Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

An Update on Stretch Targets for Wisconsin

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

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Dave Baskerville and Club President Donna Hurd

Fellow Rotarian Dave Baskerville spoke to Rotarians and guests about “Stretch Targets for Wisconsin,” an effort he heads dedicated to the proposition that this state can do much better economically than it has for the past forty years. It must set targets for ten years ahead and work to achieve them, just as new or struggling businesses do. Dave emphasized two areas: The economy and education. First he compared trends in Wisconsin to what has been happening in Minnesota. Thirty-eight years ago, the two states were virtually equivalent economically. In the years since, Minnesota has done far better in various important economic statistics, especially job growth and average wage growth. One difficulty, as both Dave and questioner Marv Levy pointed out, is that Wisconsin has had a hard time retaining its formerly great businesses, either because they relocate or the industry atrophies; and, as Dave indicated, Wisconsin has done a poor job of attracting new ones.

Education is an important element in this story. In math, science, and reading, the U.S. ranks 36th among the nations of the world; Wisconsin is better, but can do better. A goal would be to equal such national performers as Singapore, Japan, or Canada by 2038. Dave argued that it can be done, just as nations have arisen from destructive wars to become leaders. In 1993, Massachusetts and Wisconsin were about equal in achievement rates. Now, Massachusetts is in the top ten. It succeeded by establishing rigorous goals for teachers and students. Today, the poor in Massachusetts have the highest wages in the country. There are several schools in Milwaukee that have demonstrated great success despite the prevailing poverty of its children, including one high school that was rated the best in the country by US News.

Success in these Stretch goals can lead to progress in job skills, social mobility and justice, and national security. Wisconsin has great resources and people, and these have to be mobilized. The state’s white high school students currently rank 41st in reading, and its black students rate 49th. The state ranks 40th in average wages. But just as Vince Lombardi transformed the lowly 1958 Packers into the powerhouse teams of the 1960s, Wisconsin can achieve great things by setting goals and working to meet them.

Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week, and you can watch the video here.

Ted DeDee on His Tenure at Overture

submitted by Dave Nelson; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Ted DeDee 4 25 2018Ted DeDee outlined the challenges he faced when he became president and CEO of the Overture Center for the Arts in 2012 and the achievements at Overture during the six-year period that will end with his retirement at the end of the 2017-2018 season. DeDee inherited a public dispute about the management of Overture, as Overture was transferred from city management to private nonprofit status.  He organized Overture as a start-up company while respecting the history of the Center and the role of the extraordinary Frautschi contribution. During those six years, Overture maintained a positive financial situation with donor support going from $12.4 million to $22.6 million; generated a cash reserve of a million dollars; and developed programming that included 11 weeks of Broadway shows that brought ticket buyers from all over the Midwest. DeDee particularly noted that the Frostiball had become an invaluable part of the Overture fundraising program.

Another change under DeDee’s leadership was an increase in diversity and inclusion. People of color now comprise the Overture Board, and Overture works with over 200 community partners to make performances accessible to students who might not otherwise afford performances. Club 10 offers $10 tickets to more than 50 shows during the year.

As DeDee’s retirement approaches, Overture is beginning to develop a “living strategic plan” that will provide flexible directions for the next decade.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Brandon: Behold the New Madison Economy!

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Mike Engelberger

Zach Brandon 4 18 2018Zach Brandon, President of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, wants civic leaders to see a great new future for Madison.  Today’s perception is that Madison is a place of government and education and not a very good place for business.  But that is not the Madison that is evolving before our eyes, he asserted in a spirited talk.

In 1948, Life carried a cover story with a question: Is Madison the best place to live in the country?  Since then dozens of magazines have trumpeted Madison’s superlatives.  But in the last twenty years national writers have been touting a new surprising set of superlative metrics, a place that is among the top cities in the country measured in economic momentum, confidence about the future, percentage of tech workers, educational attainment, millennials in high tech positions and overall innovation.  These are the qualities of the future workforce, which we ignore at our great peril.

“How can we best nurture this exciting new future for this special city?” Brandon asked.  Only if we find better ways to recruit our future work force, he replied.   To find out how to do this, the Chamber hired Brainjuice, a London company that specializes in effective recruiting campaigns.  Their 500-person national survey produced some surprising and critically important findings.

Workers in Madison’s new economy consciously seek something special—a city where their experience is more important than possessions, a city where natural beauty abounds, a city that crackles with spirit, life of the mind, cutting edge knowledge, justice and equity.  This is the city our discerning future workers seek, Brandon emphasized.

Armed with this template, the Chamber is creating new communication tools using drones and state-of-the art video techniques to give prospective new economy workers a vivid and compelling image of the city.

What a privilege to hear this new vision!

Madison Public Market Coming in 2020

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Mike Engelberger

Trey Sprinkman & Amanda White 4 11 2018Two Rotarians, Trey Sprinkman and Amanda White, are part of the effort to create a public market in Madison, and they reported to us today at the Alliant Energy Center. In addition, nine vendors were available prior to the meeting to provide free samples of the goods they might have available at the new market. These vendors remained after the meeting to show and sell their goods (including dog treats made from Wisconsin trout!).

The new Madison Public Market, which will be located at First Street and East Washington Avenue, seeks to replicate public markets that exist in many cities in America and elsewhere. It will open in 2020 after groundbreaking next year. The project will be financed with $8.5 million in contributions from the city, $2.5 million in tax credits, and perhaps $4 million in contributions from the community. A major fund-raising effort has been launched. When the Market is opened, it is expected that thirty-five new businesses will be launched in the first year and that the Market will attract 500,000 visitors every year, with sales of from $16 million to $20 million annually. One hundred and eighty businesses already have expressed an interest in participating.

The market will celebrate local cultures and the local economy. It will make available food that is to be found nowhere else in the city. Unlike the farmers’ markets, it will be indoors and year round. Its 30,000 square feet will become a hot place in town. It’s the “next big project” in Madison. After three years of city support, the Public Market will be self-sustaining. It will be a driver of entrepreneurial development and diversity: 83 percent of the workers will be people of color, 60 percent will be women, 33 percent will be first-generation immigrants. There will be a hybrid of old established businesses and new ones. Trey and Amanda encouraged members to join in the effort to create this Madison Public Market. Their brochure invited people to visit their website, www.madisonpublicmarket.org, to learn how they can support this “next big project.”

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Greg Reinhard on Baseball in the Midwest

submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mike Engelberger

Greg Reinhard 4 4 18Greg Reinhard provided us with an entertaining and informative presentation on the current status and future prospects of baseball in Wisconsin and the Midwest.  He is a former professional player who played for the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs.  He now owns, with a business partner, the GRB Academy in Windsor.   The baseball academy develops players who seek to play at the collegiate and professional level.

Greg described how in the past, Wisconsin was more or less a backwater for baseball players in the college and professional ranks due to several factors such as climate, limited number of coaches who could develop skills, and the larger emphasis on football due to the Badgers and the Packers.  Greg, who grew up in Marinette, obviously overcame these issues but now is devoted to making a difference for youth today.  He pointed out that nationally there has been a 9% decrease in youths’ participation in all sports between 2009 and 2014.  He feels many factors contribute to this among which are declining community and school spending, distraction of technology and changing interests.

However, over the past several years, colleges and professional sports have shown increased interest in Wisconsin’s baseball players.  GRB Academy, in its short history, has worked with 191 players now on collegiate teams and 2 that were drafted out of high school into the pros.  Greg and his business partner stress that when they begin to work with a participant, they ask him and his parents, “You’re good enough to play post-high school, do you plan for a collegiate career or a pro career?”  They then work with the player toward that goal.

The presentation reflected Greg’s refreshing, balanced approach to youth and sports in their lives.

US – Mexico Trade Relationship

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Consul General Julian Adem with Club President Donna Hurd

Consul General Julian Adem was instrumental in opening a new consulate in Milwaukee, which brings legal and related  services to Mexicans residing in Wisconsin. Consul Adem documented how strong the U.S. – Mexico relationship has become under the current NAFTA agreement. He warned that threats to this treaty could seriously damage the economies of both countries. Mexico has built a solid framework for macroeconomic stability in the past two decades and now has a $1.2 trillion economy, making it the 15th largest world economy. The country represents a $125 million consumer market, with 60% representing the middle class. Mexico is the 10th largest world exporter and 1st in Latin America. Its total exports are $374 billion, and its total imports are $387 billion.

Regarding the U.S. – Mexico trade relationship, Mexico is the U.S.’s third-largest trading partner. Since 1994, trade between the two countries has multiplied six-fold. $1.5 billion dollars in products are bilaterally traded each day. Mexico is the U.S.’s second-largest export market with exports reaching $231 billion in 2016. U.S. imports from Mexico were $294 billion in 2016. A large industry in Mexico is auto parts, primarily for light vehicles. Most of these are American-owned companies. Mexico also manufactures electronic and electrical equipment, home appliances and flat-screen TVs. Many of the goods made in Mexico have components made in the U.S. regarding energy, Mexico exports crude oil to the U.S. and imports gasoline.

Trade between Mexico and Wisconsin has also increased dramatically since 1994. Today, exports from Wisconsin exceed imports. Dairy products are a major import from Wisconsin, as are hogs and poultry. It is estimated that 96,000 Wisconsin jobs result from products sold to Mexico. In April, negotiations will intensify to develop NAFTA 2.0. It would be beneficial if an agreement could be reached by July before a new Mexican President is installed. NAFTA 2.0 should be designed to encourage competition, provide new opportunities and strengthen the energy sector. Challenges to NAFTA are expanding benefits to all states, streamlining regional integration and opening the energy sector to more opportunities.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Reflections on Changes in Wisconsin Government

submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Donna Beestman

Todd Berry 3 7 2018.

Guest speaker Todd Berry (left) with Rotarian Steve Goldberg

Todd Berry, retired head of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, reflected on the changes he’s seen in Wisconsin government over the past 40 years.

The observable changes Berry noted are toward more short-term thinking, ideological polarization, gridlock and incivility.

The “old” was characterized by “citizen legislators,” who most likely had spent some time in business, other professions or parenting. The “new” legislator has likely selected a career path toward politics: a political science degree, internship and party activity.

Wisconsin is one of about a dozen states, and perhaps the smallest, with a full-time, professional legislature. These career politicians have a tendency to have their eye on their next election, rather than long-term strategy, bipartisan cooperation or the average voter. They are more beholden to party leaders who control committee appointments, influence allocation of special-interest campaign donations and otherwise affect the political fate of legislators.

Redistricting and Wisconsin’s primary election structure also tend to make a politician focus on special-interest voters at the expense of the average voter who likely doesn’t vote in the primary anyway. Making partisan primaries into all-candidate, cross-party primaries would be a step toward giving voters a broader, less predictable choice, said Berry.  In a recent year, fully half the legislators elected faced little or no real opposition.

In order to attract more non-career legislators, Berry threw out the “crazy” idea of tripling the size of the legislature. This would mean smaller districts, and less susceptibility to special influence funding. Technology could enable part-time legislators to communicate and vote without having to spend lengthy time in Madison, away from their constituents.

An audience member asked: Might the incoming generation of millennials resist the trend toward excessive party-boss influence? Unfortunately, noted Berry, while the average age of legislators dipped in the 70s and 80s, it has been increasing in recent years.

If you missed your meeting this week, you can watch the video here.