30 Oct Regional collaboration is key to state's future
As Wisconsin’s economy evolves, regional collaboration is key to the future growth and success of the state and the companies that do business here.
Our state boasts significant competitive advantages in terms of talent, technology, and capital, but alone we lack the critical mass needed to compete with our most significant competition – the East and West Coasts – for the resources so vital to building and sustaining economic growth. By setting aside intra- and inter-state rivalry in favor of pooling our resources, each region of the state and every state in the Midwest can more effectively go head-to-head with the coasts and even the world.
While we can and must do more, we are making progress toward forming effective alliances within the state that encourage the open and proactive sharing of ideas and resources between cities. A telling example is the growing recognition that Milwaukee and Madison must work together to be successful. Madison’s thriving research base, symbolized by University Research Park and the tech transfer ability of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, represents unlimited growth potential for the entire state.
Milwaukee’s infrastructure, which includes expertise in financial and business services, can help take Madison’s groundbreaking research and technology to the next level. As a result, many biotechnology and healthcare companies have been launched in both cities, creating desirable career opportunities, a productive business climate hospitable to other business ventures, and profits that can be reinvested to drive the cycle, all measures of economic growth.
Advancing the common cause
A number of organizations and business leaders are doing a tremendous job of linking the players throughout the state, setting a common agenda and marshalling limited resources to advance the common cause. The Information Technology Association of Wisconsin brings together IT executives, innovators, and entrepreneurs statewide to help Wisconsin’s IT sector compete globally.
The Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association unites people and organizations to advance research and product commercialization, supporting the state’s evolution to a knowledge-based economy.
And, the Wisconsin Technology Council strives to keep technology and the powerful role it plays in the state’s economy in the forefront, while providing its membership opportunities for in-state and out-of-state networking. The continued efforts of these groups and others like them are vital to the region’s continued economic growth.
At the same time, it’s just as critical that we enhance our relationships beyond Wisconsin’s borders. The state’s enviable position at the heart of the “I-Q Corridor” – the region between the Twin Cities and Chicago teeming with innovation, talent, and capital – represents numerous opportunities to build on our strengths and leverage our collective resources. While there is much we can learn from our economic powerhouse neighbors, they, too, are taking a close look at where the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Medical College of Wisconsin, and Marshfield Clinic are taking research in Wisconsin.
Regional venture capital conferences, showcasing technologies developed throughout the Midwest in areas like the I-Q Corridor, are good examples of successful inter-state cooperation. The Midwest Venture Summit, sponsored by the Illinois Venture Capital Association (IVCA), and the BIO Mid-America VentureForum, a collaboration between eight state life science associations and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), are designed to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, business leaders and other industry participants from across the Midwest to network and explore business partnerships. Ultimately, these kinds of activities strengthen the region as a whole. Only by connecting with one another, and being open to the opportunities this creates, can progress be made.
Minding our mindset
How far can collaboration take us? I would like to see Wisconsin in the top quartile in terms of creating gains in employment and income, true measures of economic growth. It’s well within our reach if we change our mindset and stop viewing one another as competitors. I think we’re on our way.