Thrive, the eight-county economic development group for south-central Wisconsin, is now the Madison Region Economic Partnership.

The new name, a new logo, and the next round of plans for growth were unveiled Thursday at the organization’s State of the Region summit, along with a report showing the Madison area is not keeping up with peer regions in jobs, income or population gains.

According to the report:

Madison-area population grew 12.6 percent from 2000 to 2012, but Lincoln, Neb., gained 16.3 percent; Des Moines, Iowa, rose 22.4 percent; and Austin, Texas, jumped 46.8 percent.

Per capita income rose 9.64 percent between 2006 and 2011, slightly better than that of Austin, but less than gains seen in Lincoln, Des Moines, Wisconsin and nationwide.

Unemployment in the Madison region between 2007 and 2012 was higher than in Austin, Des Moines or Lincoln.

The region had a 4.5 percent net loss of businesses from 2006 to 2011 while Des Moines lost 1.4 percent, Lincoln had a slight gain and Austin’s business count rose 11.8 percent.

The Madison region comprises Dane, Rock, Green, Iowa, Sauk, Columbia, Dodge and Jefferson counties. Figures from the other cities represent their metropolitan statistical areas as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Gary Farmer, past chairman of Austin’s economic development group, Opportunity Austin, was among the speakers at the summit. He encouraged the counties to work together.

“Embrace regionalism every day, in every way,” Farmer said. Even if one community loses out to another in the quest for new companies, “maybe you don’t get the ultimate prize, but you do get benefits from your neighbor being successful.”

Farmer said that in the past nine years, Austin recruited 256 companies from outside Texas to move to Austin, and financial incentives were offered in only 13 cases. “We’re not buying our way to the table,” he said.

The effort, though, is not cheap. Opportunity Austin has a paid staff of 14 and a $25 million, five-year budget, Farmer said.

The Madison Region Economic Partnership has seven employees and $1.1 million in revenues for 2013.

Five work groups established through the Madison region’s Advance Now economic development strategy, presented the next steps, including setting up a regional recruitment team to add diversity, creating a database that shows which products are manufactured in the region, and enhancing entrepreneur mentorship and innovation spaces.

Mac Holladay, the Atlanta consultant whose company helped develop Advance Now, stressed that the local effort has to be a public-private partnership: “The private sector across this region has to step up like never before.”

“You’ve got to keep looking at your competitors ... but keep in mind what makes this place special ... (including) your love for this vicious little rodent called Bucky Beaver ... Bucky Badger,” Holladay said, drawing chuckles.

About 250 people attended the event at the Madison Marriott West in Middleton.

Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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(7) comments


Third "brand". Still not much to show from this group. Lots of studies, some pretty maps, some out of state consultants. Fact is, we just have not found the right leadership for this yet. We are not very good at "regionalism" (look at the DCRPC or the MPO to see how NOT to do regionalism). We are as balkanized and as parochial as they come. But hey, now we have a new "brand" and a new how-to-suceed-in-12-easy-steps plan. Best of luck. My business is moving to Austin!


Thank you Scoooter for your job creation laser focus and it's dramatic results.


Hehehehe...LOL...good one!


Of course we're lagging, that's what mindless right-wing ideology does to a place. But WI , under Walker's "leadership", now nearly leads the nation in jobs not created and plummeting median wages (ie buying power.) The regional group should focus on breaking the GOP strangle hold on the state, so we can go back to the superior performance of the Doyle administration.

GOP policies are focused on wealth redistribution to rich campaign donors; its always a failing formula because it takes purchasing power from workers and under mines demand for goods and services. The super rich who receive the payola have a nearly 50% savings rate. Every dollar redistributed from hard working families to Walker's sugar daddies is at least a dollar being removed from the WI economy (the Domino Effect increases the impact.)

Get rid of Walker and his cronies, or we can all look forward to lagging other areas for a long, long time.


This place, this area is more known for left-wing ideology.


Really? So the GOP Senate, GOP House, GOP Governor, and GOP Supreme Court have left-wing ideology? And the plummet in economic stats like job creation and median wages, that began when the GOP took power, that's all a mere coincidence? Yeh ok, we're in the alternative GOP universe now!


Dane County.

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