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Competitive Wisconsin releases bold plan to grow wealth in Wisconsin

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Bill McCoshen
January 14, 2008

We can all agree that Wisconsin is a great place to live, work and raise a family. Otherwise we probably wouldnít be here.


We would also agree that Wisconsin and Minnesota have many similarities. Both states have similar climates and roughly the same population. Residents of both states also have a strong Midwestern work ethic. But Minnesota outperforms Wisconsin in a few key areas.


According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the per capita income in Minnesota is $37,322, while the per capita income in Wisconsin is $33,251. That is a shortfall of $4,071 per capita. If Wisconsin can match Minnesota in per capita income, it would generate $22 billion in new revenues and $1.32 billion in new tax revenue to be earmarked for strategic investments to grow Wisconsinís economy and provide much-needed property tax relief.


So how does Wisconsin achieve this lofty goal?


Competitive Wisconsin, a nonpartisan statewide organization created in 1981 with a consortium of agriculture, business, education and labor leaders, recently released a bold new economic development initiative to get us thereówithout a tax increase! The Competitive Mandate sets clear and achievable goals and provides specific policy recommendations to pave the way toward raising our standard of living by matching Minnesotaís per capita income.


It all starts with increased brainpower. The American Council on Education reports that individuals with bachelorís degrees make $23,914 more than those with only high school diplomas. Competitive Wisconsin believes we should set a goal of producing and attracting an additional 170,000 individuals with bachelorís degrees and an additional 170,000 individuals holding graduate degrees by 2020. Wisconsin must also do a better job of marketing and recruiting brainpower back to the state.


There are more than 350,000 UW alumni around the globe. That number can be doubled when you include the rest of the UW System and our private colleges in Wisconsin. It is a well-known fact that the UW is the No. 1 producer of Fortune 500 CEOs in the nation. We know exactly where these alumni live and how to contact them. We also know, from research conducted by the Wisconsin Alumni Association, that nearly 60 percent of UW alumni who left Wisconsin would be willing to return to the state if there were similar job opportunities.


More than 34 percent of Minnesotans have college degrees, compared to 25 percent of Wisconsinites. Producing and recruiting more highly educated people will create more wealth, grow the tax base and create new jobs.


Competitive Wisconsin and others such as the UW System and the Wisconsin Way are helping shape a new direction in economic development that will rise above partisan politics, develop consensus among diverse stakeholders and put Wisconsin first.


To learn more about the Competitive Mandate, go to www.competitivewi.com.


Bill McCoshen is executive director of Competitive Wisconsin; phone (608) 258-8411. He was Wisconsinís secretary of commerce from 1994-1998.

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