The downtown of Wisconsin border town Eagle River is booming, sparked in part by state grants. Wisconsin was tops in the country in percentage of COVID funds dedicated to businesses. (Ron French / Bridge Michigan)
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A new Wisconsin Policy Forum report finds Wisconsin’s population growth in rural areas is more robust than most of the Midwest.

The group found Wisconsin’s 5.1% population growth between 2000 and 2022 outstripped 10 other Midwestern states. Only North Dakota’s rural areas grew more during that time. On average, the 12 Midwestern states lost 1.1% of their rural population since 2000, the group found.

It said four rural Wisconsin counties — Sawyer, Vilas, Bayfield and Burnett — are among the top 10 fastest growing in the state since 2010, with population gains of 10% or more. Door County came in at 9.9%. 

“It’s notable that the fast-growing rural counties listed above are dominated by many of rural Wisconsin’s top destinations for tourism and recreation, especially during warm-weather months,” according to the report. “They may be particularly attractive migration destinations for retirees, particularly those who already own vacation properties there. These places also may appeal to remote workers, a group whose numbers increased sharply during the pandemic.”

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Dee J. Hall, a co-founder of Wisconsin Watch, joined the staff as managing editor in June 2015. She is responsible for daily news operations. She worked at the Wisconsin State Journal for 24 years as an editor and reporter focusing on projects and investigations.

A 1982 graduate of Indiana University’s journalism school, Hall served reporting internships at the weekly Lake County Star in Crown Point, Ind., The Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune, The Louisville (Ky.) Times and The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. Prior to returning to her hometown of Madison in 1990, she was a reporter for eight years at The Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix, where she covered city government, schools and the environment. During her 35-year journalism career, Hall has won more than three dozen local, state and national awards for her work, including the 2001 State Journal investigation that uncovered a $4 million-a-year secret campaign machine operated by Wisconsin’s top legislative leaders.