Vaughn McLean

Hundreds Gathered at Monona Terrace to Celebrate Economic Development + Diversity

Javier Avila Speaking at ConferenceThe 2022 Madison Region Economic & Development Diversity Summit returned for an in-person summit for the first time since 2019. After a three year wait, the Madison Region Economic Partnership and the Urban League of Madison gathered professionals from the Madison Region together to discuss pressing topics at the intersection of diversity & inclusion and economic development.

Javier Avila Trouble With My NameThe 9th annual summit featured nationally renowned keynote speakers, engaging breakout sessions, and thought-provoking conversations that inspired, educated, and challenged attendees on issues of workforce, community, and economic development.

The morning was kicked off by the first keynote speaker, the award-winning novelist and poet Javier Ávila, who performed his one-man show “The Trouble with My Name.” The performance incorporated comedy, poetry, and clever storytelling highlighting the American Latino experience and the difficulties he faced when relocating from his native Puerto Rico to the unfamiliar state of Pennsylvania. The performance provides a fascinating perspective of American Latinos who struggle to dispel misconceptions about their identity and place in the world. One of the biggest difficulties he faced was having his name pronounced correctly by his peers. Dr. Ávila informed attendees that names, like our culture and our heritage, matter too much to live in ignorance.

In between speakers several breakout sessions were held by economic development leaders of the Madison Region. Topics covered included racial disparities in home ownership, addressing cultural conflict in the workplace, creating spaces for people to thrive, financial literacy in the workplace, providing equitable career-based learning, and the South Madison renaissance.

Justin Jones-Fosu Keynote Speaker Bringing PassionThe day was capped off by an energetic keynote presentation from Justin Jones-Fosu, CEO of Work. Meaningful. Justin taught attendees how to apply everyday diversity that leads to collaboration and innovation on a deeper level. We can leverage the power of listening to appreciate and apply different perspectives that create sustainable cultures of high-performance amongst employees in the workplace.

If you missed out on this highly educational and inspirational experience, we hope you’ll join us for the 10th annual Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit in May of 2023!

Justin Jones-Fosu to Speak on Sustainable Excellence and Bring Passion to Your Work

Justin Jones-Fosu MBA, CSP, is a full-time father with ventures in keynote speaking, social entrepreneurship, and meaningful work research. Currently, Jones-Fosu is the founder and CEO of Work. Meaningful. where he works to help others shift their perspective on their own work from finding work that they are passionate about to bringing passion to the work they are currently doing.

Jones-Fosu’s inspiration to start Work. Meaningful. came from his own experiences working in the business world. He started a dishwashing business at 14 and eventually landed a leadership position at a top financial firm.

At his firm, Jones-Fosu began experiencing the same workplace emotions that plague much of the workforce today – wondering whether there was any meaning to his work and looking forward to the weekend and vacations more than going to work. To combat this, Jones-Fosu asked himself two questions: “Who is the only person I can control?” and “What do I want to get out of this experience?”

These two questions helped shift Jones-Fosu’s perspective and his approach to work. Once he made the shift from trying to find his passion to being passionate about where he was at, the promotions and leadership positions began coming in droves.

After more than a decade in leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies, Jones-Fosu, pivoted to using his experience and research to help organizations create new rhythms of sustainable excellence, profitability, and engagement to inspire peak performance, well-being and empowerment for their employees.

Be sure to experience Justin Jones-Fosu’s dynamic and engaging presentation at the Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit taking place on Tuesday, August 16 at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center (One John Nolen Drive, Madison, 53703) from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Tickets are on sale now at

Javier Ávila to Bring His Unique Blend of Social Justice and Storytelling to the 2022 Summit

The 9th annual Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit returns for an in-person gathering of business and community leaders committed to advancing workforce diversity, social justice and economic inclusion. Hosted by MadREP and the Urban League of Greater Madison, participants will hear from dynamic national, regional, and local speakers while engaging in ample networking opportunities.

One of the featured keynote speakers at the Summit will be Dr. Javier Ávila. Dr. Ávila is a man of many talents, all of which are on display in his one-man show, “The Trouble with My Name”, where he skillfully combines poetry and comedy to shed light on the American Latino experience.

While Dr. Ávila’s show has been a raging success with 150 shows in 22 different states, he has also experienced success in other avenues, most notably in academia where he was the first Latino to be named Professor of the Year for the state of Pennsylvania. Dr. Ávila is also an award-winning novelist having won the ICP Book of the Year Award and the Pen Club Book of the Year Award for his novels El Papel del Difunto and La Simetría del Tiempo, respectively. This will be Dr. Ávila’s first performance in Wisconsin.

The Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit will take place on Tuesday, August 16th at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center (One John Nolen Drive, Madison, 53703) from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased at this link. Purchase your tickets by July 1st to take advantage of the early bird special. On July 2nd, ticket prices will increase from $199 to $249.

MadREP joins WLCO’s “Your Talk Show” to Discuss Workplace Vanpooling in the Madison Region

Madison Region Economic Partnership President and CEO, Jason Fields, and Vice President of Talent and Education, Gene Dalhoff, went on “Your Talk Show” with Tim Bremel of WCLO, a radio station based in Janesville with a signal extending to most of the Madison Region. The three discussed MadREP’s new workplace vanpooling pilot program and the state-instituted Main Street Bounce Back program, among other economic development topics.

To help small business owners, MadREP, in partnership with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, has been granting $10,000 to eligible business owners who locate or relocate to a vacant space. This program was recently extended to the end of the year, and grants will continue to be disbursed on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds have been disbursed. While these grants can be a big help to any business, Jason Fields believes that they could be even more impactful when combined with access to the resources and knowledge necessary to maintain a sustainable business, and he plans to supplement this program in the future.

MadREP also discussed their partnership with Enterprise to begin offering workplace vanpooling to businesses in the Madison region. VP of Talent and Education, Gene Dalhoff, was inspired by Dodge County cheese producer, Paul Scharfman, who created a vanpool program for his business to galvanize the rural workforce that wanted to work, but just couldn’t find reliable transportation. Scharfman started his venture in 2018 to transport workers in the rural surrounding area to his business in Reeseville, a town of approximately 700 residents. The cheese producer’s innovative strategy found him all the employees he needed, as well as a waitlist of people wanting to work for him.

MadREP is looking to recreate Specialty Cheese’s success throughout their eight counties, starting with a pilot program of a handful of vans subsidized by MadREP. Our hope is for the program to reach 100 vans to help businesses and workers in the region who are experiencing challenges with transportation, a win-win proposition for the Madison Region.