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The Community Economic Development program promotes local economic well-being and quality of life in Wisconsin communities. We work with and support community economic development practitioners and organizations, tribal and governmental entities, and business and nonprofit organizations and help gain access to the information, research, education, and technical assistance necessary to make informed decisions.

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Program Updates

2024 Agricultural Outlook Forum

The 2024 Wisconsin Agricultural Outlook Forum will begin with a morning devoted to the Situation and Outlook for farm income and the Wisconsin economy, as well as for the state’s major commodities: dairy, livestock and meat, corn, and soybeans. The afternoon will focus on “Rural Livability in Wisconsin” and we will hear from leaders in the public and non-profit sectors that are engaged in efforts to maintain, enhance, or revitalize rural life. Our goal is for people to better understand the challenges facing rural Wisconsin communities and what our intellectual and public leaders are doing to help.

State Internet Expenditures in the Great Lakes Region

Many broadband expansion discussions are driven by the expression “build it and they will come.” While there is a continued push to build more broadband infrastructure, research continues to indicate we need to also think about the cost of internet services for the consumer. Looking at trends in household internet expenditures allows us to see how consumer spending on internet services may be related to future broadband expansion and adoption trends.

Econ Quiz: Job Satisfaction

On the heels of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the phrases “Great Resignation” and “quiet quitting” became part of our vocabulary. The first term described the unexpected churn in the labor market as quit rates hit a 20-year high in the spring of 2022. The second phrase has taken on many different meanings.

Exploring Poverty as a Crucial Economic Performance Measure

There are numerous measures of economic performance ranging from population and employment growth, and relative income levels, to new business formation. One important measure that tends to receive less attention in policy discussion is poverty.

Econ Quiz: Household Wealth

The Survey of Consumer Finances has some interesting information about how U.S. households accumulate and hold both wealth and debt. Today’s quiz focuses on non-financial assets held by U.S. families.

Wisconsin’s Leading Export Industries

The ability of Wisconsin businesses to export to foreign markets remains an important part of the Wisconsin economy. In 2022 Wisconsin businesses shipped over $27.4 billion to 182 separate counties. The single largest export sector, accounting for $1.9 billion or 6.9% of total exports, is Agriculture, Construction, and Mining Machinery Manufacturing (NAICS 3331) followed by Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing (NAICS 3345) which exported $1.7 billion or 6.2%).

Latest Work

County News

The Road to Rural Broadband

Researchers from CALS and the UW–Madison Division of Extension are generating knowledge that will pave the way to greater broadband internet access for underserved parts of Wisconsin.

The Rural Livability Project

In many rural areas of Wisconsin, access to grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, healthcare and other critical institutions and services is becoming increasingly challenging. At the same time, rural communities are seeing changes to their economic foundations as well as declines in civic engagement.

Whitewater: City to develop operational strategic plan; listening session offered

Whitewater city officials will soon begin working on an operational strategic plan. According to a statement released Monday, the city will work with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Extension to develop a strategic planning process, which will be used to guide the operations of the city and its budget over the next two years.

SCIL group discuss connection

The Sauk County Institute of Leadership participants covered connection in the Jan. 12 meeting. Ryan Roers, chief financial officer of the Nordic Group, spoke on supply chain shortages, the need to improvise as a leader, and the innovations that make Seats successful during a tour at Seats Incorporated in Reedsburg. Seats believes connecting their employees to easy and affordable access to health care has led to increased productivity and a decline in absenteeism.

GCDC Hosts Electric Vehicle Charging Station Summit

Green County Development Corporation (GCDC) hosted an Electric Vehicle Charging Station Summit in partnership with Extension Green County. The event was held at the historic Green County Courthouse in Monroe on November 16. The event was held to address the need for electric vehicle charging stations in our communities. Speakers included Lynn Markham, Shoreland and Land Use Specialist with the Center for Land Use Education at UW-Stevens Point, Sherrie Gruder with Energy on Wisconsin, and Jason Price with Alliant Energy.

Rural Entrepreneurship Gets Boost with Outreach Funding

UW-Madison Extension is proud to join with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) on a new initiative to support rural entrepreneurship across the state. As announced by Gov. Tony Evers today, a $1 million initiative led by Extension and WEDC will provide much-needed resources, support, and technical assistance to rural entrepreneurs in need of support to start a business or bolster their existing business.

In the News

Recent Publications

The Impact of Fiscal Rules on Local Debt: Credit Ratings, Borrowing Costs, and Debt Levels.

This timely Research Handbook explores the handling of city and municipal finances in the 21st century. It examines the impact of the Great Recession and COVID-19 pandemic on cities and municipalities, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, and avenues for future progress in city and municipal financial management.

Rural Pharmacies an Overlooked Piece of the Rural Health Care Milieu

The provision of health services in both rural and urban communities is complex and composed of many pieces. One particular part of the rural health care mix that has gathered significant attention in both the popular press and academic literature (e.g., Kaufman, et.al. 2016; Kissi, Walston, and Badar 2021) is the alarming rate of rural hospital closures. Headlines such as CNN’s July 31, 2021 story entitled “[h]ow the pandemic killed a record number of rural hospitals” or Becker’s Hospital Review February 18, 2022 story entitled “[s]taffing crisis, payment cuts put 453 hospitals at risk of closure” are increasingly common.

I will survive…but at what (opportunity) cost?: A spatial analysis of business survival and Jacobian externalities

Using insights gained from Jacobian externalities, we consider how a more diverse economic industrial base relates to business survival rates. While a low survival rate is often perceived negatively among policy-makers, evidence suggests that business exit is part of a dynamic and robust economy. The high opportunity cost of continuing with a struggling business in a more diversified economy may ultimately sway entrepreneurs with less competitive ventures to exit leading to lower survival rates. We model average 5-year survival rates at the county level annually from 1990 to 2012 employing a spatial panel Durbin specification. The data support the central hypothesis that more diversified economies increase the opportunity costs of operating an underperforming new business, thereby lowering survival rates.

Growth in Commuting Patterns and Their Impacts on Rural Workforce and Economic Development

Residential and employment locational decisions for working households are frequently commingled. Numerous economic and social factors like job accessibility, wage differentials, housing markets, travel time, trip-chaining opportunities, dual employment, and other quality-of-life considerations influence where a household ultimately chooses to reside relative to places of employment. These choices in turn shape commuting patterns within a region. Using the U.S. Census Bureau’s LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES), the authors explore longitudinal changes in the growth of commuting patterns based on commuters traveling 50 miles or more between their place of residence and place of employment for counties in Midwestern states from 2002 to 2019. The authors find that the rate of commuters traveling 50 miles or more appears to have increased in rural areas across several periods and regions. Thus, rural communities concerned about labor supply constraints must take into consideration more expansive geographic labor markets and approach labor force development in partnership across local economic development institutions. In essence, the growth in commuting sheds requires stronger regional partnerships to address the issue.

Are We in the 4th Wave of Economic Development?

How states, as well as communities, have approached economic growth and development policy has varied over time, going through various stages or waves. The idea that we have gone through three such stages or waves has been widely discussed and studied by both academics and practitioners. In this address, I lay out a series of arguments that we have entered a fourth stage or wave in how communities approach economic growth and development. Specifically, communities are refocusing their attention less so on promoting business development and more on making their community attractive to people. Sometimes referred to as “place-making,” the idea is that if we make the community as attractive to people as possible, people will want to live in the community and create business opportunities. This shift from focusing on people rather than businesses is fundamental to how communities think about economic growth and development.

Where are Wisconsin’s Workers?

Wisconsin had an estimated 230,000 job openings in July 2021, which was by far the highest number in the last two decades. More recent figures suggest somewhat of a decrease from this peak, but the preliminary estimate of 210,000 openings in October 2021 remains well over the monthly average of 154,000 openings found in 2019. While it may be tempting to attribute the large number of job openings to factors stemming from the emergence of COVID-19, such as the availability of enhanced unemployment benefits, many employers expressed challenges with finding employees prior to the start of the pandemic. In fact, the number of Wisconsin job openings has been steadily increasing since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. Consequently, we must consider a breadth of factors, both related and unrelated to the pandemic, to better understand labor availability.

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