09 Jun Life Science: From the arts to the outdoors: Living and Playing in Wisconsin
Editor’s Note: The Wisconsin Technology Council has published the first-ever magazine about Wisconsin’s life sciences industry. The 24-page publication highlights the state’s research base, technology-transfer process, company creation, quality of life, key contacts and the “I-Q Corridor” that joins Chicago, Wisconsin and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The Wisconsin Technology Network has arranged to post excerpts from “Life Sciences: Wisconsin – The Smart Choice,” over the next few weeks. Today we present part 4. Stay tuned for more chapters!
From the arts to the outdoors: Living and Playing in Wisconsin
You may know about Wisconsin’s outdoors attractions: It is home to four seasons, 15,000 lakes, 5.7 million square miles of parks, trails and wilderness areas, 1,017 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, and 435 golf courses. You may even know a bit about Wisconsin’s cultural heritage: It is a state where the children and grandchildren of immigrants and the descendants of native Americans can share in the camaraderie and pride of being a “Badger.” But what you may not know about Wisconsin is that it is a state where “the creative class” live, work and play. As defined by Professor Richard Florida in his best-selling book, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” these are people who form the backbone of the knowledge-based economy. They are scientists, engineers and researchers, but also artists, writers, information technologists and designers. They are often young, but not exclusively so. They love diversity, demand open and tolerant environments, and expect to live in communities that offer a range of educational, recreational and cultural choices.
Most of all, they are innovators. They are people who push themselves and others to new heights, not by excess but by example. They thrive on living and working in places where they are challenged to grow, and feel free to be themselves. With creativity as a steady undercurrent, Wisconsin is the ideal setting for people who work in the biosciences. All of the resources necessary to carry out cutting-edge research and technology transfer are available, but most of the hassles that come with living on the East or West Coasts are absent. Rush hour? It’s more like a “rush minute,” even in the state’s largest cities. The state’s violent crime rate is less than half the U.S. average, and the cost of living stands at 95 percent of the national norm. Here is why living and working in Wisconsin is so attractive:
To paraphrase humorist Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegon fame, all of the children in Wisconsin really are above average. High school graduation rates run 10 percentage points ahead of the U.S. average and college entrance scores (ACT and SAT) rank first or second nationally, year after year. That’s a testament to the quality of Wisconsin’s public schools.
Wisconsin stays in front of social problems, rather than reacting when it’s too late. Most leading indicators of social strain are well below the U.S. average. The percentage of low-birth weight babies (6.6 percent versus 7.8 percent), the poverty rate (8.2 percent versus 11.9 percent), the health uninsured rate (9.8 percent versus 15.2 percent) and the violent crime rate (225 per 100,000 residents versus 495) are evidence of a strong social fabric.
The state is a good value for business owners. The state’s corporate taxes are below the U.S. average, electricity is reliable and fairly priced ($16.73 per million BTUs versus $19.95 nationally), land costs are low compared to the East and West coasts and the transportation system is well maintained. It’s no surprise, then, that new businesses are being created in Wisconsin at a rate that exceeds the U.S. average.
Wisconsin offers a good value for your tax dollar. While the overall tax burden in Wisconsin is above the U.S. average, it pays for an outstanding “K-through-gray” educational system, a modern infrastructure and honest, responsive government. When most states raised taxes in 2002 and 2003 to manage budget deficits, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and the Legislature held the line. In fact, they enacted changes in the corporate tax structure (a single sales formula) to eliminate unintended penalties on companies that choose to expand in Wisconsin. Taxes in Wisconsin aren’t “hidden,” either. User fees are low compared to surrounding states.
Companies can find the skilled, dedicated employees they need. In addition to the K-12 system, Wisconsin has 16 technical colleges, 26 University of Wisconsin System campuses and 21 private colleges and universities that constantly replenish the work force. Employers from other states often marvel at the high productivity and low absenteeism of Wisconsin workers. Most impressive, however, is the level of education. The percentage of Wisconsin adults with a fouryear college degree (24.7 percent) has been rising for 20 years. Also, Wisconsin produces more doctoral degrees in the sciences each year than the per capita U.S. average.
There is a tradition of commitment to the arts and design. In the capital city of Madison, an area that is home to about half of Wisconsin’s bioscience companies, a $63.5 million lakeside convention center that opened in 1997 was designed by native son Frank Lloyd Wright. The largest private arts gift in American history – $100 million – is building a Downtown Madison performing arts center due to open in 2005. The rebirth of Milwaukee is exemplified by the Calatrava-designed performing arts center that overlooks Lake Michigan. Cities such as Appleton and Green Bay have also invested in the arts, all with the goal of building more attractive, diverse communities.
Wisconsin is a part of the global community. Suppose you’re a company in need of translation services – the UW-Madison offers experts in 62 languages, more than any university in the United States. Exports of Wisconsin goods and services soared in 2003 to $11.5 billion, up 7.7 percent over the previous year. That compared to 4.4 percent growth nationally. Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany, the United Kingdom and, most recently, China, rank among Wisconsin’s leading trade partners. Wisconsin nourishes “sister state” relationships with five nations, including Hessen, Germany; Heilongjiang, China; and Chiba, Japan. Sister-city relations are common, as well. The state Department of Commerce maintains offices in five nations: Canada, Mexico, Brazil, China, and the Netherlands.
You don’t have to believe us – the story of Wisconsin’s quality of life is being told in one national publication after another. “Business Facilities” ranked Wisconsin 10th in the United States for biotechnology growth. Money, Forbes, Inc., Women’s Health, Men’s Health and US News and World Report have all sung the praises of Wisconsin or its major cities in their annual “best places to live” rankings. So has Professor Florida of Carnegie-Mellon University, who ranked Madison No. 1 on his “creativity index” for cities of its size. Wisconsin is the creative choice for people who work in the growing bioscience industry. It is a state where you can live, work and play – all at a degree of quality that is difficult to match. Be creative. Come to Wisconsin.
This article was reproduced with permission, courtesy of the Wisconsin Technology Council, from their recently published Wisconsin Life Science magazine. All rights reserved.