates; and rural development and Connect Communities.

“We’ve got a nice cross section for everybody,” Peterson said. “There is going to be a lot of really great information.”

One source of information will come from Erin Bremis, a trainer from Google, who will speak about how businesses and organizations can reach out to customers online and how they can utilize Google so that they can be found easier online through search engines. Google is also sponsoring the conference.

Peterson said Bremis’ presentation, scheduled from 11:15 a.m. to noon Feb. 27, will be helpful for businesses trying to get their businesses found online.

“It’s cool that they’re going to be there,” Peterson said. “(Bremis) is really good at training ... Some people find that their information is wrong on Google or shows up in the wrong (place) on maps ... and if you don’t know how to fix it, she’ll show some short cuts to get that done within a day or so, and she will give insights on websites and maps to get found online.”

Other notable speakers include:

  • Mark O’Connell, the executive director of the Wisconsin Counties Association.
  • Cathy Stepp, the former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources secretary and current regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (Region 5) in Chicago.
  • Sarah Meaney, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and Caleb Frostman, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

O’Connell will speak from 12:45 p.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 27, Stepp will speak from 12:45 p.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 28, Meaney will speak from 8:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. Feb. 28, and Frostman will speak from 9:15 a.m. to 10 a.m. Feb. 27.

Peterson said what he appreciates about the conference is how it has expanded to be a regional conference.

“I think that’s the draw for having so many agencies from the area that come and attend,” he said. “Last year we had 23 different counties in attendance, and I think this year we’ll see that many or more. We’ve also got businesses from Tennessee, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa.”

Networking is the biggest strength of the conference, Peterson said.

“People have the opportunity to meet and speak with agencies and business people and companies first hand, so they’re going to be able to create a good network of contacts to follow up with,” he said. “We’ve got 46 speakers signed up over two days. That’s a lot of topics that will be talked about, and attendees have the chance to follow up with the speakers for more information.”

The marketplace is also a big part of the conference, Peterson said. There will be 60 booths representing businesses, organizations and government agencies that offer services.

Registration can be done online at, where a full schedule of events can also be found.

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Meghan Flynn can be reached at


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