Marano Fellows Class of 2012

Name: Rick Merdan

Manufacturing Employer Facilitator


Incourage Community Foundation, Workforce Central Project

Location: Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Primary Industry Sector: Manufacturing, Food Processing
Type of Organization: Community Foundation

Organizational Background & Mission: Incourage Community Foundation is a non-traditional rural community foundation. “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile!” The Foundation is focused on facilitating community change in the aftermath of a seismic shift in area employment and culture resulting from the sale of the hometown paper mill with subsequent plant closures, layoffs, and loss of company headquarters. With the help of adaptive leadership the community is reinventing itself. A part of that transformation has been the Workforce Central project, a National Fund for Workforce Solutions site as well as a Social Innovation Fund sub-grantee. Workforce Central consists of three leadership groups; the Funders Collaborative, the Service Providers Network, and the Manufacturing Partnership.

Interest in Sector Work: Workforce Central focuses on the dual customer workforce approach considering the needs of the employers as well as the needs of the job-seekers. The project sector focus is advanced manufacturing with an emphasis on food processing. For a successful initiative it is crucial that area employers are engaged in the process. We have 12 area employers that represent over half of the manufacturing employment in the region. That is the advantage of a rural initiative, if you can get the key players engaged you can really move the needle.