05 May Madison’s visionary plan for a “healthy economy”
Mayor reveals plan that leverages exiting assets to stimulate growth
MADISON – More than three hundred business and community leaders gathered at Monona Terrace Tuesday to hear Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s plan for the city’s future economic growth. “Madison, The Healthy City- a model for a forward economy,” a 38-page glossy and illustrative framework containing 110 action items, was touted as a vision for how Madison’s public and private sectors can work together to build a strong economy, while preserving the city’s unique quality of life.
Cieslewicz, often cited as being “anti- business” for his stand on issues such as minimum wage and the city’s recent no smoking ordinance, used the summit to reach out to the local business community and stated, “Madison needs to be pro-business.”
“The strong turnout at this event is refreshing and demonstrates the amount of interest and concern in the local business community. Business people appreciate vision and a plan to go forward. This is the first chapter,” said Mark Bugher, chair of Madison’s Economic Development Commission.
“For years Madison has lacked an overall economic development vision and in this time of economic change we need to focus on how we protect our high quality of life and our strong economy.” said Cieslewicz. “Unless we spot trends…we run the risk of economic disaster.”
The goal of the Mayor’s plan is to leverage Madison’s exiting assets of education, life-style and business. Cieslewicz reiterated throughout the event that Madison could be both progressive and pro-business. The foundation of the Mayor’s vision is to develop a region built on clean air, water, fresh food, and improved personal health and lifestyle. The plan illustrated the need for an increased focus on developing a next generation infrastructure of transportation and digital communications to meet the needs of business and private citizen’s. The Mayor called for increased public and private partnerships that can support entrepreneurs to create high growth businesses.
The recently formed Biomedical Collaborative was touted as an example of how the city could be positioned as a regional and national leader in health care delivery, biotech medicine, life science research and commercialization, education and workforce development. The initiative brings together leaders from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, UW Health, Meriter, Dean, and St. Mary’s hospitals as well as the private biomedical industry, in an effort to spur economic and workforce development, by creating partnerships between Madison’s medical and biomedical communities.
Paul Deluca, vice dean, UW Medical School and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, discussed the medical school’s creation of an inter-disciplinary research facility that would involve multiple constituencies on the UW campus, including the medical school, UW Health, nursing, engineering and biology programs to integrate teaching, research and development for improved patient care and safety. Deluca pointed out that intersection of information technology, along with medicine, healthcare and biology would lead to increased commercialization, technology transfer and new business formation as a natural byproduct.
The well-staged event for both the media and attendees featured a keynote presentation by author Joel Kotkin, who commented on the resurgence of urban values among many smaller cites across the United States. “There is a new emphasis on affordable quality of life…and economic opportunity is the key to attracting talent …the economy creates culture not the other way around,” says Kotkin.
Kotkin authored an article that appeared in the March issue ofInc. magazine that selected Madison as the second-best place to do business in America among mid-size cites. (Green Bay was ranked #1)
“People are looking for a community that they are comfortable with…and are willing to give things up to get it,” says Kotkin referring to the trend that people are willing to give up the higher salaries as well as congestion associated with larger cities in exchange to ‘quality of life.” Kotkin said these people want to be more comfortable, have a better balance between work and lifestyle and live in a community that places a high value on family life.
Mark Bugher and Gary Wolter, CEO of Madison Gas and Electric, both presented their views of Madison’s changing economy. They commented on the city’s change from an economy based on manufacturing, agriculture, higher education and state government to a new economy that has an increasing mix of scientific and technology based industries. Bugher recommend that business take an active participation to support the mayor as he charts the course of our community.
“The public and private sector can not do this alone…both sides need to do their part,” said Wolter. That sentiment that was echoed by attendees who were overheard saying statements like, “although there is a great deal of work to be done, the plan is a good first start.”