17 May Dane Country high-tech businesses continue to flourish
MADISON – The latest edition of the Madison and Dane County directory of high-technology companies was released today by Madison Gas & Electric. Sponsored by MG&E and the City of Madison’s office of business resources, the “2004 Greater Madison, Wisconsin, Area Directory of High-Tech Companies” is designed to provide both company listings and variety of resources for regional businesses.
Jim Mohrbacher, MG&E business development manager, who coordinates the directory, said there has been a recent trend in Dane County of an increased number of information technology companies as well as University of Wisconsin-Madison spinoffs.
“Companies seem to be more predominately IT than in past years. There are a few more biotech, life-science startups. And every year there is a consistent influx of companies that are spinning off of UW,” Mohrbacher said. “[UW-Madison is a] hotbed for science research and I think money will follow science – scientific breakthroughs generate excitement and new technologies.”
Mark Bugher, director of University Research Park, also feels this increase in UW-based, predominantly biotechnology companies is providing the region with an economically valuable asset.
“We are seeing a continued increase in [UW-Madison] faculty disclosures and patents that are coming from the university, and at the Research Park and we continue to see an increase in contact with faculty-based companies,” Bugher said.
Since 1980 there has been a 340-percent increase in number of high-tech companies and a 400-percent increase in high-tech employment, Mohrbacher said. The annual survey of companies listed in the directory is designed to gauge the condition of the regional economy. While MG&E estimates approximately 450 high-tech firms in Dane County, the directory lists 381 companies, an increase of 21 businesses from the previous year. These companies have combined revenues exceeding $4.5 billion. Madison-area overall employment has increased nearly 2 percent per year during the past five years, and now totals over 296,000 employees. More than 8 percent, or approximatly 25,000 jobs, are in a high-tech field.
“I think, in general, we’re seeing some good indication in Wisconsin about technology development. There’s also similar growth in biotech, medical devices and medical equipment. … The pace of company creation has continued in Madison and Wisconsin despite the fact it’s a bit of a down economy,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.
The need for a statewide directory
The Milwaukee area has a high-tech business directory titled “2004 Southeastern Wisconsin Directory of Information Technology and Biomedical Companies.” The proximity of this regional listing begs the question of when a statewide, high-tech company listing will be initiated.
“There have been talk of a statewide directory and some gathering of information by the [Wisconsin] Technology Council and WARF, but there hasn’t been anything like MG&E and We Energies put together,” Still said.
“Milwaukee and Madison are the predominant technology centers of the state, but there is quite a bit going on in west-central Wisconsin, Menominee, the Marshfield Clinic, Fox Valley – those areas bring opportunity to the table. They have entrepreneurship and innovation in those regions as well. [A statewide directory] would raise awareness for people around the state and outside the state of who’s out there,” Mohrbacher said.
The time consuming, intensive nature of creating the local directories is the biggest hindrance to a larger-scale initiative, Mohrbacher added, especially in light of the state budget situation. However a limited scope is not always a bad thing.
“[The directory’s focus on Dane County] shows critical mass is forming in the community. There are tremendous research opportunities for individuals who do business with companies or provide services,” Bugher said.
In addition to business-to-business relations, UW-Madison students and venture capitalists utilize the high-tech directory, Mohrbacher said.
“Career services in the College of Engineering acquired it to give to engineering students to find job opportunities,” Mohrbacher added.
The high-tech directory is available both in hardcopy and digital formats and can be purchased online for $30 at wistechnology.com/htd.php.
Kristin V. Johnson is a Madison-based writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.