Wisconsin Economic Summit IV workshops showcase state’s economic development initiatives
MILWAUKEE—Wisconsin must invest not only in emerging high-tech opportunities but also in its traditional industries to build the state’s economic future, according to a panel of experts who spoke Monday (Oct. 27) at Wisconsin Economic Summit IV.
"This is not an either/or decision,” said Cory Nettles, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. "We need to do both.”
Nettles moderated a session titled “Harnessing Technology to Build Tomorrow’s Economy,” one of 24 workshops that opened the University of Wisconsin System’s fourth economic summit at the Midwest Airlines Center.
He and several panelists outlined the great promise of Wisconsin’s growing technology sector. They also urged that the private investors and government not overlook the opportunities still available in Wisconsin’s traditional industries, including manufacturing.
Bob Brennan, outgoing president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, stressed that Wisconsin is well positioned to take advantage of the knowledge economy in the future.
“I think the entire state, the entire country and really the entire world is beginning to see the strengths we have here, especially in biotechnology,” said Brennan, who is now working with the new UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations.
Lane Brostrom, managing director of TechStar, explained the efforts that his organization is taking to fuel Wisconsin’s knowledge-based businesses. TechStar is a collaboration of several universities and organizations in southeast Wisconsin that promote the development and funding of start-up companies.
"The academic infrastructure is already in place here for our knowledge-based economy,” Brostrom said. “But to attract more venture capital, we need more and more good ideas for people to invest in here.”
John T. Byrnes, executive managing director of Mason Wells, a Milwaukee private-equity company, emphasized that Wisconsin has particular strengths in several technology sectors. These include information technology/mass data storage; health care and life sciences; and distance education/e-learning. The convergence of these sectors could be very powerful in the future, Byrnes said.
“We think Wisconsin has the potential to be a big player and provide systems in these areas for the entire health care industry,” he said.
Lloyd M. Smith, director of the Genome Center of Wisconsin and professor of chemistry at UW-Madison, discussed what steps the university is taking to promote biotechnology research. He mentioned the BioStar Initiative, a $317 million project to construct four new research facilities on campus over 10 years, with funding from the state and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the patenting and licensing arm of the university.
“The BioStar Initiative offers great promise for the future,” he said.
Other workshops on Monday highlighted numerous local, regional and statewide economic development efforts. Panelists spoke on topics including venture capital, nonprofit organizations, homeland security, public and private partnerships, small business, tourism and e-commerce.
The following is a snapshot of other topics presented during Monday’s sessions.
Accessing the Resources of the UW System: More to offer than just a quality education
The University of Wisconsin System is a statewide network of potential resources that can guide business and industry in the knowledge economy, panelists demonstrated on Monday.
As a whole, the UW System offers resources for every sector of the economy, said panel moderator David J. Ward, president of NorthStar Economics.
For example, Ward said the UW System produces graduates who enter the workforce; manages portions of Wisconsin’s environment; operates buildings that house groundbreaking research and outreach work; offers expertise from faculty and staff; holds important pieces of intellectual property; manages data and technology through libraries and advances like Internet 2 and distance learning; improves the state’s overall quality of life; and offers access to its systemwide network through its 26 campuses and UW-Extension.
In addition, each institution in the UW System offers unique skills and specialties that can be tailored to specific Wisconsin businesses, Ward said.
Charles Hoslet, managing director of the UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations, said the office’s mission is to serve the complex needs of business in Wisconsin. As the place where businesses can enter the “front door” to campus resources, the office also helps to build a stronger state economy, he said.
Hoslet said the university as a whole provides businesses with highly trained workers, continuing education opportunities, and options for transferring technology to the private sector and through its patent and licensing arm, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and its subsidiary, WiSys.
In an effort to better serve Wisconsin businesses, Hoslet said WARF recently launched the Wisconsin Initiative, which seeks to inform businesses in the state about WARF technologies that could increase their success.
William Gregory, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at UW-Milwaukee, highlighted the Milwaukee Industrial Innovations Center, just one of many services the campus offers for businesses.
The center operates as a clearinghouse for information about the wide variety of services offered by the campus, and seeks to develop collaborations with industry, such as the Center for Energy Research and the Wisconsin Collaboration for Cybersecurity, he said.
UW-Stout established its Stout Technology Transfer Institute as a way to directly enhance the quality of the learning process on campus, said Bob Meyer, dean of the campus’ College of Technology, Engineering and Management.
UW-Stout places a great deal of value on “experiential,” or hands-on, learning, and the centers under the Stout Technology Transfer Institute fit that mission, Meyer said.
“One of the parts of that is the search for real problems,” Meyer said.
The institute houses eight centers, which allow campus partners to assist businesses with work such as improving standards, innovation, manufacturing, business development, and product and process design, Meyer said.
One measure of the institute’s success: Clients have reported more than $110 million in impacts since 1994, Meyer said.
UW-Extension is the UW System’s statewide network that can bring all these resources together, said Marv Van Kekerix, provost and vice chancellor for UW-Extension.
UW-Extension is the “Wisconsin Idea in action,” he said, and works in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties to provide access to the UW System and the new technologies it holds. For example, UW-Extension provides access to education through Learning Innovations, the online partner for UW campuses, and has helped developed industry clusters in agriculture and plastics.
One of the UW-Extension’s most valuable offerings is the variety of experts who know how to facilitate collaborative approaches to problem solving, he said.
“This, too, is about access—access to the latest ways of thinking,” Van Kekerix said.
Wisconsin Women = Prosperity
Wisconsin women hold the key to the state’s economic success, and a new state initiative will help to remove barriers and improve their status, Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton told workshop attendees on Monday.
Lawton explained that the initiative, titled “Wisconsin Women = Prosperity, will study four facets of women’s status in Wisconsin: economic sufficiency; educational achievement, health, safety and well-being; and political participation.
“When we unleash the talents and resources of our women on Wisconsin, then our economy will prosper. We know that’s true,” Lawton said.
The project will first look to create a cost-benefit analysis of current opportunities and contributions from Wisconsin women, and will later move to make recommendations for change in public policy, Lawton said.
The initiative seeks to create the “clearest picture ever of the status of women” by combining the “brain trust” talents of the LaFollette School of Public Affairs, housed at UW-Madison, with the input of more than 700 women from across the state, Lawton added.
For context about the project, Ellen Bravo, national executive director of 9 to 5, the National Association of Working Women, presented case studies in which women altered their careers or lifestyles based on workplace policies.
For example, Bravo told the story of one woman who was forced back to public assistance after being fired from her job for staying home with a sick child. In an example of progress, Bravo said another company was able to retain several female employees when it began offering child care.
“No business should be at a competitive disadvantage because their competitors aren’t doing what is, in fact, the right thing to do,” Bravo said.
Lawton said such stories are important to share as part of the initiative, but are not easy or simple to tell.
“We know women can be the driver for economic success in Wisconsin,” Lawton said. “We will bring their talents, lift their lives, and bring everyone else up with them.”
Partnerships: Linking Cutting Edge Research with Economic Development
The UW System's Distinguished Professors Program has linked university expertise with hundreds of Wisconsin businesses and industries in need of scientific solutions, making it a key method of technical transfer in the state, summit attendees learned Monday.
The program pairs 20 designated researchers at multiple UW campuses with mostly small and medium-sized businesses across the state that do not have the research and development resources larger companies possess. A panel of distinguished professors from three different UW campuses spoke, including:
The distinguished professors program, which began in 1987, benefits more than just individual companies. It has yielded gains for the state's environment, given UW students research experience, and provided data to governmental and citizen groups for use in policy making.
Collaborative Research at UW-Eau Claire
Students and faculty from UW-Eau Claire presented a session that highlighted initiatives combining research and academics in service to the community. Students are required to participate in 30 hours of service learning, and participants said some of the efforts allow them to meet that requirement while earning course credit or collaborating with faculty and staff, industry or community organizations.
Wisconsin organizations present new efforts
The NEW Economy
A new study of opportunities in Northeast Wisconsin will seek ways to strengthen Wisconsin’s creative economy by recognizing that workforce development and economic development are interrelated and interdependent, a working group announced Monday at the start of Wisconsin Economic Summit IV.
The study, titled “The NEW Economy,” or The Northeast Wisconsin Economic Opportunity Study, brings together workforce development experts, local elected officials and economic development partners to create solutions toward replenishing the economy in the northeast part of the state.
The 16-county region has experienced significant losses in manufacturing jobs over the last 24 months, a trend researchers said they hope the study will correct.
The study, to be completed in three phases, is expected to:
The study is expected to be complete in June 2004.
Bioscience Wisconsin 2004
Wisconsin’s 248 bioscience companies generated nearly $5 billion in sales in 2002, the fruits of one of Wisconsin’s most rapidly growing industries, according to a new report unveiled Monday by the Wisconsin Association for Biomedical Research and Education.
WABRE Executive Director Gale Davy said the report, titled “Bioscience Wisconsin 2004,” is dedicated to the research scientists who fuel the bioscience industry for Wisconsin.
“Research scientists are superheroes in disguise,” Davy said. “Our scientists compete for the funding that there is, and they compete very successfully.”
The report includes information on the growth of bioscience in the state and across the nation; the economic impact of bioscience research, development and industry; and economic development efforts stemming from the wide range of highly specialized research taking place at Wisconsin’s institutions.
Davy noted that each scientist interviewed as part of the report said they were attracted to the state because of the educational opportunities available.
“We attract the best graduate students and the best post-docs because of our research institutions,” Davy said.
“Even though it is a small part of the state economy, bioscience is an area of growth,” Davy continued. “We should see this continue to grow and become a significant part of our economy.”
“Bioscience Wisconsin 2004” is scheduled for a full release on Wednesday at the State Capitol.
Lawton praises attendees for economic development efforts
The summit concluded its first day of events Monday evening with a reception featuring remarks by UW System President Katharine C. Lyall, UW System Board of Regents President Toby Marcovich and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton.
Lyall thanked the participants for contributing to Wisconsin’s economic future.
“Today’s workshops remind us that this economic summit is not only about what is good for business in the state,” Lyall said. “It is about the quality of life in this state. It is about providing opportunities for all our citizens to realize their dreams and to make sure that all Wisconsin citizens have access to quality education and employment opportunities that will enhance and enrich their lives.”
Lyall also thanked the summit’s sponsors, including Journal Communications, The Bradley Foundation, We Energies, Alliant Energy, Madison Gas & Electric Co., Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, Kikkoman Foods, Inc., SBC Paging, Xcel Energy, American Transmission Company, The Widget Source and Sonic Foundry.
Lyall then introduced Marcovich, who noted the progress of the summits and how they have influenced state economic development and the work of the UW System.
“Every one of our campuses has been much more intensely engaged over the last few years in regional economic development,” Marcovich said. “I see it in my own hometown of Superior. And I know it’s going on all around the system. We are proud of the contributions of faculty, staff, students and chancellors to this critical state need.”
In her remarks, Lawton stressed that economic development is more than just creating jobs. It is about developing a quality of life that includes vibrant educational systems, arts and cultural opportunities, diversity and increased roles for women in leadership, she said.
One of the best ways to boost personal income and create a healthy business climate, Lawton added, is to increase the number of Wisconsin residents with college degrees. She urged university officials to maintain access and affordability for students and work even closer with the state’s technical colleges to meet this goal.
“These efforts will make Wisconsin irresistible to new growth,” she said.
—Tuesday's sessions are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. and include remarks from UW Board of Regents President Toby Marcovich, UW System President Katharine C. Lyall, Summit Co-Chair Jay L. Smith, Chairman of the Board of Cisco Systems John Morgridge and Gov. Jim Doyle, as well as general sessions on health care costs and regional economic development initiatives.
— Produced by UW System University Relations, with assistance from Laura Hunt, UW-Milwaukee.
— Photos: Alan Magayne-Roshak, UW-Milwaukee.