Jessica Reilly

The End of an Era: Celebrating Craig Kettleson’s Tenure at MadREP 

Labor Force Madison WI Primary Industries Kettleson

Today we take a moment to celebrate the invaluable contributions of a pillar in our organization, Craig Kettleson. We also announce, with mixed emotions, his retirement from MadREP after a remarkable tenure filled with numerous achievements and unwavering commitment to economic growth. 

MadREP Contributions 

During his tenure at MadREP, Craig Kettleson achieved significant milestones that greatly bolstered the region’s economic growth and development. 

One of his notable contributions was securing Wisconsin Fab Lab grants, which established fabrication laboratories in local schools. These labs have become thriving hubs for innovation and entrepreneurial activities. 

Kettleson also played a crucial role in establishing and managing the organization’s revolving loan fund, providing vital financial support to local businesses. 

Recognizing the immense potential of the gaming industry, he dedicated himself to establishing the Wisconsin Games Alliance. As a result, M+DEV, an annual game developer conference, came into existence. Furthermore, Kettleson became a passionate advocate for promoting esports in the Madison Region, fostering an environment that nurtures this emerging industry. In 2023, Madison achieved a significant milestone in its growing esports scene when the Minnesota Rokkr, a professional team from the Call of Duty League, hosted a major tournament in the city. This historic event marked Madison’s first in-person, professional esports competition, solidifying the region’s status as a thriving hub for esports activity. The tournament not only showcased elite competitive gaming but also united fans and players, contributing to the vibrant esports community in the area. 

Kettleson’s contributions to MadREP garnered national recognition when the Madison Region received the IMCP (Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership) designation from the federal government. Furthermore, Kettleson took a lead role in drafting key industry sector reports, offering valuable insights into the region’s supply chain and economic landscape. 

Decades of Outstanding Service 

Before joining us at MadREP, Craig served in several key positions, including as VP of Finance, Principal, and Chief Financial Officer for U.S. Foods and Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (USFP), Eslabon Consulting and Investments, LLC, and Woodridge Venture Group, LLC. His mastery of the fiscal side of business, evident in his generation of historical and pro forma financial statements and business planning, was instrumental in raising $1.2MM for USFP. 

Craig’s aptitude for financial analysis and business planning also shone during his time at Eslabon Consulting. He was instrumental in analyzing potential acquisitions and financial investments, providing business planning assistance, and offering business retention and expansion services. 

Entrepreneurial Success 

In 2003, Craig stretched his entrepreneurial muscles and co-founded Woodridge Venture Group, LLC. Under his financial stewardship as CFO, this venture capital business focused on early-stage renewable technologies, successfully raising over $14MM for equity placements in two start-up companies. 

Contributions to Wisconsin Business Innovation Corporation 

From 1998-2003, Craig served as Business Development Manager for the Wisconsin Business Innovation Corporation. His notable achievements included marketing and implementing a $1.2MM Defense Conversion Loan Fund and a $2.7MM USDA Intermediary Relending Program Loan Fund. He played a crucial role in developing a rural Enterprise Center Network and the Wisconsin Rural Enterprise Fund. 

Planning and Community Development 

Craig’s expertise extended beyond finance and business development. He was Lead Planner for MSA Professional Services in Beaver Dam, WI, managing community and land use planning projects, creating 25 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts, and securing millions in business development and infrastructure grants. 

Award-Winning Credentials 

Craig’s credentials speak volumes about his competence and dedication. He holds the American Institute of Certified Planner (AICP) title by the American Planning Association (APA). He is a GrowthWheel Certified Advisor® and was recently designated a certified Incubator manager by the National Business Incubation Association. His educational background includes a B.A. in Political Science with an emphasis in architecture and economics (UW-Milwaukee) and an M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning (UW-Madison). 

Meet Everett Butzine: The New Point of Contact 

Everett Butzine Headshot

As we bid Craig a fond farewell, we are excited to introduce Everett Butzine as the new point of contact for anything previously handled by Craig. 

About Everett Butzine 

Everett is an economic development specialist who will lead initiatives to support the long-term economic growth and success of the Madison Region. He has a rich background in working with local and regional governments, businesses and industry groups, educational institutions, and community organizations. Before joining MadREP, Everett served as executive director of Sherman County Economic Development, Inc. and economic development technician at the City of Oshkosh. 

Leading the Way to 2028 

Everett’s role also includes a vital part in developing our Region’s third comprehensive development strategy, which will guide our activities and priorities through 2028. We are confident that with Everett at the helm, we will continue to see the growth and success that have become synonymous with MadREP. 

As we celebrate Craig’s legacy and the impact he has made on our organization and the Madison Region, we are also excited about the future under Everett’s leadership. Join us in bidding Craig a happy retirement and welcoming Everett to his new role. We look forward to a future of continued growth and success at MadREP. 

Navigating Growth: Tracking Regional Commuting Patterns

As our cities expand and industries diversify, understanding how people move within a region becomes increasingly crucial for economic development organizations (EDOs). Here at MadREP we track regional commuting patterns on our proprietary data dashboard because they serve as a compass for steering sustainable economic growth.

A grid of Madison Region county-to-county commuting patterns.

Insights into Labor Market Dynamics

Tracking regional commuting patterns provides invaluable insights into the dynamics of the local labor market. By understanding where workers live and where they commute to for employment, EDOs can identify areas of labor surplus or shortage. This information becomes a powerful tool for shaping workforce development strategies, attracting businesses that align with local skill sets, and fostering a more balanced job market.

Infrastructure Planning and Investment

Efficient transportation infrastructure is the backbone of any thriving economy. Analyzing commuting patterns helps EDOs identify transportation bottlenecks and areas in need of infrastructure improvements. By strategically investing in roads, public transit, and other commuting infrastructure, regions can reduce commute times, enhance productivity, and attract businesses seeking well-connected locations.

Housing Market Dynamics

Commuting patterns are intricately linked to housing choices. Understanding where workers choose to live in relation to their workplaces can guide EDOs in addressing housing affordability, urban development, and zoning regulations. This information aids in creating communities that are attractive to the workforce, promoting a healthy balance between residential and commercial spaces.

Environmental Sustainability

Commuting has environmental implications, from air quality to carbon emissions. EDOs invested in sustainable development can utilize commuting data to encourage the use of public transportation, cycling, and other eco-friendly modes of travel. By strategically planning business districts and housing developments, regions can minimize the environmental impact of commuting, contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.

Talent Attraction and Retention

Businesses are drawn to regions with a skilled and available workforce. By tracking commuting patterns, EDOs can identify areas with a high concentration of talent and implement strategies to retain and attract skilled workers. This, in turn, makes the region more appealing to businesses looking for a skilled labor pool, fostering a cycle of economic growth.

Policy Formulation and Decision Making

Commuting data serves as a compass for policy formulation. EDOs can tailor policies related to land use, transportation, and economic incentives based on a deep understanding of regional commuting patterns. This data-driven approach ensures that policies align with the actual needs and behaviors of the local workforce, promoting inclusive and sustainable economic development.

To Sum Up

“In the fast-paced realm of economic development, the ability to evolve is key. I believe strongly in the power of tracking regional commuting patterns,” says MadREP VP of Strategic Partnerships Gene Dalhoff. “It’s an essential tool that offers a nuanced understanding of the local economic landscape. By understanding the movements of our workforce, we can make informed decisions that foster sustainable growth, create vibrant communities, and drive our region into a future of prosperity and resilience.”

The 2023 Wisconsin Games Alliance M+DEV Conference: A Hub for Game Development and Innovation

Jason Fields MadREP CEO Panel Discussion Gaming Event
Jason M. Fields, MadREP CEO and experienced economic development professional, recently participated in a panel discussion focused on the thriving gaming sector in Wisconsin’s Madison Region.

The Wisconsin Games Alliance M+DEV conference in 2023 signaled an exciting shift in the gaming industry landscape. With participation soaring up by 60% from the previous year, the event attracted over 750 in-person attendees and 100 online participants, underscoring the vibrant growth of the gaming sector in Wisconsin.

The global games industry, generating a staggering $190 billion in annual revenue, is witnessing an increasing concentration of major studios in Wisconsin. With big players like Microsoft, Krafton, Gearbox/Embracer Group, Entertainment Arts, and Epic Games now calling Wisconsin home, the state is emerging as a significant hotspot for game development.

One of the highlights of the conference was the revelation of why Entertainment Arts chose Wisconsin as the location for its third Respawn Studios, joining its other establishments in Los Angeles and Vancouver. The decision was influenced by factors such as Wisconsin’s high quality of life, lower cost of living, and abundance of talent in the gaming industry. The state’s favorable conditions also enable companies to implement a hybrid model, which is increasingly popular due to shorter commute times.

Despite these advantages, industry leaders suggested that one area that Madison could improve to further support the sector is by increasing the number of direct flights. This unexpected but crucial insight underscores the global nature of the gaming industry and the importance of connectivity in fostering its growth.

The landscape of game development and eSports has never been more exciting, and the Wisconsin Games Alliance M+DEV conference stands as testament to this. As the average salary in game development hovers around $120K per year, the sector promises fruitful careers and a thriving industry, shaping Wisconsin as a magnet for talent and innovation in the gaming realm.

The Madison Region Economic Partnership played a pivotal role in the creation of M+DEV and the Wisconsin Games Alliance, cementing Wisconsin’s position in the global gaming industry. Our dedicated efforts in fostering partnerships, promoting regional growth, and aligning economic development strategies have not only attracted gaming giants to the region but also nurtured local talent. By recognizing the enormous potential of the gaming industry and its capacity to stimulate economic growth, the Madison Region Economic Partnership has been instrumental in transforming Wisconsin into a vibrant hub of game development and e-sports. It serves as a testament to how strategic leadership, coupled with a supportive environment, can unlock a region’s potential and shape its future.

Madison Region Monthly Unemployment Continues to Trend Below National Average

The monthly unemployment rate is more than just a statistic on a government report. It serves as a vital economic indicator that reflects the health of a nation’s job market and the overall well-being of its citizens. By tracking monthly unemployment rates, we gain valuable insights into the state of the economy, make informed decisions, and shape policies that can transform lives.

Over the last year, our Madison Region’s monthly unemployment has trended below both the national average and those of our aspirational peer regions defined in the Region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS): Portland, OR; Ann Arbor, MI; Raleigh, NC and Austin, TX.

“To economic developers like us at MadREP, monitoring unemployment trends is our starting point when investigating potential contributors to a situation,” said MadREP President and CEO Jason M. Fields. CEcD, CFEI, CCRS.

“From there we might find that the availability of child care or gaps within the education pipeline are more heavily influencing the unemployment rate. After better understanding the landscape, we can determine our next steps and may even research how a peer region, such as Austin, Texas, handles similar workforce issues.”

Tracking monthly unemployment rates is paramount for a myriad of reasons. It’s more than just numbers on a page; it’s a reflection of the economy’s health, a compass for policymaking, and an early warning system for potential crises.

Economic Health Barometer

The monthly unemployment rate is, in essence, a barometer of a nation’s economic health. It provides a snapshot of the number of people actively seeking employment and their success in finding jobs. A rising unemployment rate can indicate economic distress, while a declining rate suggests an economy on the mend.

Gauge for Economic Growth

Low and stable unemployment rates are often seen as indicators of a growing and thriving economy. When businesses are hiring, it signifies increased consumer confidence, which, in turn, stimulates economic growth. High unemployment rates, on the other hand, may suggest stagnation or contraction.

Impact on Consumer Spending

Unemployment rates significantly influence consumer spending patterns. When unemployment is low, more people are working and earning, which can lead to increased consumer spending. This, in turn, has a positive ripple effect on businesses, as they experience higher demand for goods and services.

Government Policy Decisions

Policymakers closely monitor unemployment rates when shaping economic and labor policies. High unemployment can lead to efforts to stimulate job creation, such as tax incentives for businesses or workforce development programs. Low unemployment might prompt discussions about policies to ensure a balanced job market, including workforce training and education initiatives.

Social and Mental Well-being

Unemployment doesn’t just affect the economy; it also impacts the well-being of individuals and communities. Tracking monthly unemployment rates is essential for identifying areas where joblessness is high, which can lead to increased poverty, stress, and other social issues. Understanding these rates helps policymakers target support to communities in need.

Early Warning System

Unemployment rates can serve as an early warning system for potential economic crises. A sudden and sharp increase in unemployment can signal looming trouble in the economy. By acting swiftly in response to these indicators, governments can mitigate the severity of economic downturns.

Understanding Workforce Dynamics

Monthly unemployment rates also provide insights into workforce dynamics. They reveal not just the number of people without jobs but also the demographic breakdown, including age, education level, and industry. This information can guide workforce development programs, education initiatives, and job training efforts tailored to specific groups.

By understanding the significance of these rates and using them as a tool to shape decisions and policies, we can work collectively to create a brighter future for all. Unemployment rates aren’t just statistics; they represent real people, and by tracking them diligently, we can ensure that more individuals find stable employment, leading to stronger, more resilient communities and economies. Want to track it for yourself? Keep an eye on MadREP’s Data Dashboard.

MadREP & Partners Steer the State’s Tech Transformation, Achieving Regional Tech Hub Designation

In a historic move underscoring Wisconsin’s prowess in the realm of biohealth technology, the Biden-Harris administration, through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) designated the state as a Regional Technology Hub (RTH). This monumental achievement was celebrated by an array of key figures, including the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP), who were acknowledged alongside Exact Sciences, Governor Tony Evers, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Together, we continue to champion Wisconsin’s leadership in personalized medicine and biohealth technology.

Governor Evers noted, “Wisconsin’s designation as a Regional Tech Hub is a testament to the strength of our state’s biohealth and personalized medicine industry. As this sector continues to grow, it will mean more high-paying jobs and economic growth for our state, as well as innovations that will transform the future of medical care for people in Wisconsin and around the world.”

Senator Baldwin, a staunch advocate for Wisconsin’s tech industry, emphasized the state’s rich tradition of innovation and the transformative potential of the Tech Hub program. She highlighted the significance of fostering collaboration and creating opportunities, sentiments echoed and amplified by MadREP.

“I’d like to congratulate our partners in this endeavor, especially BioForward Wisconsin, Exact Sciences and Senator Tammy Baldwin. To be part of the coalition that came together to form the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub Consortium is an experience I, along with the rest of my team at MadREP, won’t soon forget,” said Jason Fields, CEcD, CFEI, CCRS, President and CEO of the Madison Region Economic Partnership.

“The future of Wisconsin’s personalized medicine tech hub will spur growth throughout our key industry sectors in southcentral Wisconsin. I’d also like to thank our friends at EDA. It’s an honor to work with them daily on initiatives like this one to advance economic growth and equity in the Madison Region. In fact, they recently asked our organization to pursue the Economic Development District (EDD) designation on behalf of the Region to expand opportunities to do just that!”

At the heart of this transformative journey lies the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub Consortium, a collaborative effort bringing together 15 public and private partners, including esteemed entities like GE HealthCare, Rockwell Automation, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This coalition, uniting educational institutions, biohealth companies, precision manufacturers, and investors, aims to enhance collaboration and secure the coveted RTH designation.

The RTH designation holds the promise of transformative change, promising shared data systems, streamlined supply chains, improved access to capital, and equitable opportunities for all Wisconsinites. With Madison, Dane County’s vibrant economic epicenter, at its core, the RTH initiative is poised to not only bolster the local economy but also create a ripple effect felt across the entire state.

A cornerstone of the consortium’s vision is personalized medicine, a field poised to revolutionize healthcare. By tailoring treatments to individual patients’ specific medical needs, this approach promises faster healing, reduced reliance on chronic care, minimized side effects, and equitable healthcare access, aligning perfectly with MadREP’s vision of a thriving and healthy community.

“The Regional Tech Hub designation confirms what we already know about Wisconsin: when it comes to bringing together the best in research and development, cutting-edge manufacturing, highly skilled and educated workers, and a commitment to relentless improvement, no state is better prepared to lead the way, said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “This is a huge win in creating an economy for all, where everyone has the opportunity to live healthy, prosperous lives.”

Wisconsin’s designation as a Regional Technology Hub marks a pivotal moment in the state’s history. It signifies not just progress but a testament to the power of collaborative vision and dedicated leadership. As Wisconsin steps into this new era of innovation, it does so leading the charge, inspiring other regions and states to dream big, collaborate fervently, and, above all, believe in the transformative power of united effort.