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From the Publisher

Chasing Minnesota Wisconsin’s inferiority complex with the Land of 10,000 Lakes remains

by Sean Fitzgerald, New North B2B Publisher

Cheeseheads are undoubtedly thankful for their Badgers, Packers and Brewers and the clout they’ve recently held over the Gophers, Vikings and Twins. Sports teams provide a needed ego boost in these times, as economic benchmarks in Wisconsin continue to rebound from the recession but still often fall short of our neighbors to the west. The gap may not be narrowing though – in fact, it may be expanding – as evidence would suggest from the most recent 2014 Measuring Success report from Competitive Wisconsin and Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, which has read the barometer of the state’s economic health annually since 1998 through about 30 different benchmarks. In the years since the end of the recession, the Badger State has outpaced the nation and many neighbors in the Midwest in regard to these gauges of a competitive economy. But Minnesota – which has been decidedly ahead of Wisconsin during the past decade in 85 percent of the benchmarks compared – continues to widen its lead on the rest of the Midwest. In the category of economic health, for example, Minnesota has consistently outranked Wisconsin in each of the five or six benchmarks measured since 2000, with a few rare exceptions when Minnesota’s unemployment rate climbed higher than that of Wisconsin for a few months during 2003. Most notably, per capita personal income in Minnesota is more than 10 percent ahead of Wisconsin at $47,850 compared with $43,150 here, while average household income in Minnesota is $61,800, nearly 18 percent higher than $53,100 in Wisconsin. The same holds true in the category of quality of life, where Minnesota also consistently topped the Badger State in each of the four or five standards measured during the past decade. The only bright spot for Wisconsin had been its rate of violent crimes, which had regularly been the lowest in the Midwest as far back as 2003. But a notable rise in violent crimes in Wisconsin during the last 10 years has sent its rate of violent crimes sailing past both Minnesota and Iowa. 4 | July 2014 | NNB2B

The only two consistent and clear advantages Wisconsin has over Minnesota give cheeseheads a nod for both manufacturing jobs as a percent of the overall workforce, a yardstick in the business climate category, and the number of residents with Ph.D.s in sciences, math, engineering and technology, a measure in the workforce excellence category. Another measure of workforce excellence – high school graduation rates – indicates Wisconsin just recently eclipsing Minnesota after a more than 10 percent rise in high school diplomas issued in Wisconsin during the past decade, an increase some education critics attribute to artificial efforts to graduate otherwise unqualified students in certain districts struggling to meet federal No Child Left Behind guidelines. In addition to personal income and violent crimes, other areas of concern for Wisconsin during the past decade include: Wisconsin has become substantially more obese and as a result, unhealthier, during the past 10 years; Wisconsin continues to remain substantially behind Minnesota and most of the rest of the Midwest in terms of number of patents issued, high-tech employment and available venture capital; while Wisconsin continues to outpace the national average in its standardized test scores for 4th and 8th Grade students, the state is woefully behind Minnesota each year achieving proficient or advanced levels in math; the cost of electricity has nearly doubled in Wisconsin since 2000; though the state traditionally could boast a lower cost of living as a quality of life attribute, Wisconsin has increased its standing on this benchmark to a point where it exceeded the national average for the first time in 2012; and while Wisconsin is adding jobs in the years since the recession, evidence suggests many of the jobs lost five to six years ago are being replaced with lower paying jobs. Reports such as Measuring Success aren’t necessarily intended to bring the same joy as an end-of-semester list of straight A’s and a 4.0 GPA. Each year’s report is a realistic snapshop in time of the state’s standing in relation to its own past as well as to neighboring states and the national average. Make no mistake about the fact that Wisconsin’s position is improving slightly as it progresses through this sluggish economic recovery. But the performance of our neighbors to the west – in many aspects other than the sports teams we love – demonstrate substantial room for improvement. n

July 2014  

Regional business magazine, business issues, information, health, entrepreneurship

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