Input from Wisconsin Businesses
Board members from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Wisconsin Technology
Council and Competitive Wisconsin were asked in an Internet survey:
“If the UW System could do one thing to help increase high-paying jobs in Wisconsin,
what would it be?”
Findings from over 60 respondents include:
It is unlikely we will create high-paying jobs in the state by attracting large companies to
Wisconsin. The focus needs to be on strengthening existing companies to enhance their
competitiveness in a global market and ensure continued growth.
There is a need for expanded resources devoted to the migration of ideas developed
through research at the UW to Wisconsin-based businesses. This migration of ideas will
facilitate technology transfer and lead to key inventions that help Wisconsin business.
There is mutual interest and benefit in the UW and the business community increasing
collaboration. The business community currently feels misunderstood. By working
together more, the UW System can become more cognizant of the needs of businesses in
Wisconsin (i.e., tax rate and regulatory reform issues) and align the UW’s initiatives (ie:
training skilled workers) to match the business community.
There is a need for more and better technically trained, high-skilled workers in high-
demand areas. And, the state must value and nurture young entrepreneurs within the
University and the community to build an entrepreneurial spirit and economy. Doing so
will enable us to create even more high paying jobs.
The UW System’s tradition of providing outstanding education at an incredible value is
essential for attracting the best and the brightest. The UW System needs to better educate
current students about advantages of the state as a place to live and work, the job
opportunities available to graduates, and how to align their academic interests with
employment opportunities within the state.
A greater partnership between the state and local businesses is needed in order to
effectively promote economic development and better understand needs and
opportunities of businesses in Wisconsin.
Individual comments follow.
If the UW system could do one thing to help increase high paying jobs in Wisconsin, what
would it be?
? Change the tenure system. Faculty members are generally not rewarded now for engaging
in research that leads to commercialization and/or contacts with the broader community.
Nor are they rewarded, generally speaking, for working together. A rewards system that goes beyond publication as an end onto itself is desperately needed.
? Continue to build private/ public partnerships (WID, BioEnergy Research Center, OCR, State of WI) and ensure that these organizations have sustainable (long term) resources, particularly capital and management talent, to tap into so new businesses can be created here in Wisconsin. We need a steady pipeline of entrepreneurial start ups to build our economy. There is no better resource than friends of the UW - particularly graduates who could be tapped into to mentor new companies. It's also important to note that entrepreneurs come at all ages - and aren't all "young" students. Therefore, reaching out into the community at large should be part of an overall plan and working with existing programs in a collaborative effort essential to the success of the program. Carl Schramm's book (The Entrepreneurial Imperative) is a great resource for building an entrepreneurial economy and the importance of the education/university system in that economy. (of course, Carl's a UW grad!). As Carl can be quoted: "Starting a business should be as common as getting married and having children".
? Each academic department or equivalent unit on the UW system campuses is essentially self-governing (WI statutes) without accountability. Moreover, faculty members are generally apathetic, or even hostile, regarding economic development initiatives that the campus or system generate. So, if you don't have a "buy in" by the faculty, and they aren't accountable, nothing will work in the long run. Thus, my suggestion: (1) each campus should be governed by a board that reports to the regents, so that local control is available to ensure compliance; (2)the legislature should then require each department or equivalent unit to accomplish goals and meet milestones regarding such initiatives that this governing board approves each year. (3) If after repeated warnings faculty members in a unit do not respond appropriately the governing board should then take successively stronger measures to enforce compliance, starting with freezing salary levels, then freezing new position and resource allotments, to eventual disbanding of a unit. Sounds harsh? Only if you have lived inside the system can you appreciate the lack of accountability that would not be tolerated in any other public or private organization. The system is broken and no serious help will be forthcoming from the self-governing units currently not accountable to anyone unless the system is fixed.
? Continue to foster technology transfer and entrepreneurship within the UW System.
? Ensure that there is a high level of interaction between business executives and the professors. Required skills are changing so fast that many technical skills are outdated by the time of graduation. The single most helpful thing the UW system could do is instill a love of discovery and provide the tools necessary to help students engage in lifelong learning.
? Have a stronger pull of Wisconsin residents into UW Madison program. Those people tend to stay in Wisconsin, as demonstrated by campuses other than Madison. In addition - mandate Co-Op and Internship programs for students in STEM related fields
? Teach students how to think. High pay comes to those people who add value to a company or project. Thought also allows people to adapt to the ever changing market place. In the past, our union based high paying jobs did not train people to adapt to change. Markets are efficient; it will minimize those who do not help create efficiency. The UW can and should train students to be thinkers and in turn, the students will become effective in an ever changing market place.
? Graduate more degree holders and help them find jobs
? Extend it reach to understand what Wisconsin businesses need and do. WARF's patent portfolio for example is very large, yet most of the best patents are used by companies outside of Wisconsin. This seems to be an indication that UW is not inventing many
things that help Wisconsin businesses - is this because UW doesn't really understand that
much about Wisconsin business needs?
? Formalize, publicize and actively encourage a process by which researchers, professors
and students partner in something akin to a 'right of first refusal' with Wisconsin-based
funding sources to create start ups that remain in Wisconsin.
? Train grads to successfully start high tech companies in WI using UW generated
? Encourage more collaborations between UW-System research faculty and faculty at other
Wisconsin research institutions.
? The creation of high-paying jobs can be done by expanding the university research
enterprise while linking academic programs with private sector (small and medium size
companies) and providing grants for the integration. These small grants will act as the
glue between the academic world and the business/entrepreneurship world. ? I am only about 15 years removed from U.W. Stout. I believe the University made it far
too easy, especially for the younger students to wander around without really focusing on
a specific skill or profession. Many of my friends just basically took in the experience of
the University, which is a great experience I will admit, but never really focused on a
specific area. I believe that many young kids today come out with a very broad but
limited experience which leaves them ill prepared for the real world. I just think more
specialized training in many cases would give our kids a better chance to hit the work
force and actually add value to their employer which would in turn help them earn a
? Let graduates know that high paying jobs are here in Madison. Train high tech executives
so that start ups can have a pool of candidates to run small companies. ? Give the schools of engineering greater flexibility on tuition to improve the quality of
their programs and increase enrollments.
? ENHANCE & IMPLEMENT "THE WISCONSIN IDEA": to instill the desire to learn,
we must have tangible & intangible elements with a VISION that motivates commitment
to excel & achieve 21st century workforce skills. The Lake Superior Region [a tri-state
area] requires linkage to the UWRP via a TECHNOLOGY SATELLITE on our WITC
[ASHLAND] CAMPUS where start-up companies from UWRP can develop their
products from laboratory to global market. This 5-10 % high-tech 21st century industry
will stimulate our present economy, enhance our educational/medical component and
attract investors to join our quality of life. Collaboration by counties, cities, townships,
school districts and the business communities with a SHARED VISION that enlarges the
pie is essential for this to happen. We can do this step by step starting with that
"CENTER OF EXCELLENCE" LINKED TO UWRP. THIS IS THE ONE SINGLE
THING that will require many other parts to complete the puzzle! ? Foster technology start-ups at campuses other than Madison.
? The UW System, by further emphasizing UW-Madison, should be more aggressive in
seeking our business collaborations and tech transfers.
? Educate students who are capable of and committed to creating wealth. Wealth is created
in environments that have: (1) low taxes; (2) low crime rates; (2) efficient/effective
judicial systems; (3) efficient/effective government systems; (4) low levels of corruption;
(5) an intelligent, skilled and educated work force; (6) stable families; (7) a legal and
government system committed to permitting and protecting free markets (which includes
allowing those successful in the market to enjoy and retain the results of their efforts, and
includes the corollary, i.e., not providing a government bail-out to those who are
unsuccessful in the market, or who make personal choices that impair their ability to be
successful in the market); (8) a robust civil society, committed to civic improvement; (9)
policies that encourage labor migration; and (10) a commitment to liberty, but not license.
To the extent the UW system can select its students based on the above, and educate its
students in these truths, and otherwise equip them to build such a society, such would be
a meaningful contribution to increasing the likelihood of more high paying jobs in
? I apologize for not suggesting just one thing. Here are the three tings I would suggest: (1)
Continue the tradition of providing outstanding education at an incredible value so the
System is attractive the best and the brightest (2) Continue the many successful efforts at
knowledge and technology transfer to the private sector (3) Be very active participants in
the public and private efforts to significantly improve the availability of venture capital in
? Help get more high growth start-ups going in the state, especially in the Milwaukee area. ? Increase resources devoted to the migration of ideas and concepts developed through
research activities to Wisconsin based businesses.
? Help work with the state legislature and the Governor to best understand the overall
dynamics of keeping corporate and division headquarters in Wisconsin. This includes
identifying the revenue generated by these positions, the revenue from the supporting
cottage industries, the level of philanthropic giving from these industries and the
respective leadership in state, etc. All too often, this is taken for granted and only
becomes visible when the company or individual moves out of state. The need for a more
friendly business state to business is needed. This includes a fair and equitable tax for
both individuals and corporations. It also requires reasonable actions on regulatory
compliance, tort reform on product liability, etc. Another need is to better promote the
strength of the in state firms as to career potential for graduates from all levels of
education in the state.
? Continue to create new Wisconsin based companies based on commercializing
university-based research and turning it into growing new businesses. ? Educating faculty and students about the advantages of staying in Wisconsin will
encourage more students to find jobs here. I am not certain that faculty encourage
? Focus on education that pays well and there is a demand for in Wisconsin. It's time to cut
some programs that do not add economic valve to the State of Wisconsin. Wealth is
created by building, manufacturing, growing and Mining things. Wealth is just
transferred from one pocket to another by everything else. Focus on creating wealth for
? More aggressively promote the strength of a University degree in the recruitment of
business and industry and the development of start-ups.
? Strengthen the relationships and support that UW provides to existing and new or
potential businesses in Wisconsin.
? To ask the question are we creating the high paying jobs that the markets need or are we
creating what we think they need.
? Give the colleges of engineering greater flexibility in tuition differentials so that they can
fill the pipeline of badly needed engineers.
? We need more/better trained technically competent employees. Not just engineers, but
technicians to run and/or maintain advanced manufacturing automation. An associate
degree program in manufacturing technology would be helpful.
? Teach and nurture entrepreneurs to grow the abilities of students to launch start-ups in
new areas that will create profitable companies and many jobs for the future economy. ? Given the intensely competitive environment that exists between states attempting to lure
new business facility construction and the conservative policies of Wisconsin with
respect to this competition, it is unlikely that a large number of high paying new jobs will
be generated by new businesses moving into our State. Therefore we will have to count
on our existing businesses to provide the majority of the new jobs. The obvious answer to
the survey question then becomes how we work with existing businesses in Wisconsin to
enhance their competitiveness in a global market and ensure their continued growth. ? Work with state and local government to promote economic development, businesses in
Wisconsin and the benefits of working and living in Wisconsin. Understand the future
needs of Wisconsin businesses and tailor the curriculum to provide students experiences
that fit those needs. Develop curriculum that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation
within the state.
? Partner with Wisconsin companies to understand better business needs and opportunities
within these firms.
? Continue to invest in the construction programs of the State and Universities. The ripple
effect in many sectors of the economy will help increase high paying jobs in the state. ? Encourage students to obtain graduate degrees.
? Invest in research that helps UW leadership, legislators, and the public understand what
the economic drivers are that will create opportunities for WI citizens. Start with an
understanding that outside of Madison (actually even inside Madison but that's another
story) wearing a Laboratory-coat for a job is actually a very, very small part of the
opportunity equation. With this baseline understanding, help students make decisions to
align their academic interests with real employment opportunities throughout the State. ? Internships with Wisconsin, US and International Companies, coordinated and supervised
by the individual colleges within the University of Wisconsin System. ? At the undergraduate level, create a system that builds on strengths of campuses and does
not try to duplicate offerings. Concept: specialized areas of excellence for each campus
which attract the best and the brightest non-Wisconsin students. ? Work with Wisconsin companies to keep the graduates here in Wisconsin. ? Help graduating students with placement in Wisconsin businesses. ? Produce more math, science & engineering graduates.
? Focus on stand-alone teaching and graduation programs for technologically high demand
? Focus on near term investment in technology advancements in businesses that will
employ professionals, engineers, computer scientists, genetics experts, and other
? Centralize the system, eliminate some of the expensive and duplicative facilities around
the state by absorbing them into a more regionalized system. Many corporations around
the world have done this and I see no reason why our University system should not
? Wean itself off state support so it can nimbly react to the needs of the marketplace
without political interference.
? Quit trying to be all things to all people in the state and consolidate all the 2 year and
rural campuses into one of the larger ones (Stout, Whitewater, Oshkosh, Green Bay,
Stevens Point, etc.)
? Serve as an incubator for the development of new technologies and research initiatives to
regionally (southern Wisconsin) replicate the success of Silicon Valley, Boston, etc. ? Perform an economic assessment of what policy changes are necessary to bring
additional businesses into Wisconsin -- then advocate for those policy changes. ? Develop a more direct and transparent structure for informing Wisconsin entrepreneurs of
technology developed by University research that is available for commercial
exploitation and working as a partner with businesses to exploit University research.
? Support UW with the state legislature and the governor. Hand in hand!! ? This survey is not particularly useful, since the questions elicit desired answers. UW-
Madison is essential to our economy. BUT, that doesn't mean that value is leveraged to
actually help the state. The other campuses are of less value because they lack the caliber
of faculty, etc. The efforts at UWM largely take resources away from Madison and will
result in both being mediocre. No amount of PR with catchy titles from the UW System
will change the fact that the UW and particularly its leadership are largely disengaged
from the life of the state. That was not always the case, but it is increasingly so with the
retirement of Katharine Lyall. The one thing the UW can do is to sincerely and honestly
attempt to reengage with the people of Wisconsin.
? Convene top private companies in Wisconsin’s CEOs and ask where the system could
provide most assistance. Offer tuition discount to students if they domicile in Wisconsin
after graduation and are part of Wisconsin job base. Continue to develop UW-Madison’s
business school of entrepreneurship also at UW-Whitewater.
? Encourage, nurture, and help create more spin-off startup companies. ? On the business side, teach entreprenuerism and keep the kids in state. On the research
side, keep money coming into the state.
? For medium sized and smaller businesses -- develop consulting teams of Professors to
assist the managers in developing, expanding, and managing the business at modest fees,
subsidized by the UW System.
? Make a strong effort to improve relations with the WI Legislature. The current incident at
UW-MILW (Muslim group demanding that speaker be uninvited) and the UW's slow
reaction time to clearing saying "No. We champion diversity of expression from all
sides" is an example of why certain legislators constantly have fuel to use to bash the UW. ? Help students to become more entrepreneurial. I do business in Canada and notice
considerable more of an entrepreneurial spirit. Being in business is more than just doing
the job in front of you, to succeed you must find ways to best the competition. I do not
see this in student coming out of the Universities or High Schools. ? Maintain reputation as a top educational University.
? Make sure that the scientific, technology research and transfer opportunities of the
University are available statewide and not just in Madison. We are near UW, Stevens
Point, Oshkosh and Green Bay and for the most part the System has not figured out a
good way to get those campuses in the mix with the technology opportunities available in
Madison. There needs to be a better network.
? Use Wisconsin residency as a criterion for enrollment.
? Influence/shape the playing field in Wisconsin (legislative, tax policy/issues, economic
development issues, educational needs, trained workers, etc.) that would make Wisconsin
a more attractive and friendly climate for leading edge and global businesses to start,
relocate and expand.
? 1. Curriculum needs to be widened and expanded to be inclusive to adequately teach
practical economics. 2. Hiring practices in education that allow for movement between
education and business could create beneficial cross pollination. Business sabbaticals or
exchanges with business would add value to life long academic careers and to the
classroom. 3. Intern programs for students provide hands-on real-life experience. 4.
Focus of business schools today on mergers, acquisitions, profit for the quarter and
today’s stock prices. 5. M.S.O.E. of long-term contracts system a model for tenure to
assure academic freedom and raise excellence in the classroom. 6. Agriculture has been
overshadowed by the University. 7. Expand international study and exchange. 8.
University can do more to build partnership and show support for business. 9. Regent
appointments are too political. 10. Athletics are over emphasized. 11. UW systems and
inderpendent colleges can serve as a model nationally and worldwide. Closer cooperation
between universities, business and commerce will pay good dividends.