Report calls for 10-year, $100 billion federal Investment in “heartland” tech centers

MADISON, WI. DEC 9, 2019 –Governor Tony Evers today urged Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to give careful consideration to a new proposal that would provide up to $100 billion in the next decade to fund technological entrepreneurship and innovation in so-called “heartland” states.

A report released today jointly by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) notes the growing economic gap between a handful of highest technology, highest R&D “superstar” metropolitan areas, mostly located on the east and west coasts, and the rest of the country.

The report, The Case for Growth Centers, calls for federal funding of up to $10 billion annually over the next 10 years to advance “eight to 10 new regional growth centers across the heartland.” The federal money would include increased support for institutions of higher education, workforce development, and potential tax incentives for investments in these new regional tech centers.

In a letter to Wisconsin’s members of Congress, Governor Evers noted that the report identifies Madison and Milwaukee high among the top 20 best-positioned communities in the country to become major tech innovation growth centers.

“Based on the study’s proposed criteria, we believe Wisconsin is uniquely poised to lead the nation in this exciting next phase of entrepreneurship and innovation. Therefore, we urge you to give close attention to this proposal as it advances in the coming weeks and months and the potential it offers to build on our state’s strengths,” Governor Evers wrote.

The report ranks Madison at the top of the list on the basis of university STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) spending per capita, share of residents holding at least a bachelor’s degree, and percentage of STEM doctoral degrees. Milwaukee ranked 17th on the list.

Paul Jadin, the CEO of the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP), said the recognition of Madison’s status as a national leader in innovation is an honor: “Stratospheric growth in our information communications technology and biosciences sectors, combined with our economic stability as the most industrially diverse MSA in the country, makes the Madison region an ideal location for this type of investment. MadREP has pledged its support to our state, to the University of Wisconsin System and to our Milwaukee partners to do what we can to assist Brookings and ITIF in advancing the concept.”

“This recent recognition from the Brookings Institution highlights the Milwaukee-Madison corridor’s remarkable potential for additional tech sector growth,” said Pat O’Brien, executive director of the Milwaukee 7 Economic Development Partnership (M7). “To unlock that potential, we are engaged with regional and statewide partners to develop and attract the talented employees it takes to support the innovative companies that are here already, and those that will arrive in the future. We welcome additional resources that can accelerate that growth.”

The governor noted that Wisconsin’s strengths include having:

  • An economic development strategy that features a wide array of partners and a collaborative framework to both coordinate and capitalize on the type of investment proposed by Brookings, including efforts led by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and its more than 600 local and regional partners
  • A strong educational infrastructure, including STEM focus in the state’s K-12 schools, at the University of Wisconsin System and in the Wisconsin Technical College System
  • Four major technology transfer offices at public and private universities in Madison and Milwaukee and an umbrella organization that works with 13 comprehensive University of Wisconsin campuses
  • Support from the state’s major corporations to capitalize on technology and innovation as economic differentiators. Milwaukee has established the Tech Hub initiative, while Madison has significant corporate investments in its tech startup ecosystem. Both communities are home to a growing number of corporate venture capital funds

“Our state has demonstrated it has the infrastructure, institutions, and importantly, the relationships and commitment to transform ideas into successful outcomes, and Wisconsin could benefit immensely from the type of initiative proposed in the report. Moreover, this type of bold initiative could not only support the communities that receive funding, but ultimately strengthen our state and our country and support our position on an increasingly competitive world stage,” Governor Evers said.

Download a copy of the governor’s letter