Jun 6, 2019

Madison Region Goes to Puerto Rico: An Interview with Michael Gay, MadREP SVP of Economic Development

Michael Gay, SVP of Economic Development

The 11th Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACE) recently took place in Puerto Rico. MadREP’s Senior Vice President of Economic Development, Michael Gay, attended, serving as an ambassador for the Madison Region and shares his insights here.

What is the mission of ACE?

To foster economic resiliency, economic development, innovation, entrepreneurship, strategic partnerships, and trade connections in all the Americas and Caribbean. Fifty global experts from twenty-two countries attended ACE XI in Puerto Rico, including, for the first time, members of European Parliament.


How did MadREP become involved with ACE?

At the request of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, MadREP hosted ACE III within the Region, and then Paul or I attended ACE IV (Argentina), ACE VI (Ontario), and ACE VII (Texas). We fully expect to be in Chile later this year as well. Our collaboration with ACE is a key component of the Region’s international economic development strategy.


Why is it important for MadREP to create and maintain these international connections?

It’s important because it connects our innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, as well as our significant industry clusters, to the rest of the globe. We need to create and maintain our economic legitimacy in the global economy to stay relevant and “top of mind” for regions throughout the world.


How has our Region benefited from MadREP’s involvement with ACE?

Through post-trip follow up, we hope to connect local resources like 100Crypto and StartingBlock Madison with other spaces and networks globally. We also identified potential new research partners for the UW Center for Dairy Research, UW Meat Science & Animal Biologics Discovery, and UW clinical research serving Latino populations. There is also interest in creating global connections for regional high school and college students in makerspaces and fab labs through competitions involving drones, rockets and other experiential learning with counterparts in ACE participant countries. Lastly, we have a better understanding of European Union I&E ecosystem so that startups in the Madison Region who are pursuing a European presence know where to “plug in” with respect to spaces, industry consortiums and nations.


What are some key takeaways/key learnings from this most recent event?

Puerto Rico is resilient in its recovery from Hurricanes Isabel and Maria. They have major industrial assets beyond the more widely-known beautiful tourism assets. In addition, there are opportunities for both the Region and State of Wisconsin to partner, do business, and strengthen ties with Puerto Rico. Furthermore, the rest of the world has taken note of ACE. Western Europe, Asia, and Israel are now attending these events, extending our networking opportunities beyond the host region.