Posted tagged ‘Brad Grzesiak’

Old School Politics And The New Economy

March 19, 2015

The disconnection between Wisconsin’s growing tech sector and the state’s governing political dynamic has never been greater. This Isthmus story discusses how the Legislature’s decision to enact union-breaking “right to work” legislation left Madison area tech leaders puzzled and dismayed.

“As an employer, I can tell you this has zero bearing on my decision to stay in Wisconsin or to hire more people,” Dan Wilson, a founder of Moxe Health, told me. Other leaders had similar comments.

I write:.

It’s tempting to dismiss the comments of the techie execs as inconsequential because they represent startups and boutique businesses with small workforces. They are midgets compared to the titans of Wisconsin industry who have promoted right-to-work through their powerful lobbying arm, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

But ignoring the new kids is a big mistake.

“In every single state, in every single metro area, young firms create the most jobs. That’s true everywhere,” says Dane Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which advocates for startup businesses.

The tech component has certainly paid off in Dane County.

It’s fueled, of course, by homegrown Epic and its rise as the dominant electronic health records vendor in the country. The workforce tops 8,000. Revenue in 2014 reportedly hit $1.8 billion. And because founder Judith Faulkner insists on running the entire operation through its fairyland campus in Verona, the region has boomed economically. Epic alone accounted for 27% of all the new jobs created here from 2001 to 2012, according to Kennelly.

The city staffer’s presentation on the Madison area’s economic dynamics makes a persuasive case that the Dane County metro area is impressively outperforming the rest of the state. With 10% of the state’s population, Dane County accounts for 12% of the state’s jobs, 15% of its economic output and 16% of the businesses created since 2000 and 73% of the net new jobs created in Wisconsin between 2004 and 2014.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentineldiced the numbers in a different fashion and came to the same conclusion: Dane County led the state in job creation between 2003 and 2013, with nearly 20,000 new jobs. That’s three times as many as second-place Waukesha County. Milwaukee County lost 19,000 jobs in the same period.

For anyone who still sees Madison as a cossetted government town — well, they need to think again. Kennelly’s report shows that the private sector is driving job and wealth creation in Dane County. “Our government workforce is effectively flat,” he says.

Even better, the growing industries here support good-paying jobs, namely in the biomedical/biotechnical and information technology business clusters.

“The Madison area is really an economic engine for Wisconsin,” Kennelly says. “State policymakers sometimes like to pick on Madison. A more constructive approach would be to say: ‘What are they doing right, and how can we replicate it in other parts of the state?'”

To read more, please go here.

Madison’s Web Future

October 19, 2012

In recent years, as the Great Recession locked down the economy and the Republican surge rolled back  the perks of public employment, I’ve wondered how a quintessential government town like Madison could reinvent itself and  prosper. More and more, I find myself thinking that  the young entrepreneurs in the city’s tech industry will lead the way. For this story in Isthmus, I look at a Web-development outfit called Bendyworks.  I make this case:

 Information technology companies like Bendyworks could be the stars of downtown Madison’s 21st-century economy.

“The tech community in Madison is exploding,” says [co-owner Stephen] Anderson. “So is Madison’s entrepreneurial community.”

He’s sitting at a table at the Bendyworks office with [Brad] Grzesiak and their partner, Jim Remsik. All three are convinced the downtown is well situated to ride the wave. They argue that the isthmus has the urban setting, the indie culture, the face-to-face proximity, and the creative talent to prosper in the burgeoning IT world.

And they declare that Bendyworks, in its deliberate, idiosyncratic way, is intent on making it happen. Anderson defines and champions the scene. Remsik and his wife, Jenifer, organize Ruby conferences (and in a few years a music-themed conference) that bring the best tech people to town. Bendyworks and the Remsiks have even produced beguiling videos promoting Madison (watch one) to out-of-town techies.

“We can compete with the second-tier cities like Portland and Austin,” Remsik, 35, says confidently. “They don’t have anything on Madison. The problem is that people don’t think of Madison and say, ‘Oh, Madison — yeah, that’s a cool start-up place.”

Grzesiak easily has the most ambitious idea of the three partners: Madison should create a formal web district stretching east from the Capitol and south of East Washington Avenue to Schenk’s Corners.

That corridor has the empty storefronts and cheap space that start-ups need, he says, but it still lacks one crucial component to attract programmers: more apartments that accept cats. “In the web world, it’s a cat thing,” Grzeskiak says.

Who knew?

To read more, please go here.

 

 


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