Reflecting on the year’s biggest biz stories

From the pages of In Business magazine.

As we wrap up 2016, it’s time for my annual look into some of the biggest business news stories in the Greater Madison business market this year:

  1. DeForest development: If you haven’t taken a trip up to DeForest, you’re missing what might be Dane County’s best-kept business secret. This development didn’t happen over night, but there was a big splash in 2016 when The Little Potato Co., based in Canada, announced it would locate its first U.S. plant in the village. Since the company chose DeForest over several other locations in the Midwest and Northeast, this was no small accomplishment.
  2. Light at the end of the Judge Doyle Square tunnel: Many were starting to wonder if this project would ever come to fruition, but it appears there might be some finality after the Madison Common Council approved the most recent redevelopment proposal. The $170 million project would include a 250-room hotel, retail and commercial space, apartments, and a new parking structure. This has been years in the making and hopefully soon we’ll have shovels in the ground.
  3. Dane County unemployment continues to drop: According to September statistics released this fall by the State Department of Workforce Development, Dane County’s unemployment rate has fallen to 2.6%. It’s encouraging to see the jobless rate trend downward and remain below state and national levels.

On the flip side, a couple of iconic local retail shops closed this past year. After 34 years of baking, the popular Scott’s Pastry Shoppe in Middleton closed its doors in August and will surely be missed. Also, Mallatt’s Pharmacy closed two of its stores this past year and changed its remaining Madison pharmacies to costume/gift stores. While the Mallatt’s brand will remain, it will certainly be strange to see it leave the pharmacy business.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge two local executives on their retirements. Carl Gulbrandsen, who has been so instrumental as the managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), left his post in June of this year. Carl will be the featured speaker at our next Icons in Business program, so if you’d like to hear more about his sterling career and the future of WARF, visit Gary Wolter, longtime president and CEO of Madison Gas & Electric, recently announced his retirement effective March 1, 2017. Gary not only had an impact on MGE, he was involved in many local boards and devoted countless hours and resources to community programs. Hats off to both.

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