Engaging influences on Madison
From the pages of In Business magazine.
Madison is a blessed community in many respects, but perhaps the greatest blessing is the thousands of people who are engaged in the community.
Whether that’s part of the job or part of extraordinary citizenship, we established the annual Most Influential feature to honor people who make a difference. Inside these pages, we profile 15 people who have demonstrated their influence in profound ways during the past year.
As you read the profiles, we’re sure you’ll agree that Greater Madison is very fortunate to have their engagement and their influence.
Impact for HIRE
As a behind-the-scenes leader of the United Way’s HIRE Education Employment Initiative, Angela Jones has been instrumental in helping people find family-sustaining, career-building jobs.
How instrumental? According to a 2016 report issued by American Family Insurance, as of the fourth quarter of last year, 685 people, including 187 from the local Literacy Network, had enrolled in the HIRE program. Of that total, 558 had landed a new job, including 109 that paid at least $15 per hour. In addition, 289 of that total were low-income parents and 420
of them were people of color. Not bad for an initiative that began in 2013.
In addition to the Literacy network, the initiative’s other partner agencies are Centro Hispano, the Latino Academy of Workforce Development, the Madison Area Urban Ministry, the Urban League, and the YWCA. Even with these partners, connecting people who need jobs with companies who need to fill them isn’t easy. With HIRE, area nonprofits and businesses communicate and collaborate to reach the goal of providing stable employment. Businesses share the kind of skills they are looking for, and nonprofits tailor education and job-skills training to job seekers.
As the United Way’s director of community impact, Jones has played an instrumental role in the win-win-win nature of HIRE — the three winners being job seekers who lack internet access and cannot use online applications, companies looking to upgrade their workforce and improve their onboarding programs and corporate culture, and nonprofits that serve as enablers of a more diversified workforce.
Hero for Homeless
Jackson Fonder might not be in the public eye very often, but the president and CEO of Catholic Charities continues to influence change for the better. As a leader of one of the largest charitable organizations in Greater Madison, one that provides human services to Dane County and the surrounding 10 counties of south-central Wisconsin, he is in a unique position to serve.
In 2016, an opportunity to make a difference in the community arose and Fonder led the development of a day center where homeless individuals could turn for help and resources. Not only has he personally traveled to other successful homeless day centers to learn best practices, he also has met with local organizations and Madison area nonprofits to bring them on board so that, as a community, Madison can offer the best, most effective place for homeless people to gain a sense of caring and support.
Renovation on the building, previously occupied by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, began in May. All indications are that the homeless day resource center, now named The Beacon, will open in early October. The center will serve individuals, families, and children, and provide 100–150 people per day with needed amenities like showers, laundry, restrooms, phone service, and private family spaces. It will link guests to much-needed resources like housing assistance, mental health and addiction counseling, and assistance with obtaining identification.
Fonder has taken on this project and turned this vision into a reality. Currently, Catholic Charities is lining up nonprofit partners, hiring staff, recruiting volunteers, and enlisting fundraising support.
Smiles All Around
Curtis Henderson has been getting a lot of buzz this year. Not the kind of buzz you hear from a drill at the dentist’s office, but the kind you get while earning grants to fund outreach to economically disadvantaged people. In this case, the outreach provides preventive dental care to those, especially the poor, who would otherwise go without it.
Poor oral health can negatively impact our overall health, which is why Henderson’s organization, More Smiles Wisconsin (formerly the Madison Dental Initiative), has been raising both awareness and money. One grant will help special needs patients who require general anesthesia, as well those who experience oral pain but cannot afford a dentist. Another grant will ensure the construction of a new clinic at the Allied Family Center (with the Boy’s & Girl’s Club), with
an anticipated opening after Thanksgiving.
More Smiles Wisconsin has made some headway in becoming
a hybrid model utilizing both volunteer and paid dental health professionals, and the organization is poised to double the number of patients it serves. Such efforts have gained support from elected officials. Republican state lawmaker Kathy Bernier is championing legislation to expand the facilities where dental hygienists can work independently.
Access to dental sealants in the schools has improved the oral health of school-age children, but there is a lack of dental services for Medicaid enrollees. Given that dental diseases are nearly 100% preventable, the work of Henderson and More Smiles Wisconsin could go a long way to improving overall health.
Asset to Community
James Tye, executive director of the Clean Lakes Alliance, refers to Joanna Burish as his “key collaborator” on Frozen Assets, which has been transformed from a small fundraising event into a weekend-long destination extravaganza at the Edgewater. This past February, the event drew 6,000 people to the venue, raising nearly $170,000 for the vital cause of clean lakes.
Burish has helped build Frozen Assets into one of the most anticipated networking events in Madison, and in so doing has helped the Alliance make gradual but unmistakable progress in diverting phosphorous from local lakes — 13,600 pounds in 2016 alone.
A financial advisor and partner with Northwestern Mutual, Burish works behind the scenes to help get things done and give back to the community. Frozen Assets is her most notable project, but her admirers describe her as a selfless promoter of women in business and the very definition of a business connector.
In 2011, Burish founded a group of female business leaders known as “The Brauds” with a goal of mentoring, empowering, and inspiring each other. The group caught the attention of other women who wanted to be part of it, and last year she launched a second group, The Brauds 2.0, as part of what’s now known as The Brauds Network. Just as she has helped create the vision to take the Clean Lakes Alliance national via Clean Lakes America, one of her dreams is to take The Brauds national.
Burish also has been working on a book about mentoring and coaching women to improve their salary negotiating skills, and her next vision is for women to overcome societal expectations and start asking for — and getting — the equal pay they deserve.
Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon would have made this list even if he hadn’t received the Distinguished Service Award from the Wisconsin National Guard Association. His work to boost entrepreneurship here and statewide are reason enough to single him out, but having won the Wisconsin National Guard Association’s highest civilian honor, he’s being recognized for his efforts to base the next-generation F-35A aircraft at Madison’s Truax Field.
In so doing, Brandon, the Chamber, business leaders, and elected officials support the mission of the 115th th Fighter Wing, and its 1,200 airmen, through their work with the Badger Air Community Council. They also support the community because landing the F-35A at Truax would be an economic boost for Greater Madison.
In January, after the Air Force announced that Truax is one of five finalist sites for the F-35A (two bases will receive the next-generation jets), the Chamber launched Together Truax, the next step of an initiative designed to support the effort to base the F-35A at Truax Field. The initiative not only features ongoing advocacy, it also includes a new website, TogetherTruax.com, and Facebook and Twitter pages.
Meanwhile, Brandon remains focused on the economy and entrepreneurism. Thanks in part to the Chamber’s “Access Agenda,” Madison is widely recognized as an innovation leader in advanced industries. Earlier this year, the city was listed as one of four technology hubs in an Atlantic Council report titled “Keeping America’s Innovative Edge,” joining the San Francisco Bay Area, Boulder/Denver, Colo., and Austin, Texas.
In a city facing concerns over gun violence, gangs, and a persistent achievement gap, Madison’s low-income Truax neighborhood boasts higher graduation rates, fewer issues with violence, and
a vibrant and racially diverse neighborhood. Much of this can be credited to Tom Moen, executive director of the East Madison
In 2016, the EMCC celebrated 50 years of service, and for 42 of those years Moen has been at the helm. EMCC’s focus on education, social responsibility, and achievement has had a profound impact on hundreds of families. The center offers a range of services for all ages, from preschoolers to senior citizens, including a weekly food pantry, after-school and Saturday drop-in services for youth, Madison’s only no-cost summer camp for families with incomes below
the poverty line, and a host of recreational activities.
The center operates six days a week, providing meals, tutoring, and care for children all day Saturday and during critical afternoon and evening hours. It’s the only center in the area that stays open until 8 p.m., providing valuable after-school care for working parents. More importantly, graduation rates among EMCC youth have increased from 50% to 90%.
In 2016, the Community Development Authority renovated 28 town houses for homeless families in Truax Park, and the EMCC provided numerous resources for these families, including food
and household items and educational programs for children.
Much of this is due to its low-key leader. With the help of a staff of three full-time employees, plus dozens of volunteers, Moan has created a community center that serves as a model for the county.
Neighborhood Fixer Upper
Curt Roeming is known more for his popcorn business, Curt’s Gourmet Popcorn, which has been on the Capitol Square for more than 30 years, and for his leadership in another company, Top Quality Carpet Cleaning & Restoration. But it’s another kind of restoration work with two companies, Gilson Street LLC and Brown Building LLC, where he’s had a more profound impact.
It began several years ago when Roeming purchased a property on Gilson Street in Madison in which to run one of his small companies. As years passed, he got to know the neighbors, including an elderly man who did not feel safe and always had his windows covered. The same man owned other properties on the street, and all were boarded up and sitting empty before Roeming purchased them and started the long process of turning a blighted neighborhood around one property at a time.
One of the properties Roeming remodeled now houses the Funk Factory Geuzeria. Shortly after that, Perfect Moves Martial Arts took up residence next door.
Since these properties were sitting empty and dark, the neighborhood was an area where drug deals were occurring and prostitution was prevalent. Roeming’s investment in them not only led to their rehabilitation, but also added outside lighting and greatly cut back on nefarious activities. Commerce has returned, property values are increasing, and thankful neighbors are once again fixing up their houses, working in their yards, and greeting one another outside.
Roeming is not a big developer, nor does he have big money backing him. He simply believes in this neighborhood and now the neighbors do, as well.
Latinos and Latinas officially became the largest minority group in Wisconsin this past year, a trend that is benefiting Wisconsin in many ways. Leveraging that trend in the form of new and existing business development is the mission of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County and its president, Mayra Medrano.
In what many view as a hostile political environment, Medrano reminds her fellow Wisconsinites of how Wisconsin immigrants are key contributors to the state economy, especially the immigrant entrepreneurs who have started an estimated 10,000 businesses. They contributed nearly $600 million in business income annually between 2006 and 2010 and, in an era where the state struggles to create new business ventures, she notes that immigrants open businesses at twice the rate of U.S.-born citizens.
As the business community service manager for Madison Gas & Electric Co., Medrano had a head start on serving the business community. And as the purchasing power of immigrant consumers and the sales receipts of immigrant-owned businesses continue to grow, the Latino Chamber has created an Emerging Business Development Center to assist startups by offering office space, access to technology, and business coaching.
The new center is in keeping with the Latino Chamber’s determination to serve as a resource for Latino entrepreneurs. The Chamber now has 225 member businesses, roughly half of them Latino-owned, and stands ready to assist would-be entrepreneurs with business consultations and workshops, and to serve members with a business directory now available through a mobile phone application.
Most Madisonians are familiar with Deb Archer’s success in making Greater Madison a popular destination, but keeping this area top-of-mind from a visitor’s standpoint is a task that never ends — even for someone who has been at it for more than 20 years and counting.
Archer, president and CEO of the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Madison Area Sports Commission, and her busy staff continue to lure events here. We know about the Ironman and other events and conventions that call Madison home, but their latest “lure” is the national CrossFit Games away from Los Angeles for at least the next three years. Under Archer’s leadership, the sports commission made the case for the event to leave California for the first time in its 10-year history and give Madison a try.
During the weeklong event, to be held the first week of August, an estimated 33,000 visitors could spend up to $5.6 million. Archer’s vision is that this event becomes part of the Madison scene for years to come and continues to pay financial and reputational dividends.
Nominated by the staff at Lindsay, Stone & Briggs, Archer’s impact on Greater Madison is widespread, but the economic impact of the CVB’s destination marketing efforts alone have been remarkable. In 2016, visitors to this area accounted for more than $2 billion in direct and indirect spending, and their interest in Madison supported more than 21,600 jobs in Dane County. That translated into $635 million in labor income, a healthy 7% increase over 2015.
It was yet another record year and offers more evidence that after two decades, Archer’s influence continues to grow.
One man who definitely does not fly below the radar is Barry Alvarez, athletic director for the University of Wisconsin. Every Wisconsin fan knows the story of how he turned around Wisconsin’s once moribund football program — three Rose Bowl championships and all — but he’s now been the UW’s athletic director for more than a decade and the school’s overall athletic program is consistently ranked among the nation’s best.
Case in point: The Learfield Directors’ Cup honors institutions that maintain a broad-based athletic program — both men’s and women’s programs — and schools receive points based on their NCAA finishes in 20 sports — 10 men’s and 10 women’s. Thanks to another top 10 showing this year (No. 5 nationally after all winter sports titles were factored in), UW has ranked in the top 10 among Division I schools at the end of the winter season 16 times in the previous 23 years.
Under Alvarez, Wisconsin has been in the top 20 after the final standings five times. Clearly, the sporting momentum continues, and Madisonians don’t have to rely on the big three — men’s football, basketball, and hockey — for an entertaining night of sports. Women’s hockey and volleyball are among the UW’s nationally ranked contenders, as well.
Alvarez has done for Madison and Wisconsin what Vince Lombardi did for Green Bay and Wisconsin — after we had reached rock bottom, he enabled us to discover our own possibilities.
When it comes to giving back to the community, American Family Insurance has taken a back seat to no other corporate entity, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take advantage of opportunities to raise its philanthropic game.
Under CEO and Chairman Jack Salzwedel, “Am Fam” once again sponsored the PGA Champions Tour American Family Insurance Championship in June at University Ridge. The second annual version of this golf event featured the Championship debut of Steve Stricker. In conjunction with the golf tournament, Am Fam stepped up to secure the appearance of entertainer Darius Rucker, who performed June 23 at Breese Stevens Field. Rucker gained fame as the guitarist and lead singer for the 1990s Grammy Award-winning group Hootie and the Blowfish, and his appearance is indicative of the kind of acts Madison can draw.
Under Salzwedel, a native of DeForest who began his career as a claims adjuster, American Family is also contributing to Milwaukee’s and Wisconsin’s musical legacy with its sponsorship of a new amphitheater at Summerfest. In addition, Am Fam continues its legacy of entrepreneurial support, emerging as a partner in the development of the East Washington Avenue corridor with the Spark building, which broke ground earlier this year. The Spark will not only be the new home of StartingBlock Madison, but also serve as an entrepreneurial hub at a time when Wisconsin must spark new business formation.
As the president of Frank Productions Concerts LLC, Charlie Goldstone has an artistic vision to elevate Madison’s reputation as a must-play destination for top-tier artists. He views Frank Productions’ work to strengthen Madison’s nightlife as an integral part of the city’s strategy of attracting and retaining young professionals.
With 2017 attractions such as Boston at Breese Stevens Field, Diana Krall and Bonnie Raitt at Overture Hall, and Boz Scaggs, Joe Jackson, and Kansas at the Capitol Theater, he’s well on his way to creating the kind of music scene that appeals to young and old alike.
Founded in 1965, Madison-based Frank Productions and its affiliated companies provide services for live entertainment events throughout the United States. The third-generation, family-owned business produces hundreds of concerts each year, selling tickets for national artists like Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as regional and local artists.
As part of that family business, Goldstone already has done some heavy Halloween lifting by preserving the once out-of-control “Freakfest” with designed stage sites and crowd-safety plans. He also organized the first-ever concert at Breese Stevens Field featuring the Avett Brothers.
Neither Goldstone nor his colleagues at Frank Productions can wait to showcase Frank Productions’ new Sylvee performance venue. Ground has now broken on the venue’s future home on East Washington Avenue, and with 50,000 square feet of space, Sylvee should be one grand girl at which to stage (and watch) a show.
When you list the people who deserve credit for the economic renaissance of the East Washington corridor, names such as Brink, Gebhardt, and Salzwedel are among the first that come to mind. Attorney Angela Black deserves to be mentioned right along with them, for it’s this partner from Husch Blackwell who has represented Gebhardt Development for years and was a crucial player in various building projects coming to fruition.
Whether it was the Constellation, the Galaxie, or the new Cosmos and Spark developments now under construction, Black’s knowledge and determination were indispensable in getting the projects approved. As noted by Beth Prochaska, vice president of Potter Lawson, East Washington was a bit of a business ghost town for years. Without Black, a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Law School, we might still be arguing about how to proceed.
“Her razor sharp intelligence, nuanced understanding of the complex set of laws and plans that govern the East Washington corridor, and her seemingly endless tenacity to see a project through to completion was key to the successful completion of the Gebhardt buildings you see lining the 700 and 800 block of East Washington today,” Prochaska states. “It takes a strong, patient, diplomatic, creative, and knowledgeable person to successfully navigate the City of Madison process. From the neighborhoods, to the staff, to the politics of the [Madison Common] Council, she was instrumental in making it all happen.”
The Village of DeForest, already home to some of Dane County’s largest employers, is growing by leaps and bounds, and while Village President Judd Blau is quick to share the credit, he is the ringleader.
By day he’s a sales manager at TDS Telecom, but his sales efforts on behalf of local economic development have helped to bring $65 million in new assets to the community. They include Bell Labs, the Little Potato Co., American Packaging’s new plant (and 300 new jobs that come with it), the GRB Baseball Academy, and the continuing progress of residential developments such as Rivers Turn, Heritage Gardens, Chapel Green, Fox Hills, and Savannah Brooks.
Adding to DeForest’s busy year were the Renewable Energy Group’s purchase of Sanimax biodiesel (with an additional $7 million in improvements), the awarding of a $945,000 Department of Transportation grant for improvements in TIF District 6, the expansion of both the Village Hall and Public Services buildings, and the Upper Yahara River Trail boardwalk expansion.
Along the way, the village closed a highly successful Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) District that attracted companies such as American Girl, DEMCO, and Ball Corp., and improved the quality of life by successfully passing a pool referendum.
For all this, Blau also credits Steve Fahlgren, village administrator, and Sam Blahnik, community development director. You also could cite the village’s location between Sun Prairie and Waunakee, which also are experiencing growth, or its proximity to freeways that invite an estimated 60,000 vehicles daily, but it takes leadership to leverage those assets. Blau provides it.
Wisconsinites who point to Chicago’s gun violence and sniff, “That could never happen here,” are not only mistaken, they might already be in denial. Perhaps it could never get to that level and frequency, but Madison Police Chief Mike Koval knows that Madison is not shielded from the tragedies that occur in many communities.
In April, Koval issued a necessary wake-up call about growing gun violence in the community after an evening of unprecedented gun-related crime, and he has called for more police and community resources to deal with the problem before it grows out of control. “We are no longer immune to what we see taking place on a national scale,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Despite some aldermanic calls for his ouster, many in the community are already heeding Koval’s words and actively trying to head off escalating violence. A coalition of Madison community and faith groups — which last year presented a 15-point plan to address violence and racial disparities — have been talking to city officials about city funding for a rapid response, peer-support program aimed at reducing violence and supporting victims of violence. Mayor Paul Soglin wants the Police Department to pursue a federal grant to hire 15 more police officers and expand community policing.
Recent violent crimes have demonstrated the importance of effective policing in Madison — the kind of policing that requires community support. For injecting a dose of reality into law enforcement controversies, and pointing out that Madison could be approaching a dangerously violent tipping point, Koval has once again done Madison a service.
Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.