Category Archives: 1. President’s Messages

Wisconsin’s Tech Industry Beyond Dane County Borders

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.

“Our Rotary Club Is A Special Place, and It’s a Special Bond We Share”

Hidalgo_JorgeThere are many ways to describe our Rotary Club. We are a Center of Influence, where people who care about our community come together to shape its future. We are a Conduit for Change, since we contribute our time and resources by volunteering; give generous grants that help those in need; and provide scholarships to send our best and brightest to college. We are a Professional Hub, where we can network and make important connections. Just as importantly, our Club is a Meeting Place where we make new friends and catch up with old ones; we have fun together; and we brighten each other’s day.

We come from so many different backgrounds; we represent so many professions; we have different religious and political beliefs; but we respect each other, and we’re good at discovering our common ground. Our Rotary Club is special. We’ve stayed together during the most unusual circumstances of our lifetime—a worldwide pandemic—and now, thanks to two vaccines and another in the works, we can finally (finally!) see the end.

Multiple Rotarians

The last stretch of a long wait is always the hardest; we’re anxious for it to be over: And our virtual meetings will come to an end sometime in 2021, most likely gradually, and always following CDC guidelines. We’ll get to see each other in person, shake hands, give old friends a hug. We’ll complain about things; we’ll argue; we’ll laugh; and we’ll love being in each other’s presence again.

Our Rotary Club is a special place; it’s a special bond we share. This period has made us realize just how special it really is, and let’s keep this feeling of eagerness and anticipation alive so we can hit the ground running when we get together again.

–2020-21 Club President Jorge Hidalgo

Rotary Membership Dues Modifications

Due to Covid-19 we’ve been unable to meet in person since March, and we’re unlikely to resume in-person luncheons before at least January. Even then, many members may prefer to wait longer to return.

Most members have been paying dues that include the cost of weekly meals, but many of us may not know that 46% of pre-paid meals are not actually consumed by members which helped fund our club’s operating expenses each year. The board recognized that continuing to charge members for meals they can’t consume is not sustainable, but we know that without the surplus generated by meals, the club would have an insurmountable operating deficit. That’s why an ad-hoc committee was formed to study this and make actionable recommendations. The committee included the following members:  Jason Beren, Jorge Hidalgo, Teresa Holmes, Jason Ilstrup, Andrea Kaminski, Charles McLimans, Mark Moody (chair), Valerie Renk, Haley Saalsaa Miller, Susan Schmitz, Rob Stroud and Rob Van den Berg.

The new approved dues structure reflects the true costs of the club and spreads them more equitably among the different types of members. Lower dues for Exempt and Life members will continue, in recognition for their many years of service and financial support to the club.  Standard members will pay $390 for dues per six months, and this is retroactive to July 1, 2020; Exempt members will see an increase in dues effective for the next billing cycle of January – June of 2021 from $185.50 to $235; and Life members will change to $225 starting July 1, 2021.

The Board acted under emergency authority to approve these changes.  Once the pandemic emergency has subsided to the point where a membership vote is possible, the revised dues structure will be put to a vote of the members.  We believe these changes to our dues structure are necessary and appropriate to assure the financial viability of the club.  We agree that the elimination of the meals subsidy was overdue and necessary, and the dues now reflect the true cost of operation of the club.

Our ad-hoc committee will hold a Zoom Q&A on August 20th at noon for interested members who have questions or want to hear more background.  A letter about this new dues structure was mailed to members on August 11, and a link to the August 20 Zoom meeting is included in the Friday, August 14 email from the Rotary office.

Jorge Hidalgo, Club President

 

Meet Our New President: Jorge Hidalgo

Hidalgo_JorgeAs we begin a new Rotary year on July 1, we wanted to share some background on our new president. 

Jorge Hidalgo joined our Rotary Club in 2014 and is president of Wilde East Towne Honda. Previously, he was a Harley-Davidson Executive.  He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and received his Master’s degree in Operations Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He served in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years as an Infantry Officer where he was an Army Ranger and Airborne Jumpmaster.  Jorge has served on the Board of Directors and as President of the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce; served as Vice President of Fisher House of Wisconsin; and has been board president for the Wisconsin Heartland Honda Dealers Advertising Association.  He is a recipient of the 2016 Latino Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Latino Chamber of Commerce and the 2019 Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce Community Business Leader Award.

In Rotary, Jorge has served on our Strategic Planning, Welcoming and Veteran’s Assistance Committees and was elected to our board of directors for a 2018-2020 term.  He also participates in the Hiking/Skiing, Scotch Whisky and Sporting Clays Fellowship Groups and is chair of the Veterans Fellowship Group.

Jorge was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City and now lives in Sun Prairie with his wife, Andrea.  They have 3 adult children and eight grandchildren.  Here are some details reprinted from the Wilde East Towne Honda website that provide insights into Jorge:

“My favorite band:  The Eagles.
Three Words that describe me:  Duty, Honor, Country.
My childhood dream job was:  To be a professional baseball player.
If you could spend the day with one person, deceased or alive, I would choose:  My son, Daren, who was killed in Afghanistan (while serving his country in 2011).
Favorite TV shows:  “Walking Dead” and “Blue Bloods.”
We welcome Jorge Hidalgo as President during our 108th Rotary year!

Jorge Outlines His Plans for Upcoming Rotary Year:  “Respect the Individual”

I know that the current pandemic has affected all of us, and every aspect of our lives—so it’s natural that our Club has been affected too.  We haven’t been able to meet in person for a while, and the road to returning to full-Club in-person meetings will be slow, and it will be gradual. But we’re resilient and we have adapted, with committees, fellowship groups and even our Wednesday meetings taking place virtually.  It may not be ideal, but it’s a way to stay engaged with Rotary at a time when our Club needs our support. 

As your President, I plan to remind us all of why Rotary matters, and mention one great thing Rotary has done each and every week. I also plan to highlight Members in the News each week from the podium, to celebrate the active role we play in the community.  I want our meetings to be fun and upbeat; I want us to laugh more often.  I’m sure whatever problems we’re dealing with every morning will still be waiting for us when we get back to the office after lunch; let Rotary be a little break from that stress.  If our average age wasn’t 107 I’d call it recess—but even though “recess” doesn’t fit, you still get the idea.  We’ll try new things, and not all of them may work—but we’ll keep trying till we make it work!  We’ll even address members’ questions and concerns brought up on the member survey.  We’ll have speakers that address a broad range of topics, including not only social issues but also leadership, history, business, inspirational life experiences, scientific discovery, and artistic pursuits. 

There’s no shortage of things that draw divisions among people; different political and religious beliefs, different views on social and economic issues—and we absolutely MUST respect our differences, and respect each other, first and foremost, as individuals.  So to be crystal clear, my theme for this year is “Respect the Individual.”  We need to spend more time on discovering what brings us together:  I want us to get to know each other better, discover things we have in common, and celebrate our accomplishments: One of the many ways to do this is by asking a new member to introduce a long-time Rotarian once a month.  Among our members we have a Freedom Rider from the Civil Rights movement and someone who discovered a life-saving medical procedure, engineers and artists, veterans of foreign wars and Peace Corps volunteers; there’s a lot we can learn about and from each other.  And let’s not get all greedy; we need to give others a chance to be part of this great Rotary Club: Each of us should set a goal of recruiting one member to Rotary this year; just one, though if you bring in more I promise I won’t get mad at you. 

I want to thank you for trusting me with our Club’s leadership and let’s all work together to have a great Rotary year! 

Andrea Kaminski’s Reflections on Year as Rotary President

Kaminski Picture1The past year has been a whirlwind of challenge and of change, starting with my unexpected appointment as club President and ending with our Rotary Club poised to transition back to in-person meetings as the pandemic continues. It has been my honor to be club President through this time. I’ve had the opportunity to experience firsthand our Rotary Club as a place where members CONNECT, SERVE and GROW.

Since I joined Rotary in 2013, I have valued the many new CONNECTIONS and friendships that have enhanced my life, whether through committee work, the hiking/skiing fellowship, community service projects, or my time on the board and as President. I’ve found that the more engaged I’ve been, and the more people I’ve worked, sung, chatted and laughed with, the more I’ve been able to learn and grow.

In my SERVICE to the club, I’ve learned that in Rotary you never have to meet a new challenge alone. As soon as I became President, several Past Presidents stepped up and offered their support. I would have been lost without the assistance, in particular, of Jason Beren and Pat Jenkins. And I want to give a special shout-out to Stacy Nemeth for setting the stage for this Rotary year through her diligent strategic planning work last year as President-Elect. Club service is a great way to get to know people and to help make our club a better place for a diversity of community leaders to connect, serve and grow.

I have GROWN through Rotary, especially in this past year. Here are some things I had to learn as President:

  • I’ve learned that you need to hit the wider bottom part of the Rotary bell, not the narrow top part, if you want people to hear it. Not a big deal — it was just embarrassing!
  • I’ve learned there are two strong stances represented in our club membership regarding singing at Rotary. I became President just when it was decided to try cutting back on our music. I hope we have arrived at a compromise that all members enjoy.
  • The same goes for the Question & Answer periods with our speakers. That was a hot topic last summer, but I hope members are comfortable with our current approach.
  • I’ve learned some technology, in particular how to pre-record my portion of the weekly meetings, so we could continue to meet online through the pandemic. Brian Basken and Jason Beren have done yeoman’s work to develop the technology needed to uphold the professional standards our weekly meetings are known for. This month Brian and Jason moved to live-streaming the meeting from Pearson Engineering, where they work. Next month we plan to live-stream our meetings with a limited number of members attending in person, abiding by good social distancing, while all others may participate from home.
  • I’ve also learned from Teresa Holmes, Charles Tubbs and others about complex racial justice issues facing our community. I’ve learned from Karen Kendrick-Hands and Larry Hands about environmental sustainability. These are important issues we must address, and I value the opportunity to connect with people who know far more than I do.

Going forward, I believe the most important goal for our Rotary Club is that of striving to be more actively welcoming to all leaders in our community. In a few minutes you’ll hear from the Racial Equity and Inclusion committee that our intentional efforts in that area are working.  To continue that progress, we need to accept that what has been comfortable in the past is not — and was not — comfortable for everyone. Good intentions are not enough. I’ve learned that we need to actively educate ourselves and speak out when we see injustice or hate. For white Rotarians like me who have benefited all our lives from the privilege of our race, this requires some humility to understand that there is a lot we don’t understand. The hard work is still ahead of us, and it’s good that we’ll have the steady leadership and vision of Jorge Hidalgo and then Mark Moody in the years to come.

With intention, patience and kindness as we work toward change, we will come closer to the Rotary Four-Way Test and build a club that is fair, that builds goodwill and better friendships, and is beneficial to all concerned.  Thank you.

Staying Connected

submitted by Club President Andrea Kaminski

Because it is unlikely that we will be able to hold luncheons with 200 Rotarians in one room for some time to come, several of our directors, officers and committee members have been reaching out to club members to find out how people are doing and how Rotary can best serve our members and keep folks connected in the coming months. As part of this effort, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with several Rotarians about how the pandemic has affected their personal, family and professional lives, as well as how they are feeling about Rotary in this new environment.

We have not yet heard officially about any club members who have personally become ill with Covid-19. However, we have members who are working on the front lines to provide health care or elder care or to keep people safe. We have educators teaching children online and bankers  working around the clock to administer the federal government relief package to assist small businesses. We have business owners and directors of nonprofits who are struggling to maintain their workforce despite drastically reduced demand for things like restaurant meals, new cars, consumer goods and the performing arts. And of course we live in a community where many service workers and gig workers have lost their jobs.

Yet the dozen or so Rotarians I have spoken with have been generally positive despite the challenges, and they value what Rotary has to offer. Most have been viewing the online weekly meetings, and a few have participated in the fellowship groups or committees that have been meeting online.

Longtime Rotarian Karl Gutknecht said,  “Although our lunch meetings have built many friendships, I find enduring value in our Four-Way Test. When we apply our resources, abilities and energies into bettering our community and our world we will continue to make a positive difference!”

It is clear that our Rotary meetings will look different in the future because there are likely to be restrictions on large gatherings for some time. Also, we know that many of our members, for good reason, will not feel safe attending a big luncheon. The board and our executive director are looking at a number of options to address these concerns. For example, one possibility might be to have the weekly meeting at the Park Hotel with a speaker and a program, which would be live-streamed to smaller gatherings in community rooms on the east and west sides of the city. In this scenario, members who are more vulnerable to the virus would have the option to view the streamed meeting online from home.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for how to continue Rotary’s tradition of providing fellowship opportunities, excellent programs and service to the community through the pandemic and beyond. Send an email to rotaryoffice@rotarymadison.org or give me a call at 608-957-2865. I look forward to hearing from you.