Economic Development

I hope you care. And if you do care about regional economic development, I hope you put on your "thought leader" hat and become part of the stimulus for true development.

County Executive Joseph Parisi has announced his "Dane County Jobs and Prosperity Project" and is holding a series of summits. He’s introducing a new survey to gather input from diverse sectors of the economy and is considering creating a new Dane County Economic Development Department in his first budget, but he’s not moving ahead until he finishes with some summit listening sessions with – believe it or not – business and thought leaders.

And since many of us have clamored for a legitimate "voice at the table" in local government decisions for years – ideally without having to actually run for office and sit through all the nonproductive meetings government is famous for dragging out at all hours of the day and night – I think it’s only fitting that we take the seats offered and contribute to the present discussion.

That’s why I’ll be moderating the summit on health care, created for the businesses that create health care jobs. This particular summit will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m., at Epic, and you’re all invited, regardless of profession or bent.

It will follow the summit sessions already held on the topics of high-tech and bio-tech, moderated by Mark Bugher; manufacturing (Bill Haight); growing green (Chuck McGinnis); and agriculture (Pam Jahnke). Ray Allen will wind up the series by moderating a summit on small business/minority business on Monday, Aug. 22, at Genesis. You can find the list of all the sessions at www.prosperitydane.org, where you can also access additional information about the Jobs and Prosperity Project’s goals.

I hope you’ll join me to meet Joe Parisi, if you don’t know him, but more importantly, to capture his ear. I see the summits as a conduit for listening on the county’s part, not for driving information out to potential voters about what a great job the county is doing; you all know what I mean if you’ve ever had to listen to a speech given by a governor’s appointee.

What is the county’s role in health care – not as a provider, but as a conduit for your health care-related businesses? How can it help you expand your business or create more jobs in the region? Should the county be an influencer on your behalf, with other government agencies? What are your concerns and interests? What do you need?

I’m hoping this particular summit attracts not only presidents of hospitals and clinics, but also those businesses involved in making medical equipment, and those advocates for health care in the region, and YOU. All are welcome to come, and it’s a great chance to visit the Epic campus. So please put it on your calendar and join us in the Adromeda Building, Delphi Room.

I’ve mentioned it to business people, specifically at a different gathering held the same day of the press conference when Parisi announced his project. THRIVE has recently lost its director, with Sean Robbins’ move to Portland, and it is commissioning a study (reported a high source) to help determine its next moves and directives. There is much uncertainty right now about regional economic development, and there isn’t a lot of faith in summits, as we’ve had summits followed by questionable results. So, I was asked, what would be different about this series?

My response is that you could make a difference. You aren’t attending a series of panel discussions, as is usual in summits, where you do more listening than talking. Let’s take the County Exec at his word, that he’s there to listen, and let us (you) do the talking. Be clear and concise and candid, not only about what you think the county could or should do itself, but also about what the county might do to influence other bodies. It has a bully pulpit and now you do, too, to use your influence. Speak up!

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