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Community Initiative to Strengthen Workforce and Improve Inclusivity in Lancaster

Monday, November 14, 2022

Contact: Rochelle Williams

Grant Regional Health Center is proud to participate in a grassroots effort to strengthen our local workforce and highlight the important benefits of improving our community’s inclusivity and diversity efforts.

Even with its unique, local charm and small-town appeal, Lancaster, like many other rural communities, faces challenges including workforce shortages, declining enrollment in our schools and an aging population.

The idea of ‘Growing Lancaster’ evolved from conversations between leaders at Amcor and Grant Regional Health Center when discussing workforce shortages and hiring issues. Further conversations led to forming a committee and inviting people interested in sparking change with the suggestion that if Lancaster businesses focused on welcoming diversity to their workforce that could increase staffing and, in turn, benefit the local economy and stimulate community growth.

Southwest Wisconsin, among other counties in our region, has experienced an increase in Latino families relocating here for the rural lifestyle and job opportunities. Unfortunately, Lancaster has not been a popular location for these families to move to due to perception, lack of resources and few amenities that support them.

The ‘Growing Lancaster’ committee, hoping to address these issues, began meeting in early 2022 and looks to strengthen our community’s brand and visibility to become a more welcoming community for Latino families. “Our goal is to grow our community in order to increase our workforce and stimulate the economy,” says Mayor Stuart Harper, City of Lancaster. “Inclusiveness goes beyond just physical presence,” Harper explains. “It’s how people interact and it’s about building relationships. It’s accepting new people and welcoming their differences. We hope to ensure that all families are welcome in our community and that they will feel accepted, secure, and connected.”

With the challenge of workforce shortages, Amcor has a history of providing accommodations to different ethnic populations and utilizes innovative approaches to recruit and retain employees to ensure a strong workforce. Grant Regional Health Center has recruited and recently welcomed Dr. David Casillas Plazola, a bilingual family practice/obstetrics physician. In anticipation of an increase in Spanish-speaking patients, the hospital has been in the process of making gradual adaptations including document translation, Spanish language training for staff and translating signage. Grant Regional is also currently recruiting and interested in hiring additional bilingual staff in an effort to enhance communication between providers and Spanish-speaking patients.

The committee which includes businesses and individuals from Lancaster meets regularly to discuss issues and potential solutions with the goal to move many of these ideas forward. Anyone who wishes to get involved is welcome and encouraged to join.

Since the group organized, they have planned and held monthly meetings; added interested members; developed a name, mission statement and informational flyer; presented at City Council in June to communicate and educate the council members on goals and plans of the group; connected with Madison Latino Chamber of Commerce; hosted Night on the Square in July to introduce Latin culture; investigated funding opportunities and researched other communities such as Darlington to learn from their success.

Future plans include conducting a focus group on November 15 with Latino families to get information first-hand and gain helpful insight into what specifically could be done to make Lancaster more welcoming and bridge the gap between workforce needs and workers interested in employment in Lancaster. Next steps include hosting a business lunch & learn in early 2023 to showcase what businesses can do to be more inclusive and what resources are readily available to them. Other plans include offering Spanish in the Workplace training sessions for businesses or interested residents.

By ‘Growing Lancaster’, this motivated group strives to create a more inclusive community, to create a vibrant economy and to be a more welcoming place to live, work and visit. For more information or to get involved, visit www.lancasterwichamber.com/growing-lancaster or reach out to City of Lancaster Mayor Harper at mayor@lancasterwisconsin.com or Dave Smith, Grant Regional Health Center at dsmith@grantregional.com.