On an historic day, when the Club returned to the Park Hotel for the first time in more than a year of pandemic isolation, our speaker was fellow Rotarian Jason Fields. Jason is the new president of the Madison Regional Economic Partnership. He spoke on the topic “We Must Not Accept Complacency.” The title derives from his belief that Madison is a great place to live and work, but his mission is to give his all for everyone he deals with, always. And he construes economic development to mean “to empower people.” All people. He is motivated by the question that his wife asked him: “Yes, Madison is a great place. But for who?” He briefly referred to the statistics we all know, that Wisconsin has huge disparities between its White and Black populations. He and his wife were themselves discriminated against while seeking a home here as they move from Milwaukee. This is never acceptable. Beyond the immorality of it, we have to send a message that this will not be tolerated if we really want to be competitive in attracting talent.
Jason mentioned several issues that MadRep will be working on. One is broadband, which is not evenly available in the state, in rural areas and among minority populations. He will also be addressing the problem of unequal access to capital by various populations. A fund is being created. There is also a tension between Milwaukee and Madison that is unnecessary and harmful to development here and should be eliminated. We should unlearn Midwest modesty and learn to brag about ourselves to attract talent from Minnesota, Illinois, and the world. Another problem we face: We tend to “sacrifice progress to perfection.” Task forces talk, and nothing gets done. There has to be a sense of urgency.
Jason is a man of diverse experiences. He has been a politician, a financial adviser, a banker, a radio show host, and a podcaster. He is a dynamic speaker. A man with passion and an idealism disciplined by reality. He will be a valuable member of the Club and the community.
Our thanks to Jason Fields for his presentation this week and to Rich Leffler for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/LBCqc9c_bcE.