Posted tagged ‘Madison’

Wisconsin’s “Left Behinds” Are Ignored

October 14, 2017

The Badger State’s celebrated comeback from the Great Recession has been incomplete. I argue in the first of a two-part series in Isthmus that rural Wisconsin and inner-city Milwaukee remain mired in economic and social pain:

Call it “the two Wisconsins,” as the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance presciently did in 2006 when the nonpartisan budget group documented Wisconsin’s split reality even before the Great Recession soundly fractured the state economy into winners and left-behinds.

Today, while Dane County booms and the bigger cities in the Fox River Valley and western Wisconsin prosper, the rest of the state is largely mired in a downturn that is a recession in all but name.

Wisconsin is not alone. This dichotomy is also America’s story, as the Economic Innovation Group, a centrist research group in Washington, D.C., first documented in May 2016. The EIG study — widely ignored and fraught with political implications, as pundit Harold Meyerson has argued — detailed how painfully limited the economic recovery from the Great Recession (the magnitude of job destruction earned its adjective) was compared to post-recession periods in the early 1990s and early 2000s.

“The 1990s recovery was powered by small counties, small cities, rural areas. It was very much a grassroots recovery where the entire U.S. landscape experienced a blossoming of enterprise,” says Kenan Fikri, EIG’s research and policy manager.

The early 2010s’ recovery was brutally asymmetrical. By the time the U.S. economy pulled out of the recession, the split was extreme between America’s prosperous and left-behind counties.

So it is in Wisconsin. My story tries to define the problem and suggests that our political leaders have yet to come to grips with it. You can read more here.

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A Young Man Of The Times

April 26, 2013

Nate Lustig is the prototype of the successful  young entrepreneur. His generation of  risk-takers is building the new Madison economy. I explain in an Isthmus column:

Lustig followed the familiar template of tech innovators. Even as a kid, he challenged convention.

By his own admission, Lustig was “a terror” in school. Hated homework. Rushed through his assignments. Refused to keep a work notebook. His parents, both lawyers, cut him slack…as long as he stayed on track to get into UW-Madison.

Lustig found his groove refereeing soccer. He says he became an independent contractor at 12 — booking games at his own choosing, biking to parks and making $15 or $20 per outing. He learned a lesson his very first game when a coach started swearing at him.

“I was the one with the whistle,” he says, which pretty much defines his outlook on life. “I got used to making money and not having a boss. I was running my own show.”

At UW-Madison, Lustig became expert at scoring football tickets. He’d charge a small fee for his friends and a larger fee for strangers. That led him to buy a rudimentary ticket website from a graduating senior. He and partners turned it into a seven-campus ticket marketplace that they sold “for the high six figures.” Entrustet [a company that devises digital wills] became his next project.

School was a drag. Lustig wound up a political science major on the five-year plan because he hated — that’s his word — business school classes. They “offered nothing that helped me as an entrepreneur,” he says. They were geared, instead, to advancing students whose ambitions were to land high-paying jobs in corporate America.

“They were very cutthroat because they needed a high rank in their class,” he says. Lustig, on the other hand, wanted to launch his own business, and he had that IT instinct for collaboration and reaching out to colleagues.

He was, in short, a catalyst. A guy who makes things happen.

“What Nate says, he does,” notes Joe Boucher, his lawyer and mentor.

“He’s very resourceful in bringing people together,” says Forrest Woolworth, cofounder of the PerBlue mobile gaming operation.

But Lustig, who remains a Madison booster, has moved to Chile to work.

Here’s the money question: Will he return home to do business?

To read more, please go here.

What Madison and Milwaukee could learn from Denver

November 23, 2009

One measure of the stagnant political culture in Wisconsin has been the failure to sort out a 21st century transportation strategy, especially in southeastern Wisconsin but also in greater Dane County. Reality is that economic markets and job-sheds transcend Wisconsin’s 19th century political boundaries. Yet our communities are locked in endless turf battles as if those regional facts of life don’t exist.

I was curious to hear what city planner Peter Park had to say about his experiences in Denver. As you’ll see from this story for WisBusiness.com, Denver is far ahead of any Wisconsin community, and Park is one of those really bright guys you seek out for his insight.

Park: Milwaukee’s former planner embraces rail as key to urban development
11/16/2009

By Marc Eisen
For WisBusiness.com

Peter Park, the star urban planner behind Milwaukee’s downtown revival, returned to Wisconsin Friday to discuss the lessons he’s learned in his new work as Denver’s planning chief.

“We need to look at transportation and development together. They’re not separate,” he told a gathering of several hundred environmentalists at the Promega Corporation’s Biopharmaceutical Technology Center in Fitchburg.

Park, 46, is working the land-use side of the most ambitious transportation project underway in the United States — the $4.7 billion FasTracks program. It promises 119 miles of light-rail and commuter-rail tracks by 2017, including 70 train stops that are expected to be the focal point of new residential and commercial development in the Denver area.

“Doing all this at once is crazy and scary,” Park admitted. “But if we’re going to grow [the transit system], now’s a great time for it.” Metropolitan Denver’s population of about 2.7 million, he noted, is expected to hit 4.3 million by 2035.

Park’s talk to the “Bringing Bioneers to Wisconsin” conference was a stark reminder that Wisconsin’s marquee cities, Milwaukee and Madison, are laggards in sorting out their 21st century transportation systems.

Read more here.


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