Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, led Rotarians on a virtual tour of the state’s tech scene beyond the borders of Dane County. “Madison stories are great and they’re growing all the time, but I want you to feel good about what’s going on in the rest of the state,” he said.
He noted that Wisconsin’s areas of expertise have not changed much in the past 150 years, and they include agriculture, natural resources, tourism and manufacturing. However, technology has bolstered all of these sectors. For example, he pointed out that “if you’re not involved in technology in manufacturing, you won’t be in manufacturing for very long.”
Wisconsin is in a good position to attract top workers in the technology sector, because of its geological stability (no hurricanes or tsunamis), a fully funded state pension fund, a tax burden that has been decreasing, excellent healthcare institutions and a strong education system.
Still showed several slides featuring leading tech companies in Milwaukee, Beloit, La Crosse, Janesville, Green Bay and Eau Claire, and he gave a little background on each. He noted that UW-Eau Claire will host the 2023 National Council on Undergraduate Research convention, which will draw some 5,000 people to that part of the state.
Still closed out his presentation by discussing key Wisconsin Technology Council goals to support the state’s economy. They are advocating for the expansion of broadband around the state. This is the “Rural Electrification Act of the 21st Century”, he said, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that broadband is vital for the delivery of healthcare, education and even the merchandise of many Main Street businesses in the new economy. Governor Evers has proposed $200 million in state, private and federal funds for this in his proposed biennial budget for the state.
The Technology Council has long advocated for a greater state investment to support technology start-ups. The Governor has proposed $100 million for the Wisconsin Fund, to be matched by $200 million from private sources, if it is signed into law. Finally, the Council advocates for more funding for higher education, including the UW System’s four- and two-year campuses and the technical colleges.
Our thanks to Tom Still for his presentation this week and to Andrea Kaminski for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/hKRRScFHE4k.