MadREP Report: February 1, 2017
Digging Deep: Investing in Rural Broadband

Similar to transportation infrastructure, water supply and telephone service,
access to high-speed internet has become essential to full participation in an economy and society where education, healthcare, government and business increasingly operate online. Often, rural areas are challenged by distance, topography and low population density, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimating that one in three rural Americans lack access to minimal internet speeds.

Communities across the Madison Region have a range of broadband coverage. On the high end, the region is home to the first-ever gigabit city in the state in Sauk County's Reedsburg, as well as several business parks offering gigabit broadband -- speeds up to 50 times faster than those found in most Madison or Milwaukee homes. However, in much of the region available speeds are significantly below the national average of 10 megabits per second. To address this, state and federal efforts to accelerate the build-out of broadband infrastructure are currently in progress.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 
Wisconsin was second only to California in the dollar amount allocated to states from the FCC's Connect America Fund II Program through which AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier received $570M to expand their networks in rural areas by 2020. The state is also committed to increasing service to under-served communities through its Broadband Expansion Grant Program, for which funding has grown from $500,000 to $1.5 million annually. In addition, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin now offers Broadband Forward! Certification to signal that a local unit of government has taken steps to reduce obstacles to broadband infrastructure investment -- and the Madison Region's Iowa County is among the first to receive this broadband-ready certification.

These broadband infrastructure programs aimed at bringing rural areas up to speed are certainly a step in the right direction. However, additional efforts such as activating dark fiber -- broadband cable which has been laid but is not yet active -- throughout the region will be necessary to meet the increased digital demands of the future. As the region and state aim to remain competitive in an increasingly connected world, broadband infrastructure will be ever more vital to ensuring that the internet continues to be a source of innovation and economic growth to create jobs and opportunities for all our residents. "We're at a point at which broadband is as important as water, sewer and roads when it comes to economic development. You can't compete without it," says MadREP president Paul Jadin.

WEDC Insights: International Opportunities in South Korea

South Korea's economy is growing steadily and is currently ranked as the thirteenth-largest economy in the world, due in part to an ideal location at the center of major air and maritime trade networks. The country's consumers are showing an increasing demand in many of Wisconsin's strongest industries including dairy products, clean energy and medical device manufacturing.

Learn more about exporting to South Korea.
Startup Scene:
Startup accelerator gener8tor launching another program: 'gALPHA'

Wisconsin's biggest startup accelerator will launch a third program for helping entrepreneurs, this one aimed at people who may not have figured out exactly what they want to do yet. Gener8tor, which has operations in Madison, Milwaukee, Beloit and Minneapolis, has been helping high-growth startups connect with mentors and funding since 2012 through its core program, a 12-week boot camp. The three-week gALPHA, on the other hand, would help would-be entrepreneurs develop an idea through tinkering and brainstorming, and then iron out a business plan. Director of gBETA Abby Taubner said that gener8tor leaders began to consider starting something like gALPHA when they encountered "a lot of really smart people" during the gBETA recruitment process who weren't quite ready for the program. "We're fans of more innovation and entrepreneurship in Wisconsin. This is just an earlier step toward the funnel," she said.

Business Expansion:
Airport retail options grow along with rising passenger counts

Shopping and dining at the Dane County Regional Airport has received a $3 million upgrade over the past six months and if passenger counts continue to rise, more improvements could be coming. The projects include a more than $1 million revamp, expansion and renaming of what is now Madison Xchange, a revamp of the smaller Madison Xpress store, moving and doubling the size of Metcalfe's and improvements to dining. "We think this is among the finest in the nation, especially for this size of airport," said Bradley Livingston, the airport's director since 2003. "The market is growing. It was a very small offering (13 years ago) with a very finite product line. It's really changed and you really can't compare it." Livingston said there were about 1.8 million arrivals and departures in 2016, a 10 percent increase over 2015 and the airport has the highest growth rate in the state and one of the highest in the country for an airport its size.

Read more.

Company Profile:
Rock County Brewing opens its taps for business

Downtown Janesville's first true microbrewery -- Rock County Brewing -- opened in late January in the former Carriage Works building. The company is the first to take advantage of a city zoning change in 2015 that allows microbreweries and brewpubs to operate downtown. Rock County Brewing is the newest of dozens of craft brewers in southern Wisconsin. All told, about 150 microbreweries operate in Wisconsin. Mark Garthwaite, executive director of the Wisconsin Brewer's Guild said interest in locally brewed beer is strong. "Consumers more and more like to know where their food and beverages come from. It's kind of a natural progression for that awareness and interest to have migrated to beer," he said. For Rock County Brewing, beer brewed on site makes its way from the brew room through tap lines to the front tap room -- a 60-foot trip from boiler to glass. For owners Andy Walker, John Rocco and Ed Sunstedt brewing beer has now ceased to be just a hobby.

Read more.
Community Highlight:
City administrator says Waupun ready for growth

It was a year of transitions in Waupun, with a new mayor, reactivation of the city administrator post and a new director of public works. City Administrator Kathy Schlieve started as the city's economic development director in August 2015. Since then she has launched a number of efforts to help Waupun grow. A year-end list of accomplishments includes the city's participation in First Impressions visits evaluating Waupun's downtown, economic opportunities, promotional efforts and more. Some early efforts have shown dividends with the city helping five startups and 10 existing business expansions. The city launched a branding effort that Schlieve said is crucial to the city taking control of its image and the message it wants to send. She sees opportunity to promote the city's tourism potential. Schlieve, who has a background in workforce development, also sees opportunity for the city to address those needs. "I really feel positive about where 2016 has ended and what it set us up for in 2017," she said.

Capital Connection:
WEDC awards $500,000 in grants for entrepreneurs 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation announced Tuesday that it will award nearly $500,000 in grants to Wisconsin nonprofits that encourage entrepreneurship, including The University of Wisconsin-Madison Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, Janesville Innovation Inc., and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Eleven of 32 applicants were chosen. Grants were awarded to organizations to help them provide education, mentoring, training, business development and financial services programs to Wisconsin's entrepreneurs. "Much of the economic growth the state has experienced over the last six years is a result of the efforts of the state's entrepreneurs as they develop innovative products and services to meet the changing demands of their customers," said Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

Startup Scene:
Health IT startup Redox scores $9 million from investors 

Madison health technology startup Redox is getting another $9 million from investors, led by a New York venture capital firm, RRE Ventures. Redox helps health care providers integrate new applications into their electronic health record systems, "giving them a place to plug in all of the technology they're looking to use," co-founder and president Niko Skievaski said. Founded in 2014, the company's employee count is about to hit 30, with about half of the staff in Madison. Skievaski said the new funds will let Redox hire more employees and scale up the business. Redox is "attacking an enormous problem in health care," said Raju Rishi, RRE Ventures general partner. "The proliferation of health care applications promises better data, better patient care and better outcomes. Redox is helping application companies and health systems alike to realize that promise," Rishi said..

Food Show Plus! SIAL Canada
Registration Deadline: February 6
Toronto, Canada

In partnership with Food Export Association of the Midwest, DATCP will offer Food Show Plus! services to exhibitors at SIAL Canada -- the only food show in Canada dedicated to both retail and food service. Learn more and contact Ashwini Rao at 608.224.5119 for more info.
MITA: Keys to Export Compliance
February 14, 11:30am-4:15pm
Fluno Center, Madison

Attend this Madison International Trade Administration event to gain knowledge about the latest and ever-changing export compliance laws, how to deal with shipments that get stuck at port, common red tape concerns and how to avoid costly penalties. Find out more.
Manufacturing Matters! 2017 
February 23 
Hyatt Regency, Milwaukee

The theme of this year's conference is Shaping the Future, and will include trends, opportunities and solutions to help Wisconsin manufacturers thrive in a dynamic and challenging business environment. View the event flyer, and register by 1/31 for a discounted rate.

WWBIC: Can Crowdfunding Finance My Biz?
February 25, 9:30-11am
2300 S. Park Street, Madison

Explore new and creative methods for funding your business. Gain an overview of the different kinds of crowdfunding so you can decide which one is right for your business. Learn more.  

WEDC: Global Trade Venture to Canada
Registration Deadline: March 6

From April 30 to May 5, WEDC is leading a global trade venture to Canada, with segments in Toronto and Montreal. Participants will be scheduled for customized one-on-one meetings with perspective partners in the market, market intelligence and more. Register online.

Building Strength
January 27, February 23, March 8
Fort Atkinson, Jefferson

This 3-part series of conversations between the three parties that build city strength -- private developers, city staff and concerned citizens -- will provide a developers-eye view of economic development. Find out more.
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