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.

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.

MadREP Announces Entrepreneur Bootcamp in Partnership with Lightship Foundation & The American Family Insurance Institute

Lightship’s Bootcamp is a free entrepreneurship education program, serving underrepresented early-stage business founders.

Lightship Bootcamp is coming to Madison, WI. September 19-21, 2023.

Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) and Lightship Foundation unveiled plans to bring the Lightship Bootcamp program, powered by the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact (the Institute) to the Madison Region. The organizations will host three days of “bootcamp” (September 19-21, 2023) at the Goodman South campus of Madison College, providing mentorship, specialized curriculum, and networking for underrepresented entrepreneurs seeking to grow their businesses within South Central Wisconsin.

“We’re ecstatic to unite with the American Family Institute to introduce Lightship Bootcamps to Madison, Wisconsin,” says Candice Matthews Brackeen, CEO, Lightship Foundation. “Our aspiration is for this partnership to ignite the flames of innovation and opportunity, enriching neighborhoods and empowering founders from diverse backgrounds.”

Bootcamp is designed to help founders rediscover, refine, and reinvent their business strategy while reevaluating their product, sales, and marketing strategies. Interested founders should apply now at

“Equitability, accessibility and inclusivity is sewn into the very fabric of everything we do. When we prioritize equitableness and strategically create opportunities, exciting things start to happen.”

MadREP President & CEO Jason M. Fields, CEcD, CFEI, CCRS

The Madison Region’s upcoming Lightship Bootcamp also serves as the first formal program under the Economic Equity & Investment priority of the organization’s newly formed “Bridge Wisconsin” initiative led by Bridge Wisconsin Chief Strategy Officer Tonnetta Darcel Carter. The initiative works collaboratively to close economic gaps and drive innovation for rural and urban communities, supporting five strategic priority areas: Housing, Early Childhood Education, Economic Equity & Investment, Workforce Development, and Sustainability.

“Equitability, accessibility and inclusivity is sewn into the very fabric of everything we do,” says MadREP President & CEO Jason M. Fields, CEcD, CFEI, CCRS. “When we prioritize equitableness and strategically create opportunities, exciting things start to happen. Lightship Foundation’s Bootcamp, powered by the American Family Institute, is the perfect opportunity to expand economic equity across our region and formally launch our Bridge Wisconsin initiative.”

“The Institute is excited to bring together mission-aligned organizations like Lightship Foundation and MadREP to provide equitable opportunity to founders within the Madison Region,” said Nyra Jordan, social impact director with the Institute. “We believe this is a place where founders of color can thrive, and we want to provide access to world class resources as early as possible.”

“Access to capital has been historically disproportionate for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color,” says Dr. Jack Daniels, President of Madison College. “At Madison College, we pride ourselves on providing equitable and affordable access to resources, technical assistance, and education in our communities. We are excited to host the entrepreneur bootcamp at our Goodman South campus and to welcome Lightship Foundation to our Region.”

The Cap Times: How a former Army strategist plans to close economic gaps in Madison

Economic Development Cap Times LogoSource: The Cap Times

Tonnetta Darcel Carter has spent years solving complex problems in finance and logistics, including as an Army chief of staff involved in some of the earliest troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

Madison Region Economic Partnership, or MadREP, this summer named Darcel Carter as its chief strategy officer for the organization’s new Bridge Wisconsin initiative, which aims to provide economic support and opportunities to rural businesses and entrepreneurs of color.

MadREP is an economic development agency spanning eight counties in south central Wisconsin, including Dane County. The organization provides technical support and opportunities to emerging and minority-owned businesses, attracts businesses to invest in the Madison region and expands export and foreign direct investment opportunities for existing local businesses.

Darcel Carter previously worked with local venture firm gener8tor and served as development director for the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Hope to Health Campaign. She is also the founder and CEO of alternative asset consulting firm Carter Wilson Group, which provides venture and economic development strategies.

Darcel Carter spoke to the Cap Times about her experience in finance and her plans for the Bridge Wisconsin initiative.

First off, could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

My educational background is in finance. I went to (UW)-Whitewater for undergrad. During my second year in school, I joined the Army National Guard, originally as an engineer, and then later became a chief of staff.

During that time, I deployed twice. I spent some time in the Middle East traveling across Afghanistan, where I really focused on demobilization — bringing our troops back home — in 2014. We sent probably close to 20,000 troops home during my time over there.

I then was deployed to South Korea in 2018 under President Trump. That was really what we call a real wartime analysis. So if things were to go haywire during President Trump’s time in North Korea what role would the U.S. play, and what would that involvement look like?

To be at the age that I was, it was very eye opening and (I was) learning how to be a strategic thinker and find creative ways to solve very, very complex problems.

I was (later) appointed to the Board of Veterans Affairs for the state of Wisconsin under Gov. (Tony) Evers, and I’ve been in that capacity since 2019. My bread and butter is really, how do we support our veteran families and our veterans as they’re transitioning to civilian life? That could be supporting veteran entrepreneurs, veteran-owned businesses and things of that nature.

Could you describe MadREP’s new Bridge Wisconsin initiative? What are its goals?

Bridge Wisconsin’s really reflective of our mission to develop a dynamic economy where people and businesses thrive. … We’re looking to improve the quality of life through a community-based investment.

Looking at collected data and surveys across the region, we are seeing what our region’s greatest needs are. That’s when we really identified our top five priorities, and those are housing, early childhood education, economic equity and investment, workforce development and sustainability.

Why did you decide on those five different priorities?

Digging into two of our priorities — housing, for example — studies project there will be (a need for) an estimated 200,000 (new) homes across the state by 2030.

What we’re seeing is that homeownership is very high for our aging population, and that’s at about 81% for those who are 65 and older. As they’re looking to downsize, but not necessarily want or need assisted living, there’s a shortage of accommodation to offer the amenities they desire.

There’s a very low transition for new families and workers. Housing is just not available across the spectrum. In our region we’re looking to really increase homeownership and close those workforce housing gaps by investing in quality, affordable homes.

We plan to do that by partnering with organizations to train and support developers in our counties to really build in their respective areas. That can be through an array of programmatic and/or funding options.

Digging into the economic equity and investment component — which I’m very passionate about — people of color make up approximately 40% of the U.S. population. Yet, these groups own roughly 20% of businesses. Over the past five years, these groups have, I want to say, had an increase of about 22% (in) revenue, yet only 27% of them get fully approved for financing, which is very, very interesting.

Looking at a snapshot of Wisconsin itself, we are ranked as the fourth worst state for entrepreneurs of color. (Wisconsin is actually ranked second-to-last in economic equality, according to a study from WalletHub.)

These groups make up about 21% of our state’s population, and only own roughly 7.4% of our startups and businesses across the state.

At Bridge Wisconsin, we are really looking to support those small and technical businesses by providing real capital and technical resources, which can include capacity building for those entrepreneurs across our region and the state as a whole.

What are some things you’re going to do to close the gap between the rural and urban area in the eight counties?

I think that’s really why we’ve established these five priorities. Looking at, let’s say, workforce development, what you’re seeing across geography is you really serve just to build a robust talent pipeline inclusive of new workers, as well as how we work to upskill existing workers.

So, it’s how we’re providing training across those industries that we’re seeing are very high in our region.

How can we look at, say, cybersecurity, at IT, at manufacturing? How do we give our residents the tools that they need to be successful in these careers? How do we educate, train and retain a workforce that meets current and projected business needs?

We’re seeing that those are the needs across both geographies. Now, how can we help these groups … to really find advancement?

What does the timeline look like for implementation of Bridge Wisconsin? It’s launching in the fall, correct?

Yeah. With anything of this magnitude, we’re not going to launch each priority all at once; we’ll begin to roll them out as they’re being developed. We’re looking to roll out a few of our priorities over the next three to four months. For sure, in the fall, we’ll have at least one priority launched and up and running if things go as planned. Conversations are going really well, so fingers crossed on hitting the ground running in the next couple of months.

What are the things you’re starting off with?

We’re starting off with our economic equity and investment priority.

What are your plans for raising money for these initiatives or getting money sorted out?

Without sharing way too much, we’re having conversations with some really cool organizations about bringing some potential outside capital to Wisconsin for our city entrepreneurs, as well as working with folks who are already doing the work here, amplifying what they’re already doing.

We’ve identified some great potential funding sources for some of those initiatives already.

What do you hope the business investment landscape for this region will look like in the next few years with the help of Bridge Wisconsin?

How do I answer that question? If I could get everything I want and have everything go my way:

I think the landscape, for one, would have more tech-enabled businesses operating for people of color. We would have an increase in revenue and resources in these counties, especially looking at people of color as well as those who are in areas geographically that just don’t have the access to that funding.

Really, oh, my gosh, it will look like just an increase in the millions (of dollars) for entrepreneurs in southwest Wisconsin.

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Blueprint365: MadREP announces new strategic initiative to bridge urban, rural communities

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Source: Blueprint365

The Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) has announced a new initiative, Bridge Wisconsin, to serve as the connection point for the Madison Region, working to collaboratively close the economic gaps and drive innovation for rural and urban communities.

“To be successful, economies must acknowledge and leverage the interdependence between their urban and rural assets,” MadREP CEO Jason M. Fields said in a statement. “When I joined MadREP two years ago, I identified this as our Region’s most pressing obstacle to achieving the next level of success.”

Bridge Wisconsin will support five strategic priority areas: housing, early childhood education, economic equity and investment, workforce development, and sustainability. MadREP welcomes their newest team member, Tonnetta Darcel Carter, to lead the initiative.

Darcel Carter will serve as the chief strategy officer of Bridge Wisconsin, where she will develop and execute the strategic vision of the initiative across the Madison region and throughout the state.

“I recognize that our rural and urban counties are ripe for development, innovation, and expansion, and Bridge Wisconsin is a unique opportunity to lean into our strongest industries and work collaboratively to provide capital and resources to bridge these communities under a shared common goal, advancement,” Darcel Carter said in a statement.

Darcel Carter has served in leadership roles for various public sector organizations, including New Leaders Council-Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Urban League Young Professionals.

Currently, she serves on the Advisory Committee for Waukesha County Technical College Real Estate program and Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs, Board of Veteran Affairs where she helps veteran-owned business, entrepreneurs, and families thrive across the state.

Darcel Carter is a Milwaukee native and alumnae of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she received a degree in finance.

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