My 2015 holiday nice (and naughty) list

From the pages of In Business magazine.

My, how time flies. It feels like we just rang in the New Year, and here we are closing out 2015. So it’s time for my annual look into some of the “nice” business stories (and, sadly, one “naughty” one) that occurred in 2015. Let’s start with my “nice” list:

  1. StartingBlock Entrepreneurial Center taking shape — It’s great to see Madison develop into an entrepreneurial hub, and StartingBlock Madison is a vital step toward this progression. StartingBlock will be a coworking space and entrepreneurial center that would also house the startup accelerator gener8tor, Sector67 collaborative space, and networking events put on by Capital Entrepreneurs.
  2. The continual development of the East Washington corridor — StartingBlock Madison would be located in the new Cosmos development planned for the East Washington Ave. corridor, an area of Madison that was long dormant and is now coming to life with mixed-use projects such as the Constellation and Galaxie. All three projects are the visions of Otto Gebhardt (Gebhardt Development) for an area the city can take pride in.
  3. American Family Ventures — Rarely in my column do I single out individual companies, but it’s hard to ignore the impact that one of Dane County’s largest employers is making with the entrepreneurial economy. American Family Ventures, the company’s venture capital arm, has plans to invest $50 million over the next several years, with the majority of the money going to forward-thinking startups. American Family has pledged a major investment for StartingBlock, as well as a $40 million partnership agreement with UW–Madison to continue its support of academics, research, athletics, and charitable efforts.

My intent was to focus on the positive, but then some stunning news broke as I was wrapping up my column — news that involves one of Madison’s largest employers. When Kraft Heinz announced the Oscar Mayer plant will be closing, it not only meant that Madison will lose one of its signature companies, it also meant that more than 1,000 productive people will be out of work through no fault of their own.

This decision signals the end of an era, but Madison is a resilient business community that will rally to help affected Oscar Mayer employees make career transitions and continue to nurture startups that will become the next iconic companies of this region.

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