Editorial: Regional approach best to overcome economic challenges
As appeared in The Cap Times
By Paul Jadin
Mike Ivey’s June 12 story, “Madison lagging behind peer cities in economic vitality,” is an interesting analysis of what afflicts the local economy. As the country slowly emerges from a deep recession, it’s a story that’s no doubt been read in countless other newspapers, even in those communities that, for now, rank higher than Madison on the latest list.
But what ails the Madison region’s economy begs a more important question: What are we going to do about it?
Last year, Thrive (now the Madison Region Economic Partnership or MadREP) launched a comprehensive, regional answer to that critical question: Advance Now. Advance Now is a strategy that makes economic development efforts more efficient and effective, fueling revitalization and driving growth in the eight-county region that includes Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Rock and Sauk counties.
MadREP’s strategy is based on solid research, incisive analysis and unprecedented feedback from more than 2,000 business owners, community leaders, public officials, economic development professionals and others committed to economic growth in the Madison Region. It’s focused on improving our economic competitiveness, entrepreneurial climate, workforce development, regional promotion, diversity and leadership.
Six months into our five-year plan, MadREP is charging full-steam ahead on execution of the Advance Now strategy. Our staff, board and partners across the Madison region are working harder than ever to tackle its economic challenges.
We’re actively partnering with businesses in the region to ensure they stay and expand in our eight counties. These efforts work in tandem with our international program, designed to increase exports coming out of this region. We believe there are at least 2,000 companies within these eight counties that have the potential to export, a necessity for economic growth when 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States.
We’re also fostering the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, working specifically on efforts to create more mentorship opportunities and to expand innovative spaces like Sector67, a community hackerspace for creating and perfecting next-generation technologies. We’re linking the region’s educators and business leaders to ensure that our education and workforce development initiatives more closely meet the needs of our employers. And our marketing and diversity activities are raising the profile of this region as they promote our competitive advantages and more fully engage our diverse constituencies.
As Ivey’s article demonstrates well, issues of economic cause and effect are remarkably complex. There never will be a simple, singular answer. That’s why MadREP continues to build its efforts on the foundation of the five Advance Now goals. But before those goals were set, our organization was founded on an even more fundamental principle: Any successful effort to fuel economic growth in the Madison area must be a regional one.
The economic diversity of our eight-county region and the range of outstanding assets across it are greater than those found in any one part of it. This is an incredible strength, one that MadREP’s work is both drawing from and promoting. Coupled with the region’s educational, cultural, natural, community and other assets, the Madison region is in a unique position to regroup and rebound, stronger than ever. As we do, MadREP looks forward to continuing to lead, collaborate and report on our progress.