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,, 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.

A History Lesson on The Cap Times

submitted by Andrea Kaminski

NICHOLS_ZWEIFEL_2_6268274 (1)On March 28 John Nichols (left) and Dave Zweifel (right) shared with Rotarians wisdom and tales from their new book, The Capital Times: A Proudly Radical Newspaper’s Century Long Fight for Justice and for Peace. Nichols noted that as the Madison newspaper celebrates its centennial, it is still committed to the principles on which it was founded by William T. Evjue: promoting world peace, exposing discrimination and calling out corruption. Nichols noted that many newspapers don’t last 100 years, especially those that take such bold stands.

While The Capital Times is committed to these principles, it has a strict “firewall” between the reporting and editorial writing.  Evjue believed that journalism’s duty is to print the truth and the facts, but also to recognize that there is injustice and to call it out. The paper’s slogan since 1929 has been: “Let the people have the truth and the freedom to discuss it and all will go well.”

Zweifel said that Evjue quit his job with Wisconsin State Journal and launched The Capital Times when the State Journal “turned against him” in the build-up to World War I. He opposed the push to go to war, and that was enough to be labeled un-American and a traitor at that time. The Chamber of Commerce told its members not to advertise in the new paper and threatened to boycott businesses that did. The boycott cut the number of ads in The Capital Times from 46 in its first edition to none in the second edition. To fund his newspaper, Evjue started selling shares in The Capital Times to individuals, farmers in particular. The advertisers soon returned.

Nichols explained that Evjue did not want to edit or publish a mainstream newspaper. He believed the paper would not be totally truthful if it is trying to impress other journalists. He believed The Capital Times should remain independent in order to live up to its high standards for itself.

Nichols and Zweifel told a few illustrative and amusing stories from their book. For example, the Ku Klux Klan was quite popular in parts of Madison in 1920, and neither the Democratic nor Republican party would admit that the movement was based on racism. Evjue sent reporters to a KKK rally and called out the Klan for what it was.

Another tale recounts the story of a cub reporter from West Virginia — John Patrick Hunter — who was sent out to “get a story” shortly after he was hired. He walked out of the newsroom and happened to see a copy of the Bill of Rights. He copied a few lines from that, added some choice parts of the Declaration of Independence, and went out and asked people to sign it. This was in the McCarthy Era, and the first 111 people he asked refused to sign it, saying it was too radical. The story he wrote was a hit. Other newspapers lined up for permission to run it, and President Harry Truman mentioned it in a speech to make the point that people had become afraid to uphold our own American values. Nichols asserted that Hunter could easily have won a Pulitzer Prize for the story, but explained that Evjue didn’t allow Hunter to enter it because he feared the recognition by other journalists would compromise the newspaper’s independence.

Other stories in the book include the antics of reporter Cedric Parker, who would go to great lengths to get a story. One time, with a little deception, he got members of Nazi Bund to provide their names and addresses to him voluntarily at one of their organizational meetings. He once shot a photo of the owner of a Hurley gambling business standing in front of an illegal slot machine. Another time he hid the body of a drowned boater under a Lake Mendota pier to ensure The Capital Times would be first to run the story.

Our thanks to WisEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  You can watch the video here.



Korean Culture Night for Rotarians & Guests

submitted by Sharyn Alden; photos by Donna Beestman

Korean Night Photo 4  Korean Night Photo 5

On March 22nd, Rotarians convened at the beautifully appointed Gathering Room at Nolen Shore Condos for “Korean Night,” a Cultural Awareness Fellowship event. Cocktails were served, complements of our hosts, Soyeon Shim, Dean of UW School of Human Ecology, and Christopher Choi, UW Professor, Biological Systems Engineering.

We were treated to a bountiful buffet of Korean dishes catered by Sol’s on the Square. The challenge was not to overload each plate as the choices were intriguing and many. When Soyeon gave us a preview of the menu, she noted table-top cooking is common in Korea. I heard diners rave about the sweet potato noodles, a seafood, pancake-like presentation with soy sauce, bean sprouts and spinach steamed with sesame oil, and a wonderful surprise –potato salad with cucumbers.

Not surprising, but equally inviting, was the dish that most of us knew at least by name –kimchi a traditional, somewhat spicy Korean dish of fermented vegetables, often including cabbage and daikon radish.

At the end of the meal, another surprise:  a plate full of delicious cream puffs, made by our event organizer, Majid Sarmadi, was the perfect touch!

The after dinner program was a thoughtful, insightful “storyboard” culled from about 80 slides highlighting Korean culture. It was presented by our hosts who met in the U.S., but each was born and raised in Korea.

We learned that South Korea, about 30 minutes by air from Japan, is surrounded by “big power.” Soyeon’s mother lives within about 20 miles from North Korea, but the hosts said people in South Korea, for the most part, go about their daily lives without constantly looking over their shoulder.

The country which is about the size of Indiana has the 11th largest economy in the world. “We don’t have any natural resources,” Soyeon said. “Our resources are human resources.”

She illustrated that by noting that 80 percent of high school grads go on to college. “The country is obsessed with education,” she said. But that level of stress comes with a price. Of the 35 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), South Korea is No. 1 in suicides.

For those thinking of visiting South Korea, photos of the country’s beautiful landscape were stunning, magical and alluring.  First-time visitors might also see people bowing to each other. “This is one way we show respect for each other; in business and in personal relationships,” said Soyeon.

So much to learn in an evening, but it was a great start to discovering the intricacies of Korean culture.

US – Mexico Trade Relationship

Julian Adem 3 21 2018A

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.

The Complexities of the Immigrant Journey

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Mike Engelberger

HO7A6120An important theme of today’s meeting was the impact, experience and contributions of the immigrant on society and their journey from their birth home to making a new home in the United States.

From the Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award–named for Manfred Swarsensky, a German Jewish immigrant who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 — awarded to Dr. Suresh Chandra, an immigrant from India, for his work locally and internationally with Combat Blindness International to our speaker today, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, who is an immigrant from Iran by way of Spain.  Her family fled Iran during the Revolution for safety, and she came to the United States in 1991 to attend graduate school.  She is now a naturalized citizen and Chief Diversity Officer at UW Health.

She painted the immigrant experience as shaped by loss and complexity – loss of home, family, job, culture, language, community, the familiar, etc.  She also reinforced the positive outlook of the immigrant.  The quest for opportunity, choosing goodness over evil, the desire for one’s children to do better than the parent, the strengths of cultural integration into society (as opposed to the Euro-centric notion of melting pot assimilation), the principle of building bridges instead of walls, and developing extended family-like connections within the community.

Addressing questions posed about the immigration issues of our current time, Bidar-Sielaff felt that we are in a time of persecution of the immigrant.  She urged us to remember our Rotary Four Way Test and to advocate for common values, and good thoughts, words and deeds.  She encouraged us to be allies, and be present with the immigrant community when there are issues.  It is less easy for policymakers to dismiss concerns when there is broad-based support from all manner of skin color, culture and station.  And, of course, vote!

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