Labor Force

Wisconsin Gears Up for More Fab Labs in 2024

2024 is shaping up to be an exciting year for education and workforce development in Southcentral Wisconsin, as the region prepares to welcome a new wave of fab labs. These high-technology workshops are set to revolutionize how students and professionals engage with science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). Let’s explore what this means for the Madison Region.

“Fab labs are a cornerstone of our commitment to fostering innovation and economic growth in the Madison Region. By providing state-of-the-art technological resources and hands-on learning opportunities, we are equipping the next generation with the skills and creativity necessary to excel in an increasingly competitive global market.”

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

The 2024 Fab Labs Awards Announcement

In April 2024, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and Governor Tony Evers announced a significant investment in the state’s educational infrastructure. Over $493,000 in grants have been distributed among 18 school districts to establish or expand fab labs. This initiative is a strategic move to equip students with the skills needed for the modern workforce and ensure that Wisconsin remains competitive in a rapidly evolving economic landscape.

Fab Labs in the Madison Region

The Madison Region, comprised of Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Iowa, Green, Jefferson, Rock and Sauk counties, is a hotspot for these new developments. four school districts in our Region (Deerfield Community School District, DeForest Area School District, Fall River School District and Waunakee Community School District) have been awarded fab lab grants, bringing the total number of fab lab awards in the Region to an impressive twenty-six. These grants represent a commitment to fostering innovation and providing students with hands-on learning experiences.

What Are Fab Labs?

Fab labs, short for fabrication laboratories, are high-technology workshops equipped with state-of-the-art manufacturing components like 3D printers, laser engravers, computer numerical control (CNC) routers, and plasma cutters. These facilities enable students and professionals to design, prototype, and create physical objects, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application.

The Role of Fab Labs in Workforce Development

Fab labs play a crucial role in workforce development by providing students with practical experience in STEAM fields. They help cultivate a skilled workforce ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st-century economy. By engaging with advanced technologies, students gain valuable skills that are directly applicable to industries such as manufacturing, engineering, and design.

Other Districts Receiving Fab Lab Awards

In addition to the schools in the Madison Region, several other districts across Wisconsin have received fab lab grants, including:

  • Butternut School District – $22,000
  • Racine Unified School District – $25,000
  • Tri County Area School District, Plainfield – $25,000
  • CESA 3 (Consortium) – Fennimore – $47,396
  • Hayward Community School District – $25,000
  • School District of Nekoosa – $25,000
  • New Lisbon School District – $25,000
  • Random Lake School District – $24,300
  • St. Croix Central School District – $25,000
  • Washington Island School District – $25,000
  • Weyauwega-Fremont School District – $25,000
  • Whitehall School District (Consortium) – $50,000

The Impact of Fab Labs on the Community

The introduction of fab labs has a ripple effect that extends beyond the classroom. These facilities serve as hubs for innovation and collaboration, bringing together students, educators, and industry professionals. They foster a culture of creativity and problem-solving, encouraging participants to think critically and develop solutions to real-world challenges.

Why Fab Labs Are Essential for Future Growth

In an era where technology is rapidly advancing, it is essential to equip the next generation with the skills and knowledge required to succeed. Fab labs provide a unique opportunity for students to engage with cutting-edge technologies and develop a deep understanding of STEAM subjects. This hands-on experience is invaluable in preparing them for future careers.

How Fab Labs Enhance Learning

Fab labs offer an interactive and immersive learning environment that goes beyond traditional classroom teaching. Students can see their ideas come to life as they work on projects that require critical thinking and technical skills. This experiential learning approach helps students retain information better and fosters a love for learning.

The Role of Educators in Fab Labs

Educators play a pivotal role in the success of fab labs. They guide students through the learning process, helping them understand complex concepts and encouraging them to explore new ideas. Professional development for teachers is also essential to ensure they are well-equipped to utilize fab lab resources effectively.

Success Stories from Fab Labs

There are countless success stories from schools that have integrated fab labs into their curriculum. For instance, students at Seymour High School have used their fab lab to develop innovative projects, ranging from robotics to custom-designed furniture. Projects like these not only enhance their technical skills but also boost their confidence and creativity.

Future Prospects for Fab Labs in Wisconsin

The future looks bright for fab labs in Wisconsin. With continued support from the WEDC and state government, more schools will have access to these valuable resources. WEDC will provide grants of up to $25,000 to eligible Wisconsin public school districts, or up to $50,000 to consortiums of two or more public school districts, for the creation and/or expansion of fabrication laboratories within the school district(s). Visit WEDC’s fab lab resource page to learn more.

How to Get Involved with Fab Labs

If you are interested in fab labs, consider collaborating with local schools, participating in workshops and training sessions, or even setting up a fab lab in your community. WEDC’s fab lab resource page offers valuable information on getting started.

The expansion of fab labs in Southcentral Wisconsin is a significant step towards building a brighter future for students and professionals alike. These high-technology workshops provide invaluable hands-on learning experiences, prepare students for future careers, and foster a culture of innovation and creativity.

If you’re passionate about education and technology, now is the perfect time to get involved and make a difference. Explore the opportunities that fab labs offer and join the movement towards a more skilled and innovative workforce. For more information on how to set up a fab lab or to access resources, visit the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s website.

Unlock the Potential of Diversity and Inclusion with Michele Ghee at the 2024 Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit

In today’s rapidly evolving global market, diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords—they are essential pillars for innovation, growth, and competitive advantage. Recognizing this critical need, the 2024 Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit is proud to announce Michele Ghee as one of our esteemed keynote speakers.

Michele Ghee is a trailblazer in the realms of business development, diversity, and media. With an illustrious career that spans over various leadership roles, including her current position as the Chief Executive Officer at Expectant Media, Michele has consistently leveraged diversity and inclusion to drive business success. Her transformative work in developing EGM, the cultural marketing arm of Endeavor, showcases her unparalleled ability to bring in new business through inclusive strategies.

Ghee’s insights on diversity, inclusion, and business development have been recognized and celebrated across numerous platforms. She has been featured in prestigious publications and has shared her wisdom at significant events, making her an influential voice in the conversation around diversity and inclusion in business (

At the summit, attendees will have the unique opportunity to hear from Michele Ghee firsthand. Her keynote address promises to be a deep dive into how organizations can genuinely embrace diversity and inclusion—not just as moral imperatives but as core drivers of innovation, creativity, and profitability. Ghee’s perspective is particularly relevant as businesses strive to navigate the complexities of today’s economic landscape while fostering an environment where all talents are valued and nurtured.

Moreover, Michele Ghee’s participation in significant initiatives, such as her role in the African American Philanthropy Committee and her leadership at EBONY and JET magazines, underscores her commitment to uplifting diverse voices and stories. Her achievements in driving diversity in creative industries through partnerships with platforms like ADCOLOR further highlight the breadth and depth of her expertise (Cleveland FoundationADCOLOR).

The 2024 Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit is a must-attend event for leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals across all sectors who are committed to leveraging the power of diversity and inclusion for economic growth and innovation. Michele Ghee’s keynote is just one of the many highlights of this summit, which promises to be an enriching experience filled with actionable insights and strategies.

Don’t miss this chance to be inspired and informed by one of the most influential voices in the field of diversity and inclusion. Reserve your tickets now and join us for a transformative experience that will empower you to lead your organization towards a more inclusive and prosperous future.

Reserve your tickets here: 2024 Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit

Embrace the opportunity to shape the future of your organization and the broader economic landscape. We look forward to welcoming you to an event that promises to redefine the paradigms of leadership, diversity, and economic success.

Tickets Now on Sale: Secure Your Spot at the 2024 Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit

The Urban League of Greater Madison together with the Madison Region Economic Partnership is thrilled to announce that the 2024 Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit is officially open for registration. This premier event, set to take place on May 2, 2024, at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in downtown Madison, promises to be an unforgettable day filled with inspiring speakers, innovative ideas, and unparalleled networking opportunities.

The summit stands as the Madison Region’s leading gathering of business and community leaders dedicated to pushing the boundaries of workplace and economic inclusion. It’s more than just a conference; it’s a movement towards creating a more inclusive, diverse, and prosperous region for all.

Why You Should Attend

This year’s summit boasts an impressive lineup of keynote speakers and panelists who are at the forefront of their respective fields. Attendees will have the privilege of hearing from:

  • Michele Thornton Ghee, Business Transformation Visionary and former CEO of Ebony & Jet Magazine, will share her insights on leadership and innovation in media and business.
  • LeRoy Butler, Pro Football Hall of Famer and motivational speaker, will inspire with stories of overcoming adversity and achieving greatness.
  • Matthew Kures, Community Economic Development Specialist and Researcher, will provide valuable data and analysis on regional economic development.
  • Brian “Woody” White, Technology Executive, will delve into the impact of AI on society, jobs, and particularly its implications for communities of color.

These featured speakers, among many other compelling presenters to be announced, guarantee a day rich in knowledge, inspiration, and actionable insights.

What to Expect

The day kicks off with a continental breakfast and networking session, offering a great opportunity to connect with other forward-thinking individuals from across the eight-county Madison Region. Following this, attendees can look forward to:

  • An opening keynote presentation by LeRoy Butler that is sure to motivate and energize.
  • A variety of engaging breakout sessions covering topics ranging from artificial intelligence to entrepreneurship, allowing participants to tailor their summit experience to their interests and professional needs.
  • A luncheon keynote presentation by Michele Thornton Ghee, offering a deep dive into the world of business transformation and media.

Beyond the plenaries and sessions, the summit provides ample opportunities for networking with business, government, nonprofit, and community leaders.

Register Now

With individual and group registration options available, securing your spot at the 2024 Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit has never been easier. Whether you’re attending on behalf of an organization, with a sponsor or special code, or as an individual eager to learn and connect, now is the time to act. Spaces are limited, and you won’t want to miss out on what promises to be the most impactful summit yet.

Your registration includes access to all keynote presentations, breakout sessions, continental breakfast, lunch, and countless opportunities to network and collaborate with peers and industry leaders.

Be Part of the Change

The 2024 Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit is not just an event; it’s a catalyst for change. It’s an opportunity to be part of a collective effort to drive economic growth and promote diversity and inclusion in the Madison region.

Don’t miss this chance to contribute to meaningful conversations, connect with like-minded professionals, and gain insights that could shape the future of your career or business. Reserve your spot today and join us in making a difference.

Click here to register now and secure your spot at the summit.

Let’s come together to envision and build a more inclusive, diverse, and economically vibrant Madison region. See you on May 2, 2024!

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 & Livability Media Launch 2023 Madison Region Economic Development Publication

MadREP is pleased to continue our partnership with Livability Media and introduce our 2023 Madison Region Economic Development publication

Each year our organization collaborates with Livability to create targeted content for talent and business attraction. We consider both larger national trends monitored by Livability and our experiences here in the Region when architecting the publication.

This year in particular, we focused more heavily on the Region’s growing rural and smaller industrial communities. Both locally and nationally, site selection activities have trended towards large developable plots of land, which are typically more available outside major metros.  

The 2023 Madison Region Livability Media content, in addition to promotion by Livability, will be a resource for economic developers throughout our Region as they navigate attracting large employers to more rural areas while demonstrating that the local workforce has access to amenities like quality healthcare, outdoor recreation, family-friendly events and foodie hotspots.