Borremans retiring as director of workforce development board

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Jim Leute
Thursday, March 27, 2014

JANESVILLE—Southwest Wisconsin will lose a tireless advocate for workforce services when Bob Borremans retires later this year.

Since 2003, Borremans has been executive director of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, one of 11 in Wisconsin established by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.

The board is responsible the planning and oversight of the workforce system in Rock, Green, Lafayette, Grant, Iowa and Richland counties. Its services are driven by the needs of local employers and workers and are available through the job centers such as the one in Janesville.

“Bob has always stepped up to the plate,” said Rich Gruber, first vice chair of the board and a vice president at Mercy Health System in Janesville.

“I've known him for a long time, and I'm proud to say I served with him in the workforce arena.

“He's a wonderful leader, and his will be tough shoes to fill.”

Borremans was front and center when Rock County took one of its most devastating hits in 2008 with the closing of the General Motors plant in Janesville and the impacts of a national recession.

Borremans said the period was easily the biggest challenge he and his staff faced. The board was responsible for coordinating a plethora of agencies and groups trying to help displaced workers.

“I was very pleased that the workforce system was responsive and able to bring in resources in the amount of about $12 million to help people go back to school, retrain and look for and land different jobs,” Borremans said.

“I always expected it to take more than a couple of years to resolve, and I'm quite pleased today with the state of recovery in Rock County.”

He said that while the economic situation in Rock County received the most attention, all six counties in his region had their own problems and unemployment rates in excess of 8 percent.

Gruber said Borremans has done a yeoman's job in workforce development, which is often complicated by stacks of rules, regulations and restrictions.

“It takes a special person to understand all of that and walk us lay board members through it without losing sight of the fact that, at the end of the day, the goal is to get someone a job,” Gruber said.

Before joining the board, Borremans worked at Blackhawk Technical College, where he ended a 23-year career as vice president of administrative student services.

“Because of his time at BTC, Bob was very well known in Rock County and across the region, which made his transition much easier,” said Dave Shaw, another board member and job service director for the state Department of Workforce Development's southwest region.

Shaw said Borremans and his staff juggled a variety of responsibilities. Borremans, he said, did a great job coordinating them and communicating with the variety of agencies and companies involved.

“It was a terrible time in Rock County, and Bob was a very good leader and communicator,” Shaw said. “He also became one of the local spokesmen for the media and did a good job with that.

“There were things Bob felt very strongly about. He was a very pro-business guy who wanted to see businesses grow and expand.”

Gruber said one of the little known facts about the workforce development board is that it is consistently recognized as one of the best for its administrative and management systems.

“I'm proud of the services delivered, but I'm equally as proud of the recognitions we earned,” Borremans said. “Our audits are clean, and our record keeping is strong.”

Gruber said a search for Borremans' replacement would start soon.

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