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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

The Elusive American Dream: Homeownership Trends in Wisconsin

Unlike many other countries, owning one’s home is part of the American Dream. Between 1965 and 2023 the average rate of homeownership was 65.3% with a low of 62.9% in 1965 to a peak of 69.2% in the latter half of 2004.

Econ Quiz: Women’s Highest Paying Jobs

Women have made significant strides toward equitable representation in the highest paying occupations in the United States. According to a recent publication by Pew Research Center, in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, 35% of jobs in the ten highest paying occupations were held by women as compared to only 13% in 1980. In 2021, women were 40% of practicing lawyers (14% in 1980), 26% of actuaries (25% in 1980), and 29% of chief executives and public administrators (data not available for 1980).

How Should We Measure Economic Growth?

If there is a single measure of economic growth it would be gross domestic product (GDP). It represents the total value of all finished goods and services produced within a country’s (or state’s) borders within a specific time. To compare different regions, it is common practice to adjust total GDP to a population base, specifically GDP per capita.

Econ Quiz: Transition to Adulthood

It’s no secret that as children grow up they move in and out of stages of proclaimed independence. Seeking or receiving help from parents oscillates between being necessary when we are young, an embarrassment when we hit the pre-teens, and a true comfort when we become young adults. This econ quiz will delve into one of many facets of parental aid: financial.

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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.

Latest Work

County News

Rural Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Initiative Organizes First Rural Entrepreneurial Cohort

A new program within the Community Development Institute, the Rural Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Initiative (RWEI) seeks to make business development services available to rural parts of the state not easily reached by pre-existing infrastructure.

A place to call home

More than 100 people gathered on March 7, 2024, for Wood County’s first Housing Summit held at Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids. The Summit, planned by members of the Wood County Housing Task Force, was a direct response to the calls for action and conversation surrounding affordable and accessible housing throughout the County and Central Wisconsin.

Wood County REDI Plan taps into Homegrown

The Homegrown program will take place over two days and will focus first on identifying the local entrepreneurial community and the resources and supports they need to be successful. Day two will focus on action planning to make Wood County and Central Wisconsin the BEST place for those looking to start their own business and thrive. Don’t miss this!

Portage County hosts community chats about solar development

Representatives from UW Madison-Extension met with community members of Plover at the Boston School Forest to talk about large scale solar developments in the area. The university is teaching more communities about solar projects and listening to their concerns.

A Wisconsin tribal community didn’t have reliable internet, so they built it

The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Native Americans will break ground on a public broadband network this spring, bridging the reservation’s “digital divide.”

Broadband Access: Addressing a Digital Divide

Wisconsin is committed to ensuring access to broadband service for all its residents. Recognizing the necessity of high-speed internet in today’s digital society, Wisconsin aims to address gaps in internet access, adoption, and affordability by outlining strategies to achieve universal service by 2030, with goals to enhance broadband deployment and adoption and to improve the affordability and reliability of broadband services.

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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