New year looks like it could be a good one

A NEW YEAR BRINGS new beginnings, new hope and new promise. All of those should hold true for 2016, just five days old.

The year just completed, 2015, was a mix of both good news and bad news for Plymouth, Sheboygan County and the area, as with any year – and 2016 will certainly be more of the same.

Most encouraging about the past year was the continued strong performance of the local economy.

Unemployment continued to drop and hold at levels below much of the rest of the state and the nation.

Local business and industries continued to grow and expand, creating new jobs and pumping more money into the local economy.

Especially encouraging was that what could have been a major blow to the local economy was avoided late in the year.

It took a bit more than a month, but the Kohler Co. and the United Auto Workers Local 833 reached agreement on a new five-year contract in December that ended a 32-day strike and put Kohler workers back on the job.

The new pact was ratified by a huge majority of the union members, just a little over four weeks after they had rejected the company’s earlier offer which it had called its “last, best and final offer.”

Best of all, given the past contentious nature of management-labor relations and strikes at Kohler, this strike was peaceful and ended with both sides pleased with the outcome and praising the other side for their spirit of cooperation and support.

Of course, not all the job news was good in 2015.

Plymouth absorbed the closing of the last remaining vestige of the historic Cheeseville district when Dairy Farmers of America announced in October it was closing the Bordens plant in Plymouth at the end of the year, idling more than 300 workers.

Within days of the announcement, efforts were underway to relocate those laid off workers elsewhere in the local job market, including retraining efforts where needed.

The long-term impact of the Bordens closing remains to be seen, but with the strength of the local economy and the spirit of cooperation and support that continues to be seen locally, the hope is that the negative impact can be greatly minimized.

Helping that occur will be the continued growth of the cheese industry that has been the economic bedrock of Plymouth and the surrounding area for generations.

Other local cheese companies have built, are building or are expanding their modern new facilities to meet increasing demand for the fine products produced by their dedicated, skilled employees.

In addition, auxiliary businesses to support those companies are growing, expanding and starting up in the area as well.

All signs seem to point to continued growth and health for Plymouth’s economy – including the recent reopening of the Plymouth-Sheboygan Falls rail line after more than three decades of idleness.

So here’s to a 2016 that will be bigger, better and brighter than the year that came before.

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