Paul Jadin: Madison Region well positioned to lead state’s economic recovery
As appeared in Wisconsin State Journal
By Paul Jadin
Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council, in his recent “Inside Wisconsin” column, provided a good analysis of the trends weighing down the state’s economy and, more important, reasonable recommendations for improvement.
An examination of these long-standing trends leads to several important conclusions about how to reshape Wisconsin’s economy, invest where it matters, and expand our presence in international markets.
The same analysis also should spark optimism about the economic future of the eight-county Madison region:
- While the state is not heavily invested in high-growth sectors, the Madison region boasts unique strengths in information technology, life sciences and health care, three sectors that have seen recent job growth and are predicted to lead growth in the future.
- Wisconsin has deep roots in the historically low-growth manufacturing and agriculture sectors, yet these sectors are buoyed in the Madison region by cross-sector collaboration with our critical mass of high-growth industries.
- Though the aging of the state’s population compared to others may work against Wisconsin as a whole, the Madison region bucks that trend because our percentage of working-age individuals is well above the state’s. In addition, our proportion of adults with college degrees surpasses the state and nation’s, further contributing to the strength of our work force.
- Because the Madison region, like the state, lags in exports, there are a wide range of groups in the region working hard to improve the presence of our businesses in international markets. These organizations include the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP), the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and the Madison International Trade Association, among others.
With these and other assets, the Madison region is poised to lead the state in economic recovery and job creation and retention. MadREP’s Advance Now strategy is designed to build on the region’s strengths and catalyze growth through initiatives such as:
- A regional business retention and expansion program that identifies and addresses challenges and opportunities for growth.
- An international trade development program that increases regional exports by identifying potential new exporters and leveraging the marked improvements in the state’s international capacity.
- The establishment of a regional network of physical innovative spaces and seasoned mentors for entrepreneurs.
- The strategic alignment of education and work force development efforts with high-growth sectors.
- A more productive and ongoing relationship with site selectors who historically have not had this region on their radar.
Tom Still paints an accurate, if sometimes difficult, picture of the trends driving Wisconsin’s economic performance. But the Madison region has the ingredients necessary to stem the trends that need reversing and leverage the unique advantages of this area to spur the state’s resurgence.