Positioning Central Wisconsin to Better Compete in the Global Economy

Sponsored by the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce, the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, Centergy, the Judd S. Alexander Foundation, UWMC, McDevco, UWC/UWEX and UW – Madison Progress Through Business, this half-day conference was held Thursday, Oct 6, 2011 from 8 AM – 12 Noon at the Center for Civic Engagement in Wausau, WI.

Over 60 community members representing diverse regional industries and occupations gathered to hear local, national, and international business experts address global trends and their impact on rapidly shifting markets, especially in Wisconsin.

Michael Knetter, former Dean of the UW-Madison Business School and current President/CEO of the UW Foundation, related the economic outlook for Wisconsin to current trends in global markets by considering historic and contemporary perspectives. He noted that although the United States still leads in fields such as information, science, engineering, and research and development, in the future, specialization will affect every region and country. Knetter identified the central Wisconsin area as a crossroads with a naturally diverse economic base and a high degree of social cohesion, and advocated observing trends in employment sectors, taking advantage of local geographical and social potential, charting emerging fields and continuing to refine currently thriving industries in order to best position central Wisconsin businesses to succeed.

Dick Johnson, Executive Vice President & Group President of Retail Stores Foot Locker, Inc., (an international industry with Marathon County connections) endorsed Wisconsin’s work ethic and emphasis on education. He stressed the importance of acquiring bright young talent, adopting new technologies on the horizon, and embracing change. In his estimation, central Wisconsin is unique, and he told local business leaders, “I think we can create a real opportunity to win here.”

Duane Irwin, President and CEO of Aspirus, Inc., explained that although health care is regional in nature, it too is affected by the increasingly rapid pace of global change in technology, information, and human needs. Communication, he said, is essential in making smooth transitions as the industry adapts to these changes. Jean Burgener, Vice President of Post Acute Care Services, shared change-adaptive examples of how Aspirus is using emerging technologies.

Glen Tellock. Chairman, President, and CEO of the Manitowoc Company, Inc. advocated using risk analysis to navigate change in industrial markets. Partnering and flexibility is essential as companies compete for talent and resources, he observed, and effective preparation and communication will enable company vision to triumph when faced with climates of resistance.