Putting Greater Madison on the ICT map

It’s been five years since Madison has developed a worthy successor to the High-Tech Directory, but MadREP appears to be creating something that might go much farther in the cause of business development.

The High-Tech Directory, compiled by Madison Gas and Electric, was discontinued in 2013, but a lot has changed in four years. That change is being captured in a new map of information communications technology organizations. The prime mover in this map-making project is Michael Gay, senior vice president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP), and the project is about more than simply identifying components of the local information technology ecosystem.

With the assistance of a mapmaker intern at MadREP, Gay is developing a map of organizations engaged in information communications technology — both companies and entities such as University Research Park. “Information communications technology — that’s the industry name for it,” Gay notes. “We don’t say IT anymore. We say ICT.”

With a combination of logos and business descriptions and geocoding to their postal address, MadREP will use the map to market Madison’s critical mass of technology firms, available capital resources, and talent to site selectors. The idea is to explain that Madison’s ICT chamber is loaded, not only with established companies like Epic, but also emerging local companies such as Forward Health Group, Filament Games, and Per Blue.

In the spirit and necessity of promoting the entire ecosystem, the map also will include co-working spaces such as 100 State, business resources such as Sector 67, gener8tor, and Capital Entrepreneurs, and the noteworthy presence of technology giants Amazon and Google.

“We don’t say IT anymore. We say ICT.” — Michael Gay, senior vice president, Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP)

“It could be a five-person employer or one that just raised $10 million in angel or venture capital money,” Gay explains, “but these are all companies that have substance.”

The city’s ITC industry cluster is concentrated downtown, where a multifamily building boom accommodates young technology professionals who want to live “where the action is,” and former Epic employees who are not only starting their own technology companies, but also applying their skills elsewhere.

“Even if they are not starting the companies, if they are coding, if they are a system design engineer or a software programmer, their skills are extremely important to these companies,” Gay notes.

The map also will help tell a story about the depth of IT talent being produced by UW–Madison’s computer science program and talent being lured to Madison by technology employers. An ancillary but very important benefit could also be to limit whatever brain drain still hampers local efforts to develop the ICT cluster.

The map was created for ICT site selectors such as Newmark Cornish & Carey in San Francisco, one of northern California’s largest commercial real estate brokerage firms. The firm does a great deal of site selection work for prominent ICT companies looking to expand geographically, and its site selectors visited Madison last June on what MadREP refers to as a “fam” tour (familiarization tour). While here to investigate the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, particularly in information technology, they also talked about the value of such a cluster map.

Paul Jadin, president of MadREP, says the site selectors have developed something similar in the Bay Area, and the local map would primarily be used in presentations to other site selectors and to explain exactly what kind of technology density exists here.



The big picture

MadREP, the economic development agency for the eight-county, south-central Wisconsin region, also is collecting data for a broader version of the ICT map for the Greater Madison area — with a Dane County focus — as technology organizations in Fitchburg, Middleton, Verona, and other local communities get some recognition, as well.

Organizations will be vetted to make sure they are real players, regardless of size. “It will be this [city map) times three or four,” Gay says. “We’re going to have 150 companies, maybe 200 companies in all, but we’re only putting the ones on here that belong here.

“To make our map, you better have a good bullet,” he continues. “Not every company submitted to me from a community is going to make the list, so that’s the point. We have our standards.”

Jadin says the map will not only be replicated for Greater Madison, but for ICT organizations in the south central region and then for other technology sectors such as biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, and health care. “The main thing to do now is extending through probably the metro area, just to make it clear what’s going on in West Madison and Middleton, Verona, et cetera,” Jadin states, “and then the next step would be bringing in the bio sectors so that we can very clearly show significant density in that cluster, as well.”

(Read part 2 of this story here.)

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