|Municipality||Village of Plover|
|Population and Growth|
|Population (2014 if available, otherwise 2010, indicate)||12,123 (2010)|
|WI Workforce Development Region||6|
|Young Adult Gaining Measure||9% (WI median is -22%)|
|Young Adult Maintaining Measure||32% (WI median is 24%)|
|Racial stats, 2010 Census||
91.1% White (Non-Hispanic)
1.7% White (Hispanic)
0.5% African American
0.4% American Indian or Alaska Native
1.5% Two or More Races
|Mean Income||$66,945 (2015)|
|Median Income||$57,838 (2015)|
|Year of Latest Comprehensive Development Plan||2005|
|Year and Amount of Last Referendum Passed||(2006) $26.4 million|
|Notes||Plover is served by the Stevens Point Area School District.|
|Elementary||Plover-Whiting Elementary School||Pre-K – 6||Public|
|Roosevelt Elementary School||K-6||Public|
|St. Bronislava Elementary School||Pre-K – 4||Private|
|Middle||Ben Franklin Junior High School||7-9||Public|
|Point of Discovery School||6-8||Public|
|High||Stevens Point Area Senior High School||10-12||Public|
|Charles F. Fernandez Center for Alternative Learning||10-12||Public|
Conducting the Case Study in Plover
Collaboration characterized our approach to data collection. The following points briefly review how we developed our interview guide and interview contacts:
- Connect to University of Wisconsin-Extension:
We reached out to UW-Extension in Portage County, requesting recommendations for community leaders who might be interested in our project.
- Connect to Plover Leaders:
Nathan Sandwick and Peter Manley of UW-Extension suggested several community members to join the core group, including local university faculty, government officials, nonprofit leaders, and business leaders.
- Develop Interview Guide and Contact List:
We met with the core group to address the following three points:
- How is this project relevant to Plover, and your role in Plover?
- What questions should we include in our interviews?
- Who should we invite to interviews?
- Conduct Interviews:
We administered the following interview guide to fifteen interviewees who we reached through the core group's recommendations.
- Present Results:
We analyzed and summarized the results of our interviews, and sent them to our Plover and Extension collaborators, and revised the report based on their feedback.
Plover Interview Guide
- How long have you lived here?
- What is affordable here for you, what is not?
- How local is your family to where you live?
- What would you say to someone who is thinking of moving here?
- What would you say to a young adult (20-39) who is thinking of moving here?
- Why do people move here?
Follow up: Did you choose Plover?
- Why do people stay here?
- What strategies or factors that attract young adults to where you live are you aware of?
- To what extent do young adults engage in governance and politics where you live?
- Where do young adults who live here work? What about other people who live here?
- Where do young adults live around here?
- How do you feel about your quality of life where you live? Culturally speaking?
- How would you want your town to grow? How would you want it to stay the same?
- What people would not feel comfortable here?
- Why did you move here?
- Did you stay for the reasons you thought you would?
- What would influence you to stay or leave?
- What does community mean to you? What does community look like here?
- What stories does your town have to share?
- What community groups are influential to people around here? Which ones are helpful?
- What is entertainment like around here? What do you do for fun?
- What do you think of the shopping opportunities around here?
- How do you feel about your food options here?
- What are the schools like here?
- Tell me about surrounding communities?
- What do you use that is outside of the community?
Results for Plover
Plover was different from all of the other case studies in that, for most people, it was indistinguishable from Stevens Point, the larger community to its north with whom it shares a short stretch of border. The two communities are otherwise separated by Whiting. In this particular area, people seem to move their residence freely around the area and can identify with any one of the three communities even when they live in the other. Consequently, in this case study we had the fewest pure target community residents, though all of the interview respondents claimed deep knowledge of the community because of their employment or life experience. In much of the analysis we will separate the responses of Plover residents from others, but we did not note any differences in overall perceptions between the two groups. We interviewed 15 people total.
- Six interview participants were Plover residents and one other grew up there. Two people work in Plover but do not live there. Four people live in Stevens Point with the remainder in nearby towns.
- The interview participants ages ranged from the late 20s to late 30s.
- Eight interview participants have extended family in Plover or Stevens Point. Interestingly, four interviewees had extended family move to the area, in three cases parents.
- Eight interview participants have moved around the area, and in and out of the area. Most have been in their current address fewer than ten years.
- Three interview participants noted that they stayed in the area after attending the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, and four are alumni of the University.
Overall, 13 of our 15 participants noted that they consider housing in the Stevens Point/Plover area to be affordable in almost every aspect.
Plover residents noted the following:
- "You know, pretty much everything, it's a nice area to live in those terms. I think you get a lot for your money around here."
- "Housing, is very affordable. I mean just comparing this central WI to other places I've lived, you can't get the same type of property for the same amount. Housing is super affordable. It's a pretty affordable place to live."
- "I think something that would be affordable would be either a rental or a mortgage between $800 and $1000 which is on the steep end. We rented first when we were in the city, paid $600 to almost $1000 for rent. And now we are paying about $1000 for the mortgage on our house."
Stevens Point or surrounding area residents had this to say about affordability in the area:
- "The housing, buying a home is more affordable than renting."
- "I would say most things are pretty affordable here, especially housing, and everything else like utilities and groceries are affordable compared to other places I've lived."
However, some participants expressed concern for renters, and worried that perhaps the housing prices have inflated beyond affordability for some in recent years:
- "[compared to] when we bought our house, housing has grown out of affordability for a lot of people. I'm a builder, so it's great for me. For people who move to the area, we have seen house prices explode. Affordability is not there."
- "Maybe those that rent have a problem."
Another aspect of the Plover area that participants mentioned was the availability and diversity of jobs in the area. They listed several large companies with many employees, as well as retailers in the area that employ residents. Additionally, entrepreneurship was a common theme in responses. Plover participants had this to say about jobs:
- "There's a good portion that work at Skyward, Sentry Insurance, the hospital and local clinic. Those are some of the biggest. There's Lands' End, the Travel Guard insurance AIG."
- "I think a lot work at Sentry, AIG. I think a lot work at the hospital, the university. A lot of professionals live in Plover that work all over. I just sold a house in Plover to a guy who works at the University. They work at restaurants, all over."
- "I think you see a lot of young adults working at the big five employers, Sentry, AIG, Skyward, Delta Dental, a couple other larger companies. Diversi-Tea is a large employer, a lot of young adults are attracted to those jobs. They may be good right out of college, but they're still low paying, 12-14 [dollars] an hour. You see a lot of turnover in those jobs. They get the experience, they move elsewhere, or go for another job in the area. I also think we are in an age where a lot of young people are curious about entrepreneurship and want that ability to work at their own schedule. A lot of employers are flexible."
Residents in other parts of the area and Stevens Point offered the following responses about jobs in the area:
- "I know a lot of entrepreneurs who are self-employed: farmers, service industry, store front, etc. I also know a lot at the University or at the bigger businesses, the hospital, Skyward, Delta Dental, and Sentry."
- "There's a lot of folks, less often discussed but pretty substantial, a lot of the food manufacturing in and near Plover: Monogram foods, Del Monte, Okray Farms. With so many vegetable farms, there's a lot of vegetable processing that happens; that's pretty significant in Plover."
- "I would say most probably work in some kind of specialty store, or work for a larger company, a lot of young professionals maybe go to Sentry insurance, [or] are their own entrepreneurs. A lot of young people are starting their own business or are doing some kind of trade who are buying their own shop."
Blurred Lines – Stevens Point and Plover
Plover is conveniently located in the greater Stevens Point area. Participants often noted that they consider Plover and Stevens Point to be one contiguous area. Part of this seems to be due to the fact that there is little opportunity for expansion in Stevens Point and, by happenstance of geography, Plover has the space for new homes and development.
Participants from Plover offered the following:
- "We are in Stevens Point and Plover, I think of them as the same. So we are in and out of Stevens Point on a daily basis... I think Stevens Point and Plover mesh together.
- "It's so hard to separate Plover and Stevens Point. I think that is a break among young adults and transplants to the area. When I came here, I don't see a distinction, we share school districts, amenities, but the older generation who remember when it was farm fields, they are two distinct communities to them. I don't see it that way though. I think people who come here don't see that level of distinction."
While many indicated that they think of Plover and Stevens Point as one, two participants distinguish Plover and Stevens Point in distinct ways:
- "Plover and Stevens Point are very different even though they are connected. It's [Plover] not as walkable as other communities, walkability and bikability is important. While we can walk to a couple places from home—school, gas station, and bar—I can't walk to the grocery store or downtown. I could, but it's three or four miles. Most people are just going to hop in the car and drive. There are benefits, but also if someone wants to walk everywhere Plover may not be the place."
- "You can find expensive and inexpensive restaurants in Plover. They have more above average pricier homes, mid to upper range homes. Point has more affordable housing there. Plover just built that new Torrey Pines subdivision. Politically Plover tends to work better and are more aggressive with getting or retaining businesses. They seem to really, when someone says they want to come, Plover will go to the ends of the world with some of the stuff they will do. The city [Stevens Point] has more red tape. Pretty much anything you do in Stevens Point that is commercial, no matter what you want to do you need to get a commercial use permit. I can't just go and get a building permit. They need to approve it through a conditional use permit, which is another red tape step. They do that with anything. They [Plover] work well with big business, they give away the world to 'em. In Plover, they seem to really work with the developers and the owners so I had zero hesitation to locate in Plover. They're really easy to work with."
Community Events and Entertainment/Recreation
One aspect of the Plover/Stevens Point area that participants valued was the entertainment and community event offerings in the area. Frequently mentioned was the Green Circle Trail and a concert series in a park. Residents also value the proximity to outdoor recreation in terms of hunting/fishing, organized sports and accessing hiking trails, the river, or convenient bike routes.
- "I like to go down to the Schmeeckle Reserve and go for hikes."
- "Outdoor recreation biking, kayaking, people spend a lot time doing that. Volleyball, ultimate league, kickball league."
- "We go to the river. My parents bought a place on the river. We do hiking, both the Green Circle trail and state parks out in Waupaca."
- "We do the music series—this summer has been great."
- "The Green Circle, hunting, it's all appealing for those who like to be outside."
It is hard to ignore the attraction of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Undoubtedly Plover's proximity to the University and greater Stevens Point area has contributed to its emboldened young adult population. Participants often mentioned the University as an employer, location for cultural and entertainment events, and as an attracter of young adults to the area. In fact, four of our participants are UW-Stevens Point alumni.
- "I went to school, college in Stevens Point. I've lived there since 18 and 31 now, and off and on since."
- "A university brings in a lot of opportunities. [You are] being exposed to a lot of ideas you wouldn't find..."
- "I think honestly, people start with the university. People come here for that and find job opportunities in the area and that keeps them here."
- "The university, the hospital system, Skyward and things like that, as that brings in employment, people move here."
- "...the university attracts a lot of younger folks too."
This also seems to influence the local culture. Nine participants spoke of their desires for more racial/cultural diversity in the area, which is somewhat unique among our case study communities.
Plover residents also brought up the local school district in our interviews. They were pleased with the selection of elementary schools. These included a Waldorf-style elementary school and a Catholic elementary school. There was a general concern for the size of the high school however. Participants have noticed that the high school is not able to offer the diversity of classes that it had in the past. Residents spoke positively about the schools in general.
- "People have a lot of good things to say about the education their kids get. There are a couple charter schools that are, even evolving, some of them are very new. They have a different focus. It's nice to have those options. Where my wife works, it's a Waldorf idea sort of thing. Part of that is that they don't put screens in front of young kids."
- "There are two public charter schools, I would love to get my kid in one. One is out in Portage County a ways. It's a Waldorf-style elementary... they do a lot outside, more project-based, less sit in the classroom. There's one in the Stevens Point district, it's a middle school. It's project-based too.
- I think, well, there's two elementary schools. Ours is half Stevens Point, half Plover. And then a Catholic elementary. They're all great schools. I think that the teacher retention is good. But there's still diversity in the schools, I think they are really good and that's why people are open enrolling to bring their kids here."
- "There's a pretty good selection for schools. Public schools are pretty good, a lot of kids in the one school district... Catholic school system has grade schools, middle, and high school. There is a Lutheran grade school, too."
Growth in Plover
When asked about how they would like Plover to grow, interview participants again blurred the lines between Plover and Stevens Point, and between small town and urban. Plover residents and the others had both urban development interests (8 interviewees) and also wanted to keep a small town feel (4 interviewees). On the small town side, people said things like
- "I guess I don't want to see it get too big though. I'm from a small town, so I like that I feel comfortable walking around at night, but not too big that I don't."
- "I guess, not too hard but a nice growth is a good thing. Keeping the taxes and water bills reasonable. Fire deparment can stay the same, they don't need a full time [department]. Keep the small town touch."
- "Small enough where I feel that it's safe for the kids to ride their bikes around town. Stays safe and friendly to people that want to go out for a walk or bike."
Then there were the interviewees who offered a variety of creative perspectives on growth that also expressed an urban-style appreciation for greater density:
- "I feel like the area has a ton of room to grow and be a leader in sustainable living..."
- 'I would like more growth in the existing urban area, and I'm not excited about building out east of Plover and Stevens Point."
- "I would like to see more businesses and residential development downtown. And infill the spaces that we have."
- "[I] want to develop a Plover downtown. Some higher density feel to that area. Some more urban feel to it."
- "I guess I'd prefer it to grow taller than wider."
Support for Young Professionals
Plover was the only community where participants mentioned the importance of a young professionals group in any number. Seven participants noted the importance of the Ignite Leadership Network of Portage County where Plover is located. We must note, however, that our interviewee list was influenced by one of the organizers of that group.
How Plover Compared to Other Municipalities
We completed case studies in eleven other municipalities. Below are some points of comparison for Plover and other areas we studied.
In many of our other case studies, participants highly regarded the local school district. Some had similar concerns to those in Plover in terms of size of enrollment and availability of course offerings. One large difference between Plover and our other case studies is the close proximity of the University of Wisconsin– Stevens Point. In fact, several participants noted that they had either stayed after attending school there, or indicated that the University was a large attractor to young adults. This is similar to what interviewees said in Onalaska, close to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and in De Pere, which is the home of St. Norbert College which is small but still influential in terms of its ability to help maintain a young adult population.
Proximity to Urban Centers
Nearly every case study had the element of close proximity to another urban area or city/town. It seems that places attractive to young adults are connected with other towns for sources of employment, entertainment, or amenities.
Plover was unique both in how close it is to Stevens Point and in terms of how much interview participants identified the two communities together. Nowhere else did participants have such a sense of connectedness and blurred municipal lines as in Plover. The only close comparison would be De Pere, where there are several smaller towns that are in the De Pere school district but not in De Pere proper. The transition from municipality to municipality was not as seamless in De Pere as it was for Plover residents.
Interviewees in many of the municipalities that we studied cited access to outdoor recreation as one of the reasons they enjoyed living where they do. Hayward, New Richmond, Somerset, De Pere, and others noted this.
Many indicated fishing and water access as important to them. This was particularly pronounced in areas near lakes and rivers, like the St. Croix River near Somerset and New Richmond, the Fox River in De Pere, the Mississippi River in Onalaska, and several lakes in the Hayward area.
State and other parks were frequently mentioned by residents in our case studies. Those in Delavan and Evansville greatly value access to local parks similar to those in Plover who use municipal and state parks connected by the Green Circle Trail.
Some of the results from our study may not be surprising to you. Many of the themes brought up by participants are indicative of any healthy, thriving community. While you may not be surprised to hear that a strong school system and proximity to another urban area for shopping and/or jobs are important to community members, it is important to remember that there are many communities that are struggling to retain their young adults due to a lack of these community amenities and attributes. We hope that the results of this case study affirm the good work being done in your own community while aiding others who will greatly value the observations and results gathered in your community.
Some of the findings also have specific implications for Plover.
Plover is unlike any other municipality we studied given both its immediate proximity to Stevens Point and residents' identification of the area as a single community. Because of this, Plover may need to pay more attention to how it fits into the larger whole. Many core group members and participants mentioned Plover and Stevens Point being part of a larger area. The term "employment shed" was used by some core group members and "labor shed" was used by one interviewee. Many interviewees also either directly called for, or implied, a regional development strategy. For these reasons, it is important to understand how residents think about and value each separate place and the region as a whole.
Often, participants mentioned that when they were looking for a home with a certain number of bedrooms, size lot, and price, they found what they were looking for in Plover. Similarly, our interviewees see much of the new retail development as happening in Plover and surrounding communities rather than in the city of Stevens Point. At the same time, there is a risk if economic development is as unregulated as some residents perceive. In most of our case study communities our interviewees expressed concern that uncontrolled growth could ruin the small-town feel that they valued in their community. On the other hand, only six interviewees used the phrase "small town" in relation to Plover—a smaller proportion than for many of our similar-sized case study communities. So the concerns about growth may be different than for these other places.
Creative Growth Opportunities
Many of our interviewees are not afraid of bringing some sustainable urbanism perspectives into thinking about growth in Plover and Stevens Point. A number of our interview participants see urban forms of growth—growing up rather than out—as consistent with sustainability principles that protect farmland and promote walkability and bike-ability. They also see this as bringing more urban-style amenities into both Plover and the broader area. Of course, not everyone feels this way, and the path that these interview participants perceive Plover to be on—building larger houses on larger lots with creeping expansion across the freeway to the east—collides with those principles. Plover community leaders may want to engage further discussion about these issues with community members, including with the young adult population in their midst.