My 2014 holiday 'nice' list

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Well, here we are. Another year has come and gone, and boy, what a year it was! Last December, I unveiled my first holiday “nice” list (leaving out the “naughty” for the sake of staying positive). So let’s give this another whirl and highlight some of the most encouraging business stories of 2014.

1. Our first look at crowdfunding: MobCraft, a local startup that brews beers that are designed and voted on by online customers, became the first Wisconsin company to take advantage of the new state-sponsored crowdfunding law. Working with Monona State Bank, which will handle the money the company raises through its stock sales, MobCraft is attempting to raise $250,000 in 90 days. Under this new law, startups are able to raise up to $2 million in funds (with an audit), so it won’t solve all of Wisconsin’s venture capital challenges, but it should help spark small business growth and entrepreneurism.

2. The (re)opening of The Edgewater: There may have been some construction delays, but it was well worth the wait to see this crown jewel open on the shores of Lake Mendota. There is no doubt that this hotel will be a destination meeting spot for local residents and visitors, with its amazing views, beautiful rooms and meeting spaces, four new restaurants, and of course the outdoor public plaza.  

3. Dane County unemployment continues to drop: According to the latest statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Dane County’s unemployment rate continues to fall, dropping to around 3% toward the end of 2014. Yes, there is still a large racial employment gap in the Madison area that needs to be addressed, but it is good to see that the county’s overall unemployment rate continues to stay well below the state and national rates.



4. “Business is good!” It wasn’t that long ago that I used to cringe when asking a business executive or business owner that standard networking question: “How’s business going?” Often you’d either want to avoid the question altogether or you’d have the urge to take off in a dead sprint immediately after asking it. In 2013, I noticed that responses were starting to take a more optimistic turn, and I’d be hard-pressed to recall many conversations from the past year that didn’t go in a positive direction after I asked the question. Most of the businesspeople I talk to are still somewhat cautious, but overall these conversations are going much better than they were just two years ago.

It was hard to pick only four “nice” stories from 2014 to highlight because there were so many to choose from. With that said, I hope the selection process gets more and more challenging each and every year. Here’s to a successful 2015. Happy holidays!

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