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ASHLAND, Wis. In a bid to spark creation of technology-based businesses and jobs in a largely rural part of the state, the Wisconsin Technology Council
voted last week to support efforts to build an E-Learning industry cluster in Northern Wisconsin.
A resolution supporting creation of a task force to push for the cluster was unanimously supported by the directors of the Tech Council, which is the independent, non-profit science and technology adviser to the governor and the Legislature.
One of the goals of the task force will be to develop a regional, diversified group of at least 50 new tech-based businesses over 10 years that will employ 3,000 people at salaries equal to or exceeding the national average for such jobs.
The task force will also look at ways of exporting technology-based products and services for education and training while working with educational institutions and state and local governments.
Bayfield resident Jerry Johnson, a member of the Tech Council and the founder of the Ten Rivers Corporation, introduced the resolution with the support of the local economic development corporation and other community leaders.
There is a growing market for E-Learning products and services, whether for continuing education credits, completion of online degrees or personal improvement. Wisconsin has the educational content to sell to a global marketplace what it needs is an infrastructure for doing so, said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council.
Thanks to the power of the Internet, which can effectively take geographic location out of the equation, companies providing such services can be located anywhere. Northern Wisconsin, which has premier educational institutions and a history of firsts when it comes to distance learning, is a natural place to locate such companies, Still said.
Johnson noted that education has the potential to become a global export industry for Wisconsin. During a recent trade mission to China, he said, members of Gov. Jim Doyles delegation were asked by the Chinese about how to tap into Wisconsins educational programs.
Northern Wisconsin also has an attractive quality of life, an educated work force and a commitment to growing a new economy. In time, the creation of an E-Learning cluster could lure back natives of Northern Wisconsin who left for technology jobs in larger cities but who wish they could return home to work, Johnson said.