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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

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Spring 2024 Broadband Regional Workshops: Agenda and Registration

This 4-session series will cover: what data you need for successful broadband planning; how to focus and prioritize your community engagement; tips, tools, and templates for community engagement

Extension’s Rural Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Initiative Offers Multiple Ways to Engage

UW–Madison Extension’s Community Economic Development Program is equipping entrepreneurs with the business skills and sector-specific information necessary to succeed in new entrepreneurial ventures. The Rural Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Initiative provides UW research and education to entrepreneurs and economic development practitioners who are interested in supporting entrepreneurial activity in rural communities.

2024 Wisconsin Rural Economic Summit

Join us for the Fourth Annual Virtual Wisconsin Rural Economic Summit as we explore the latest economic research and data related to rural Wisconsin communities.

Continuing Labor Shortage Problems for Wisconsin

One of the most commonly identified problems hindering the economic growth of Wisconsin is chronic labor shortages. Coming out of the pandemic firms have struggled to find a sufficient supply of workers. As a result, firms have been reluctant to let workers go despite indications of an economic slowdown.

Econ Quiz: Millennial Spending

This week’s econ quiz will take a closer look at consumer spending, for the nation’s largest consumer segment: Millennials.

How the Inflation Reduction Act Can Save You Money on Home Energy Costs

In August 2022, the federal government enacted the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the largest clean energy investment the United States government has made. It provides many new tax credits, rebates, and discounts to help homeowners make energy efficiency improvements and save on their utility bills.

Latest Work

County News

Extension’s Rural Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Initiative Offers Multiple Ways to Engage

UW–Madison Extension’s Community Economic Development Program is equipping entrepreneurs with the business skills and sector-specific information necessary to succeed in new entrepreneurial ventures. The Rural Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Initiative provides UW research and education to entrepreneurs and economic development practitioners who are interested in supporting entrepreneurial activity in rural communities.

Start Strong: Start Your Own Business

Got a Great Business Idea? Learn the fundamentals of starting a business in this four-part workshop series organized by the Viroqua Chamber and UW Extension.

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.

In the News

Recent Publications

Women farmers and community well-being under modeling uncertainty

We examine the association between woman farmers and community well-being using U.S. county-level data. We address modeling uncertainty around three measures of community well-being by using a spatial Bayesian model averaging approach and find that a higher share of farms operated or owned by women in a county is associated with higher rates of new business formation, longer life expectancies, and lower poverty rates. The results are consistent with a growing literature that finds women business owners approach their businesses more holistically, with positive community spillovers.

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.

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