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Last updated:

September 1, 2000

Regional 'New Economy' Forum Set for Oct. 4

Some 20 western Wisconsin leaders in business, industry, education and labor will spearhead a five-county forum to outline future directions for Wisconsin's "New Economy."

A St. Croix Valley Regional Economic Forum will be held on Oct. 4 at UW-River Falls. More than 100 leaders are expected to attend from Barron, Pierce, Polk, Pepin, and St. Croix counties.

The St. Croix forum is one of eight regional meetings around Wisconsin that will prepare recommendations to be considered at a Wisconsin Economic Summit Nov. 29 - Dec. 1 in Milwaukee. The statewide summit is being sponsored by the University of Wisconsin System, Forward Wisconsin, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin Technology & Entrepreneurs Council, and Competitive Wisconsin.

The initiative will address how Wisconsin can become a leader in the knowledge-based economy, building upon the state's existing strengths in agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.

UW-RF Chancellor Ann Lydecker, who will be chairing the St. Croix Valley forum, said that while Wisconsin's current economy is strong there are underlying factors which are indicating future problems if they are not addressed.

"Economic and demographic changes over the last few decades and forecasts of continued change signal some potentially stressful times for Wisconsin's economy in the not-too-distant future," Lydecker said.

Trends in the growth and composition of income, consumption, employment, business creation and population raise important questions for the Badger State that demand a closer look, Lydecker noted. They offer guidance for a strategic vision that can capitalize on the opportunities of the New Economy.

Preliminary research indicates that Wisconsin may be falling behind other states in the race for lucrative high-technology jobs. For example, Wisconsin's per-capita income of $25,079 is below the national average of $26,412, despite the highest labor participation rate in the country. That shortfall, which already translates into $7 billion of lost buying power in the state, is growing.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin lags far behind other states in attracting college graduates to Wisconsin, and in the portion of residents who hold college degrees.

According to Lydecker, "At the St. Croix Valley Regional Forum, we will assess where Wisconsin fits into the global marketplace, which strategies offer the most promise, where the greatest opportunities lie, and what we should avoid. "We will explore those topics in relationship to traditional or emerging sectors of our economy, including manufacturing, agriculture, service, and professional as well as the areas of biotechnology and high technology," she said.

The Forum will be built around seven key topics:

‹Building Quality Jobs
‹Enlarging Venture Capital Investment
‹Improving the Regulatory Climate
‹Educating the Workforce
‹Improving Wisconsin's Fiscal Future and Entrepreneurial Climate
‹Enhancing Key Infrastructure
‹Building a Distinctive Brand/Image to Position Wisconsin as a Technology and Fast-Growing Jobs Leader.

Regional leaders who are planning and facilitating the St. Croix Valley Economic Forum, are:

•Peter Bremer, technical services manager, Pressenter, River Falls.
•Susan Brown, dean of education & training, Chippewa Valley Technical College, Menomonie.
•Grant Durham, owner and manager, General Plastics Extrusion, Prescott.
•Jim Harsdorf, dairy and livestock production, Beldenville.
•Jan Hillard, director of institutional grants and research, UW-RF, (co-chair).
•Jerry Jerome, president, Turkey Store Company, Barron.
•Bruce Johnson, president, Amery Development Corp.
•Mark Kinders, director of public affairs, UW-RF.
•Jim Letourneau, president, Foley United Manufacturing, River Falls.
•Robert Milam, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, UW-RF.
•David Rasmussen, Polk County planner, Balsam Lake.
•Lynn Regnier, executive director, New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce.
•Bill Rubin, executive director, St. Croix County Economic Development Corp., Hudson.
•Quentin Schultz, president, Biodiagnostics, Ellsworth.
•Paula Stolp, community relations manager, Northern States Power, Hudson.
•Jack Sroka, executive director, Barron County Economic Development Corp., Barron.
•Bernie Van Osdale, city administrator, River Falls.
•Sharon Whelan, administrator, River Falls Area Hospital.
•Chuck Whiting, administrator, St. Croix County, Hudson.
•Richard Best, director, West Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, Menomonie.

For more information about the forum, contact Jan Hillard at 715/425- 3797, or visit the forum website at

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