Office of the President
President Kevin P. Reilly
August 23, 2005
Thank you, Jim, and good morning, everyone. On behalf of the University of Wisconsin System, and the four Wisconsin Economic Summits we sponsored, Iím pleased to welcome you to "From the Ground Up," an opportunity to plant the seeds and nurture the ideas that can help to move the new Wisconsin economy to the next level.
Over the course of four Economic Summits, the UW System facilitated a valuable statewide dialogue that focused attention on economic development in Wisconsin, and generated an action agenda. How many of you in this room attended at least one of those summits? The summits resulted in efforts to raise Wisconsinís per capita income, strengthen regional economic cooperation, foster angel investment networks, and create industry clusters. They also served as neutral settings where leaders of business and industry, labor, government, and education could candidly discuss, among other items, Wisconsinís business climate, the health-care cost crisis, and the stateís fiscal situation, as well as hear from national experts on economic development. The summits did two more very important things. They articulated a shared recognition of the stateís economic challenges, and gave us a common vocabulary we could use to talk about them.
This conference is intended to be a continuation of the momentum fostered by the summits and the Building the New Wisconsin Economy activity of 2004. Many of us have heard that "all economic development is local," so this conference is truly more of a grassroots, hands-on opportunity to feature what it takes to be successful in local economic development.
Iím pleased to see so many representatives of all sectors of the Wisconsin economy are here with us ó Governor Doyle and his administration, my K-12 and higher education colleagues, small business owners, industry leaders, media, and lawmakers. All of us share the charge of preserving and enhancing Wisconsinís economic vitality. I invite you to call on the UW System as your resource for innovation, brain power, new technologies, and the next generation of the stateís economic leadership.
For example, many of your organizations already benefit from the UW Systemís role as an economic engine for Wisconsin. The resources of the university system have been central to Governor Doyleís GROW Wisconsin agenda. We recognize that one of our most important roles is to produce an educated workforce, and weíre ready to do even more. Working closely with the Wisconsin Technical College System, weíre developing strategies to further increase the number of baccalaureate degree holders in Wisconsin.
The concept is simple. By increasing the percentage of state citizens who hold four-year college degrees, we can improve Wisconsinís economy through increased per capita incomes, and by attracting high-wage jobs to the state. The Governor recently renewed his support of this goal by his efforts to protect UW System funding in the new state budget. The budget left us with some significant challenges, but weíre grateful for the momentum the Governor was able to provide our efforts to offer greater access to a four-year college education.
And while the UW System is extraordinarily good at providing Wisconsin businesses with well-educated employees, itís only part of what we do. Our next collective challenge is to build an economy for the 21st century that will attract high-paying jobs to employ these graduates, and keep more of them in Wisconsin to live and work.
There is already growing out-of-state demand for the 30,000-plus baccalaureate degree holders we graduate each year, and the draw will only become stronger as the generation of baby-boomers retires. Innovation is imperative if Wisconsin is to keep these valuable young minds in the state, attract their counterparts from out-of-state to work and live here, and if we are to improve Wisconsinís overall quality of life.
Innovation is the key to survival in an increasingly global economy, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates told the National Conference of State Legislatures last week. Universities are the engine of that change, according to Gates.† "There is almost a perfect correlation between areas with good jobs, and universities," he said.†
Weíve realized that Wisconsin needs to be a competitive player in this "brain gain" race, and to that end, the university is devoting resources to economic development priorities with statewide results. For example, the UW System is a primary partner in the Wisconsin Entrepreneurís Network, which is helping to build an entrepreneurial climate that will result in new businesses, more jobs and exciting innovations.
Weíre also making advances every day through UW-Madisonís WARF − the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation − and the university-wide WiSys Technology Foundation. These non-profit university partners work to foster and protect the patents and licenses of UW System inventors, and to stimulate the transfer of these technologies to commercial businesses.
Further, the research capabilities of our 26 campuses and statewide UW-Extension are major magnets for federal and private investment. Much of the $883 million in academic research and development funding that flowed into Wisconsin last year supported groundbreaking research within the UW System ó and the 31,000 Wisconsin jobs that this research makes possible. And thereís more where that came from.
UW System experts and our education partners are a part of every panel and workshop youíll participate in today, and thatís no accident. Youíll hear how the vision and expertise of Wisconsinís colleges and universities intersect with all aspects of the stateís economic growth, and I look forward to your recommendations on how we can contribute even further.
Finally, let me make a pitch, if I may, for the strong, ground-level expertise of my former institution, UW-Extension. As you may know, UW-Extension has offices in every Wisconsin county, and counts among its vital educational programs county-based efforts in community economic development. Backed by University of Wisconsin research from all of our campuses, community economic development educators work in partnership with people in county, state, federal, and tribal governments; community organizations; and business and industry to support sustainable local economic growth. Community by community, UW-Extension is helping to build the new Wisconsin Economic Idea.
I hope that the seeds planted here by each of you will grow into the next big advances for Wisconsinís economy. Again, Iím pleased to welcome you all to "From the Ground Up." Our children, and our grandchildren, and future generations will be the ultimate beneficiaries of your productive thinking. On their behalf and mine, I wish you the best of luck in your deliberations over these two days. Thanks for listening!