September 19, 2021
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MadREP's President & CEO Jason Fields joins us for this episode of Competitive Wisconsin's Heads Up Podcast to discuss an innovative program MadREP is offering to its regional partner communities to address both access to, and cost associated with, broadband in their communities.

Mr. Jason Fields, newly appointed President & CEO of the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP), joins us to discuss key opportunities facing the eight county region and his vision for post-pandemic growth and prosperity in both the urban and rural areas of MadREP.

Wisconsin Dairy Business Association President Amy Penterman and Director of Government Affairs John Holevoet talked about the critical role dairy businesses plays in Wisconsin economic wellbeing. They see positive things happening and identify some exciting potential opportunities, but they also offer a hard-headed assessment of the challenges rural employers and businesses are facing when it coms to workforce shortages and access to broadband.

Wisconsin’s longest serving Governor, Tommy G. Thompson (Governor 1987-2001) returned to public life from a successful career in the private sector last Summer to become Interim President of the University of Wisconsin System (UWS). Within 60 days on the job, he was already talking about the need for a more robust commitment to the Wisconsin Idea and offering specific ideas on a broader, even more collaborative role for the UWS. This HeadsUp! Podcast showcases the Governor's vision for online learning and the impact it can make for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s longest serving Governor, Tommy G. Thompson (Governor 1987-2001) returned to public life from a successful career in the private sector last Summer to become Interim President of the University of Wisconsin System (UWS). Within 60 days on the job, he was already talking about the need for a more robust commitment to the Wisconsin Idea and offering specific ideas on a broader, even more collaborative role for the UWS. This HeadsUp! Podcast showcases both some of the Governor’s bold ideas and his commitment to getting things done.

At the end of November 2019, CWI hosted a day-long Action Accelerator for more than 100 business executives and workforce, economic and community development experts from across the state at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. As a part of the Accelerator we asked more than 30 individuals to share their assessment of how their field of expertise, place of business and/or community was being affected by workforce shortages. Please find below, excerpts from some of their interviews.

Workforce Housing
Dr. Kurt Paulsen
Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, UW-Madison

 


K-12 Education
Mr. Jim Rickabaugh 
Sr. Advisor, Institute for Personalized Learning


Health Care
Mr. Tim Size
President and CEO, Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative


Local Government
Mr. Chris Holman 
County Executive, Portage County




Mr. Paul Farrow
County Executive, Waukesha County


Agri-Business
Mr. Dan Smith
President & CEO, Cooperative Network


Manufacturing
Mr. Tim Sullivan 
former President & CEO, REV Group



Mr. Austin Ramirez
President & CEO, HUSCO International

 


Workforce Development
Ms. Laura Catherman
WOW Workforce Development Board


Technical Education
Ms. Patti Balacek
Regional Director, Workforce Development, Western Technical College



CWI’s HeadsUp! Podcast for this edition takes us to the front lines of Wisconsin’s current unemployment and workforce challenges for a conversation with Anthony Snyder, CEO, Fox Valley Workforce Development Board and Chair of the Executive Committee, Wisconsin Workforce Development Board Association.

EXPERTISE, EXPERIENCE AND LOCAL WISDOM MUST INFORM THE PROCESS

Based on the decision to, “…compile a county-based assessment of needs, challenges, resources and opportunities,” Mark O’Connell identified a list of counties for the group’s consideration. (See Figure 1) Dale Knapp, Director of Forward Analytics at the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA), then developed a key data sheet for each of the nine counties identified. (See Example in Figure 2)

Figure 1

Figure 2

 

The group then used the WCA Forward Analytics data to identify areas where we need more information and to develop possible questions for discussions with local officials and other community leaders. (See Figure 3)

Figure 3

In early November, the Wisconsin Counties Association facilitated the convening of two independent virtual meetings with elected leaders and economic development professionals from Dodge and Portage to talk about the work CWI and others were doing; to hear what leaders in Dodge and Portage were doing; and to explore whether or not opportunities existed that might warrant further discussion.

Dodge County Zoom Participants

  • Russell Kottke, Chair, Dodge County Board
  • David Frohling, Dodge County Board
  • Jim Mielke, Dodge County Executive
  • Nate Olson, Planning & Economic Development, Dodge County
  • Mark O'Connell, Executive Director, Wisconsin Counties Association
  • Dale Knapp, Director, Forward Analytics
  • Bob Borremans, Wisconsin Rural Partnership
  • Paul Scharfman, President & CEO, Specialty Cheese Company
  • Jim White, Professor, Agriculture Economics, UW-River Falls
  • Jim Wood, Strategic Counsel, Competitive Wisconsin, Inc.
  • Kennan Wood, President, Wood Communications Group

Portage County Zoom Participants

  • Al Haga Jr., Chair, Portage County Board
  • Chris Holman, Portage County Executive
  • Todd Kuckkahn, Executive Director, Portage County Business Council
  • Mark O'Connell, Executive Director, Wisconsin Counties Association
  • Dale Knapp, Director, Forward Analytics
  • Paul Scharfman, President & CEO, Specialty Cheese Company
  • Jim White, Professor, Agriculture Economics, UW-River Falls
  • Jim Wood, Strategic Counsel, Competitive Wisconsin, Inc.
  • Kennan Wood, President, Wood Communications Group

From CWI’s point of view, all of the conversations were cordial, informational and helpful. In keeping with the groups original intent, the conversations touched on three main informational areas.

Local elected officials and economic/ community development professionals shared their thoughts about immediate and short-term needs, challenges and opportunities.

Mr. O’Connell and Mr. Wood commented on the importance of attracting people, jobs and capital to rural areas and about emerging opportunities and possibilities that might be relevant to the current challenges and opportunities.

Mr. Scharfman and Professor White provided specific examples of how rural areas might attract private equity capital.

Broadband internet has become a lifeline between our seniors and the care they need; our children and the education they must have; our workforce and the paychecks they depend upon; and our farmers and the information they need to grow the food we and the world depends upon. And while the discussions of late have been focused on the need for broadband in rural Wisconsin, there are still gaps in urban areas that need to be addressed if Wisconsin's economy is going to thrive in the future. The Wisconsin REALTORS Association (WRA) is launching an aggressive informational and legislative initiative to make sure Wisconsinites have the broadband access they need. Learn more as Tom Larson, Executive Vice President for WRA talks with Mark O’Connell, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Counties Association and WCA Forward Analytics Director Dale Knapp about this timely focus on an urgent Wisconsin need.

THE NATURE OF THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Competitive Wisconsin, Inc.(CWI) is working in collaboration with interested groups, organizations, individuals, and institutions to achieve research-based consensus on the nature of the challenges and opportunities; identify realistic, achievable options for achieving specified objectives; and help develop public consensus around the actions required to translate the vision into reality. (See Background & Context Article)

It’s about understanding the nature and severity of the challenges confronting rural Wisconsin in terms of who they affect, how they affect them and what that means for them, for us and for Wisconsin.

During the late Summer and Fall of 2020, representatives from CWI, the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Cooperative Network, Wisconsin Rural Partners, the Special Cheese Company and Dr. Jim White, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at UW-River Falls convened virtually on a regular basis to enhance their understanding of Wisconsin’s rural challenges and opportunities.

Most of the representatives came to the meetings in agreement that focusing exclusively on immediate needs consumed resources, limited our ability to address challenges and seize opportunities and would ultimately be counterproductive. (see Figure 1)

Figure 1

As discussions progressed, it was also clear that: a ) there was agreement that when resources are appropriately and effectively allocated to address not only needs, but also challenges and opportunities, it is possible to improve mid and long-term outcomes (see Figure 2); and b) that the approaches the group had discussed could both independently and collaboratively play an important role in addressing rural challenges and opportunities. (see Figure 3).

 Figure 2

 

Figure 3

Seeking more substance and texture related to the public and private options discussed, the group agreed to initiate an effort to compile a county-based assessment of needs, challenges, resources and opportunities; to identify both traditional and innovative avenues for engagement with those needs and opportunities; and to then assess how, if at all, investments of public, private and public-private investments of time, resources and capital might be applicable.

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Background & Context

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© Competitive Wisconsin, Inc. 2020