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Friday, November 8, 2002

Wisconsin Economic Summit III

Regent President Guy Gottschalk

Board of Regents
November 8, 2002

Good morning. I'd like to begin with a short report on the recent Wisconsin Economic Summit III.

First, I'd like to thank Regent Jay Smith and President Katharine Lyall for co-hosting another successful statewide summit. As usual, they did the UW System proud. I'd also like to thank Dick Wegner and Laurie Dies, our summit coordinators for all their hard work. I think many of us who have attended all three of our summits, felt that this was the best and most newsworthy summit to date.

This year's summit was about results, action and implementation. It brought about broader participation and more "skin in the game," if you will from a variety of organizations. It fostered collaboration, both in terms of the cluster approach to economic development and getting more organizations to pledge working together. And, once again, as a subtext, this year's summit highlighted the important role that the university is playing in local, regional and statewide economic development.

I'd like to take a few minutes to share some of the flavor and substance of Summit III for the benefit of those of you who were not able to be there. If you would like more information, I urge you to look on our website: www.wisconsin.edu for a very detailed report.

More than 800 people attended the three-day meeting which was again held at the Midwest Express Center in downtown Milwaukee. The first day offered two-dozen pre-summit workshops on a wide variety of topics including one on education as an economic cluster. It was reported at that session which featured Regent Burmaster, President Lyall, Technical College President Richard Carpenter and WAICU president Rolf Wegenke that the education industry in Wisconsin contributes more than thirty billion dollars a year to the Wisconsin economy. We are a major cluster in the state.

On Monday evening the summit officially kicked off with an opening reception that featured Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker who stressed the importance of economic partnerships

Regent Smith kicked off Tuesday morning by outlining the charge for this year's summit and urging the focus on action, results and implementation while President Lyall reported on the state's progress since last year's summit. Despite the lagging economy, Wisconsin has made impressive advances in expanding jobs, garnering more venture capital and developing both cluster and regional approaches to economic development.

Tuesday morning featured presentations from Governor McCallum and Wall Street Journal editorial page Editor Paul Gigot, a native of Green Bay who said Wisconsin has a strong business reputation nationally based on its excellent educational systems, its efforts to reform welfare, and its populist citizenry.

Gary Stern, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank, gave a widely publicized speech on the state of the nation's economy, saying that he sees a gradual recovery ahead especially if worker productivity continues on a favorable trend.

William M. Daley, former secretary of commerce and current president of SBC Communications was our luncheon keynote speaker who called for business, government and academia to tackle hard economic development questions together and pledged that SBC, with strong roots in Wisconsin, would continue to play an active role in economic growth here.

Perhaps the summit's most provocative session was the fiscal reform panel. A distinguished bipartisan group of former state officials presented its recommendations for filling the state's $2.8 billion budget gap. The panel urged a combination of base cuts, including a $25 million cut to the university's base budget, personal income tax cuts and sales tax increases to fill the gap. The group also called for a budget stabilization fund to prevent future fiscal crises.

The report, though widely criticized by political candidates, was praised by others as the first serious bipartisan attempt to address the state's fiscal crisis without resorting to gimmicks and with close attention to the impact of fiscal solutions on economic development.

Wednesday morning featured Governor Candidate (Governor elect) Jim Doyle who noted that Wisconsin's future economic success hinges on the continued strength of its K-12 and higher education systems.

A highlight of the summit was the announcement Wednesday morning of the formation of the Wisconsin Economic Collaboration Council, initiated by a group of business, government, education and nonprofit leaders.

The council will provide a platform for conversations among the dozens of statewide, local and regional organizations that are working on economic action plans. The university will be an active member of the new council which plans to review current economic development strategies and share "best practices" to help organizations avoid duplication. The council also will explore taking on the responsibility of hosting future economic summits.

Regent Smith closed out Summit 3 by assuring the audience that there would be a fourth summit next year and by announcing that Robert W. Baird & Company had pledged significant financial support to make that happen. He urged lawmakers, state officials and particularly business leaders to stay involved in collaborative economic development efforts.

In summary, with the continued leadership of Regent Smith and President Lyall and the hard work of UW System staff and faculty, the Wisconsin Economic Summit has become the focal point for assessing and promoting state economic development. Its long-range goal has been to foster the kind of information sharing and collaboration that characterized this year's summit. This program has been a remarkable success. It has served not only to illustrate the university's contribution to the state economy but also to get Jay's famous three legs of the stool - education, government and business - working much more closely together.

I think we can all feel very good about this effort and about the new Wisconsin Economic Collaboration Council. Jay or Katharine, do you want to add any comments?

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