Kauffman Foundation – We’re #50: Wisconsin last or second-to-last in three key start-up categories. For those of us that grew up in Wisconsin, it’s hard to imagine being last in anything. Oh, maybe those bad Packer years in the 70’s and 80’s, but entrepreneurial start-ups are more important than a football game. Start-ups help determine our economic trajectory.
“It’s gotten to a point where it’s becoming an economic imperative that we do something about this, and it’s probably teetering on a branding crisis,” said Zach Brandon, president of Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce to the Milwaukee Journal. “We can no longer explain away the metrics and say, well, they measure the wrong things.”
More than three years ago, Lisa Johnson, who was then vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., vented the frustration many in the state’s start-up ecosystem felt. Certainly killing initiatives such as the former Wisconsin Innovation Network (WIN) did not help.
“We suck. We’re bad. Do we keep talking about it or do we take action?” Johnson said to the Capital Times, a digital publication based in Madison.
There is hope. SCEDC has worked with dozens of entrepreneurs this year, and many projects are underway. Looking forward, SCEDC has over 40 projects in the development pipeline. Discussion of a local accelerator, similar to “Ward 4,” is taking place. Locally, Jake’s Cafe is a great place for entrepreneurial development.
It can’t happen soon enough. Wisconsin is 50th. Where’s Alabama? #48. How about Mississippi? #20. For a place such as Sheboygan County, that saw entrepreneurship blossom with the formation and growth of companies such as Kohler, Sargento, Johnsonville, Masters Gallery, and Muth, just to name a few, we can lead Wisconsin forward. We are certainly better than this.