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November 30, 2001

St. Croix Valley Region Represented at Wisconsin Summit

A dozen representatives of business, industry and higher education pitched the economic development potential for the St. Croix Valley Region at the Wisconsin Economic Summit II.

The two-day summit was held at the Midwest Express Center in Milwaukee and attended by nearly 1,000 persons from around the state on Nov. 26-27. Coordinated by the University of Wisconsin System, the Summit reviewed successes over the past year in advancing the state's economy. Numerous presentations and panel discussions also were held to outline development, infrastructure and tax issues that impact the economy.

Among the numerous presenters who outlined their vision for Wisconsin's future economic development were Gov. Scott McCallum and legislative leaders from both the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly.

The Summit was prompted by statewide concerns that Wisconsin's economy over the next decades will fall seriously behind the nation and other Midwestern states unless its economy shifts to higher paying jobs by including more technology in existing industries and attracting and growing high tech industry.

Data presented at the Summit shows that Wisconsin per capita income lags behind the national average by about $1,400 and nearly $4,000 behind Minnesota. That means workers cumulatively are earning $7 billion less based on the national average and $21 billion less than Minnesota, which is nearly identical in its workforce size. Should this downward trend continue, by the year 2020 Wisconsin's average income will be equal to such states as Idaho, Montana, Alabama, West Virginia and Mississippi.

Two speakers representing the St. Croix Valley were Quentin Schultz, the president of BioDiagnostics, Inc., of River Falls, and Lynn Regnier, executive director of the New Richmond Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau and president of the St. Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance.

UW-River Falls Chancellor Ann Lydecker lobbied to have Schultz and Regnier share regional success stories that illustrate the region's future.

"The region had a very visible presence at the Summit with two excellent presentations by BioDiagnostics and the Alliance," Lydecker said. Those presentations and the networking efforts of others from the region means "the state is becoming more and more aware of the development potential of the Twin Cities-to-Eau Claire corridor."

Regnier shared the platform with representatives from the Portage County Business Council, an economic development consulting company from Platteville, and Milwaukee's Northwest Side Community Development Corp.

Schultz was a panelist on the state's biotechnology and biomedical industry cluster, with panelists from the Madison biotech firm of Stratatech Corp., the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Mirus Corp. of Madison.

UW Extension Chancellor Kevin Reilly, who moderated the regional panel, noted that the St. Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance demonstrates "a story that represents the positioning of communities, businesses and individuals to be successful in the future economy. It is at a crossroads place that points the way towards successful partnerships."

During her presentation, Regnier cited the marketing strategies of the Alliance, which includes 20 communities in six counties that border the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Regnier related her presentation to remarks by McCallum and other presenters who noted that one of Wisconsin's greatest strengths in drawing highly educated workers and entrepreneurs is the state's quality of life.

"That really speaks to the St. Croix Valley," Regnier said. "We are a unique asset because of the beauty of the St. Croix and all that our communities offer. Our research shows that visitors to the Valley are exactly the kinds of people we would like to attract to move here and bring their businesses with them."

Regnier suggested that the state should find ways to capitalize on those visits by following up and sharing information about economic development potential.

Schultz opened his remarks by publicly thanking the River Falls Economic Development Corp. and community leaders for finding ways to accommodate his business. He noted that in a few months they cut through red tape that normally would have taken years to surmount.

Since his relocation into the River Falls industrial park last year he has tripled the size of his accounts and has doubled his work force to 40 full-time positions and up to 20 part-time UW-RF student employees.

His biotechnology company, which specializes in genetic seed purity testing, is what he hopes will be the first of many biotechology companies clustered in River Falls and the St. Croix Valley.

The partnering between the EDC, UW-RF and his business has been excellent, Schultz said.

"There is a bright future for biotechnology in River Falls," Schultz said. "I-94 can become one of the economic clusters in Wisconsin."

Also attending the Summit were State Rep. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson; Sue Brown, campus administrator, Chippewa Valley Technical College, River Falls; Daniel Brown, executive director, Barron County Economic Development Corporation; and Paula Stolp, Xcel Energy, Hudson.

UW-RF staff and students attending the conference included Provost & Vice Chancellor Ginny Coombs; Vice Chancellor Virgil Nylander; Dean Barbara Nemecek of the College of Business & Economics; Small Business Development Program coordinator Kathy Bartelt, Public Affairs Director Mark Kinders; and students Jill Hornung, a senior marekting communications major from Nicollet, Minn.; Tara Kendall, a senior biotechnology major from River Falls; and Ann Proehl, a junior business administration major from Golden Valley, Minn.

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