The North Central region is composed of nine counties; starting from the south, Adams, Wood, Portage, Marathon, Lincoln, Langlade, Vilas, Oneida, and Forest. The central counties of Portage, Marathon, and Wood dominate the area with the highest populations and heaviest concentrations of manufacturing employment, as well as being the sites of two major insurance companies and a world-class medical facility. The three dominant counties in the region account for about
two-thirds of the region's population, just under 70% of the region's labor force, and about
75% percentage of the jobs.
The counties in the North Central region are also home to some of the largest paper mills in the world, as well as several college campuses. In recent times, especially in the northern counties of the district, tourism has become a year-round industry, with the winter months nearly as important as the summer in many areas.
However, as tourism grows in importance, the once-solid sphere of paper manufacturing in the Wisconsin River Valley faces an uncertain future as overcapacity and nearly flat demand worldwide causes layoffs and permanent machine shutdowns. Rumors of plant closings are persistent enough to make even the optimistic uncomfortable.
The North Central region has one characteristic that is not necessarily shared with all other areas or individual counties of the state: a certain variety of industrial elements which are more or less in balance throughout the year, and during the changing seasonal movements of the region. This is especially true of the central counties, where the main components of manufacturing, trade, service, and the remainder industries share about one quarter each of the job landscape. Also, manufacturing enterprise produce a greater variety of goods than one might expect from a relatively rural area. Along with the wider range of employment choices, this tends to act as a buffer in periods of economic fluctuation, a characteristic that seems to modify the grosser effects of employment slumps.