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Forbes highlights Wisconsin biotech, names Madison #1 business city

MADISON - Madison, Wisconsin was ranked the number-one city in the United States for business and careers by Forbes magazine, followed by Raleigh-Durham and Austin, in the publications' sixth annual ranking of 318 metropolitan areas.

In 2003, the city ranked 5th and was selected this year as the nation’s leading business city, based on criteria that included education of the workforce, percent of the population with college degrees, low unemployment, crime rate, cost of housing, income and job growth, as well as cultural and leisure indexes.

According to Forbes' Senior Editor, Kurt Badenhausen, “Madison’s number one ranking is a result of the education of its’ labor supply, strong income growth, as well as the fact that the city ranked tops in per capita number of PhD’s and third highest per capita in the U.S in terms of number of people with college degrees.” Bandenhausen added, "Madison has a strong economy with the lowest unemployment in the U.S., that is half the national average."

The Appleton, Wisconsin area improved its’ ranking to 16th from 37th in 2003 and Milwaukee demonstrated a strong gain from a 2003 ranking of 116 to a ranking of 98 this year.

“Wisconsin’s performance compared to other areas is one of the best in terms of jobs and income growth. Wisconsin held up better than other states because of its ties to the University of Wisconsin and its’ highly educated labor supply, said Bandenhausen. “With all the talk of jobs moving offshore, the focus on education and labor supply shows there are good areas in the country to attract business as compared to India, China and the rest of Southeast Asia.”
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The issue also featured a five-page story titled, “Miracle of the Midwest…How Madison, Wis. Became a Hotbed of Biocapitalism.” The story featured some of Madison’s best and brightest including David C. Schwartz, founder of OpGen, stem cell researcher Jamie Thomson, and Hector DeLuca. Forbes' Midwest Bureau Chief, Mark Tatge wrote, “…This hotbed of radicalism has grown into a seedbed of biocapitalism, propelling the region to the number one slot of our Best Places for Business and Careers.”

Tatge reported how the Wisconsin Research Alumni Association is a driving force for Madison’s biotechnology industry. Companies mentioned included TomoTherapy, Stratagen, Bone Care International, Quintessence Bioscience, Alfalight, Epic Systems and Opgen.

“Big hitters like DeLuca attract big bucks to the university,” wrote Tatge referring to the University of Wisconsin’s $600 million in federal funding in the past year.

Forbes did draw attention to the fact that “despite great ideas and good science, Wisconsin still suffers from under-investment.” Republican State Senator Ted Kanavas was mentioned as saying that “A $500 million seed fund would galvanize entrepreneurship.”

In an exclusive interview with WTN, about his experience in researching the story, Tatge said, “Madison is on its way to becoming a powerhouse in the life science industry. Twenty years ago, if a graduate of the UW wanted to stay in Madison, they needed to drive a taxi, today there is an industry well positioned to take advantage of the educated workforce.“

Commenting on the Forbes story, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said, "I'm extremely pleased by the news that Forbes Magazine has ranked Madison the number one place in the nation for business and careers, but I can't say I'm surprised. Madison's high quality of life, entrepreneurial spirit and creative vitality combined with innovations from the University make Madison a great place to do business."

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