News from the Northwoods

Read the latest news and events from Norvado.


Telecommuter Forward! Fireside Chat

A rural Wisconsin county with broadband capabilities rivaling major metropolitan areas?

In this video, Chad Young, CEO of Norvado, Scottie Sandstrom, Executive Director of Bayfield County Economic Development Corporation, Bill Esbeck, Executive Director of Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association and Angie Dickinson, State Broadband Director for Wisconsin, discuss how a small conversation about the expansive broadband infrastructure and the natural beauty and recreation of Bayfield County led to state legislature and what that means for Wisconsin. Tune in to listen to Chad, Scottie, Bill and Angie discuss everything telecommuter and the great things happening in Wisconsin.

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News from the Northwoods

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From Duluth to Cable: One Telecommuter’s Story

Creating communities that are ready to support telecommuters isn’t just about opening opportunities for current residents. By earning Telecommuter Forward! certification, cities, and counties across the state of Wisconsin make themselves attractive places for people outside the state to relocate.

Marnie Christensen did just that five years ago. Born and raised in Duluth, she began working for North Shore Bank of Commerce at the age of 15. She eventually worked her way up to managing all four of the bank’s branches within the city before deciding to move to Cable in 2013.

The move created a new opportunity for Christensen, because North Shore was just opening a new mortgage office across the river in Superior. Rather than make the more than hour-long commute from Cable to Superior daily, she split her time between telecommuting from home and the office.

How important was the quality of Bayfield County’s internet connection to you making the move and feeling comfortable telecommuting?

It was very important. Now, the flexibility with my job means I don’t work 8 to 5. I have to have internet because, if a customer calls at night or on the weekend, I need to get into our system and work.

I also have to be able to get into the system during normal work hours and know that my internet is going to be reliable. If for some reason it went down, I’d be driving into Superior, and that’s two hours out of my day.

How important was the ability to telecommute in you taking your current job?

I probably wouldn’t have been able to take this job. The commute probably would have been a deal-breaker for me. I would have had to make the decision to either stay in Duluth and keep the job I had or find a new job.

What do you enjoy about telecommuting?

The luxury of just getting up in the morning and getting straight to work. I can turn on the computer, get to work and start answering emails. If my customers call on a Sunday at 10 a.m. and need a pre-approval letter, I can log right in, type it up and email it to them. That’s been great.

So you can respond to customers faster?

Right. For example, I had a realtor call me over Labor Day weekend, and it was Sunday. He said, “We’re putting an offer in. There are multiple offers on this house. I’m the only one without a pre-approval letter, so I’m wondering if my borrower can apply with you, get them approved today and get a pre-qualified letter. Because there’s no way I’m going to get hold of his lender until Tuesday morning.” So being able to rely on this system helps me move very quickly.

Would you say telecommuting part-time has been a success?

Yes, absolutely. A lot of the success is about being able to be home and enjoy the area. I would say it’s worth the drive when I’m home, but I’d rather just be in the area. I feel like the drive is a waste of time. I could be working instead of driving.

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News from the Northwoods

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Norvado celebrates Telecommuter Forward! with lawmakers

It’s not every day that the Norvado offices receive a visit from a state legislator and a member of the Public Service Commission. But then again, launching a program as important as Telecommuter Forward! isn’t an everyday occurrence.

We were excited to welcome state Sen. Janet Bewley, District 74 Rep. Beth Meyers, and PSC Broadband Director Angie Dickison as they shared their thoughts about what makes Telecommuter Forward! so remarkable.

“Telecommuter Forward! gets to what’s always been my hope with broadband investment: that communities would start using that broadband infrastructure as another tool in their economic development tool belt,” said Dickison. “That’s exactly what you’re doing here, and I think you’re to be commended.”

Bayfield County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Scottie Sandstrom; Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association Executive Director Bill Esbeck; and James Miller, outreach representative for U.S. Representative Sean Duffy, also joined Norvado for the presentation of Bayfield County’s Telecommuter Forward! certification.

Telecommuter Forward! is the third phase in a four-year effort focused on expanding broadband capabilities statewide. Since 2014, Norvado has worked closely with the PSC, Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association and local lawmakers to shape new laws that incentivize communities, especially in rural parts of the state, to develop crucial broadband infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin legislature passed a law that gives cities, villages, towns or counties the ability to earn designation as a Telecommuter Forward! community. A community must demonstrate that they are committed to promoting the availability of telecommuting options and that they have established a single point of contact to streamline the process for potential employers.

By earning their Telecommuter Forward! certification, communities throughout the state send a message to businesses that they are ready to help them bring new employment opportunities to their residents.

“One of the things I believe we’re up against in northern Wisconsin is the fact that we have an aging population,” said Meyers. “We need to figure out ways to keep our younger people here or to recruit younger families, and this is a perfect way to do that.”

Norvado CEO Chad Young added that not only does he look forward to Wisconsin residents having more flexibility in their job prospects, but he also expects to see more people drawn in by the state’s natural beauty.

“There’s no place more beautiful than Cable, and I know there are many people who would choose to live and work here if they could,” he said. “Telecommuter Forward! is really the path to the future. I’m excited about the opportunities it will create for the people of Wisconsin, but I’m also looking forward to the growth I think we’ll see as a result.”

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Who are telecommuters?

Bayfield County is the first community in the state to earn the Telecommuter Forward! Community Certification, which sends a message to national employers and to Wisconsin residents that the county is a welcoming home to telecommuters.

Telecommuting, or the ability to use internet and telephone services to work from home, has seen tremendous growth in recent years. In fact, a 2017 survey by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that nearly 4 million U.S. employees worked from home at least half the time last year. That’s a 115 percent increase since 2005.

Having workplace flexibility allows more people to live where they want, regardless of their employer’s location. A survey from global staffing firm Robert Half shows that workplace freedom is especially appealing to millennials.

Overall, 77 percent of the people Robert Half surveyed said they would be more likely to take a job if they could telecommute at least some of the time. But a whopping 86 percent of people from age 18-34 felt this way.

In addition, telecommuting is currently the most common among baby boomers.

That’s a trend Bayfield County is keeping in mind as they reach out to telecommuters and as they work to keep younger residents in the area.

“I feel that both boomers and millennials are very much in play for these types of jobs,” says Scottie Sandstrom, executive director of the Bayfield County Economic Development Corporation. “We especially want to focus on attracting and keeping as many millennials here as possible.”

The FlexJobs survey found that telecommuters also tend to have access to higher-paying jobs and are more likely to have a college degree. The study found that the average annual income for telecommuters is $4,000 more than for the workforce in general. Likewise, 53 percent of telecommuters have at least a college degree, compared to 37 percent of non-telecommuters.

The options to work remotely are also more prevalent in certain industries. U.S. employees working for the military or in computer and mathematical fields are more than twice as likely to telecommute than the workforce as a whole.

In Bayfield County, expanded broadband infrastructure has already made the region a fertile ground for telecommuting. Local residents use the robust online infrastructure to work in website design, health care, customer service, financial planning, and even for defense contractors outside the state.

As word of the county’s Telecommuter Forward! designation spreads, Sandstorm only expects those employment options for local residents to increase. “We haven’t identified all the jobs that will be available yet, but I think the sky is the limit,” he says.

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Play where you live. Sounds like a plan to us. Put together the perfect package that works for you.

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