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State Needs To End Resentments About Dane County

June 30, 2019

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I am biased when I write about Dane County and the City of Madison.   I readily admit to loving this place I have called home since late December 1986.  There is a vibrancy and uplift here due to UW-Madison and the home of state government.  There is a liberal mindset that comes from having a wide swath of competing interests and backgrounds assembled from not only across the Badger State, but more importantly from around the globe.  There are so many reasons to embrace what happens here.

But drive 100 miles in any direction, or head to the Northwoods, and the perceptions change dramatically.   Some of that is based on cultural differences and some due to just a lack of truly knowing what happens within this city and county.  Today Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Council president, wrote another of his must-reads in the Sunday edition of the Wisconsin State Journal.  Featured in his column is one of my ‘hero’ companies, Exact Sciences.  (I championed for this company to have a downtown presence.) 

The leadership team at Exact Sciences is so confident of the demand for more and better DNA analysis screening that it estimates test totals will climb from 1 million last year to 7 million per year in short order. Handling that many tests and affiliated work will require up to 1,500 employees at various times on Exact’s Discovery Campus, which explains the parking ramp as well as an amenities center with food service to be completed by 2020.

It is just the latest example of how the Dane County economy, which includes a strong dose of well-compensated scientific and technology jobs, is helping to propel Wisconsin forward.

That concept is often a tough sell in parts of Wisconsin where economic growth can still be elusive even years after the end of the Great Recession that peaked about 10 years ago. There are those who envy progress in Dane County and some other hotspots in Wisconsin, wondering what’s in it for them.

One answer to that question is state tax revenue from companies and their employees. Related jobs in construction and service industries is another. Opportunities for young people to stay in Wisconsin versus going elsewhere is yet another reason to celebrate.

The need for continued state dollars to be pumped into research programs that makes the UW-Madison tick, or to pursue more venture capital projects are a no-brainer.  But at times selling these ideas to the farther reaches of the state is daunting.

We need to embrace private-public partnerships that push the boundaries of new technology and ideas.  We should thrill at educational and business relationships that will not only create jobs but allow for young minds in far-off places to want to live, study, and work in Wisconsin.  We need to find and promote funding sources that are understood to be wise investments for tomorrow.

Madison and Dane County are proving that such ideas work.  The rest of the state needs to end resentments aimed in our direction and learn how it is done.

And so it goes.

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