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WisBusiness: Madison, Milwaukee Mayors Pledge More Cooperation

By Gregg Hoffmann

MILWAUKEE – Collaboration has increased between Milwaukee and Madison, but more can be done.

That seemed to be the consensus when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz talked about their vision for greater economic and cultural collaboration between Wisconsin’s two largest cities at the Monday meeting of the Wisconsin Innovation Network at the Hyatt in downtown Milwaukee.

“If we can do it with Ningbo, we can do it with Madison,” joked Barrett, referring to a relationship forged between Milwaukee and a city in China.

Barrett said cooperation between the two cities has improved, but listed several ways that the collaboration could be increased:
  • Sharing of best practices.
  • Creation of a Green Technology Triangle, which also would include Chicago as the third city.
  • Increased arts and cultural exchanges.
  • Increased academic exchanges.
Barrett said it is very important to “bring together the talents of the two cities.” He said UW-Madison could increase its recruitment and retention of Milwaukee students as one step toward that goal.

Milwaukee also can become more of a place to actually test “theories and ideas developed in Madison” at UW and elsewhere, Barrett said.

Cieslewicz, who originally is from Milwaukee, said Madison is using some ideas from the original development of Milwaukee neighborhoods in its renovation of some areas of the city.

He listed the development of a high-speed rail connection between the two cities as one possible way of bring the people, businesses and cultures of the two cities closer together. “Tom and I have drafted a joint letter to our congressional delegation to move that along,” he said.

The two cities could work with Chicago on a big international event. “We are working together with Chicago on the 2016 Olympics,” Cieslewicz said. “Mayor Daley has asked us to join in since there are venues in our cities that could be utilized.”

The Wisconsin Idea also has to be updated to increase collaborative efforts between UW and UWM, he said. Milwaukee and Madison also need to develop joint legislative agendas, especially in the area of business development and education.

Cieslewicz said the Legislature has been “unduly hostile to the university system” and that is “counterproductive” for both Madison and Milwaukee.

Finally, Cieslewicz listed increased “inter-community appreciation” as a key in more collaboration. “At times, I believe Madison has been a bit smug in its attitude,” he said.

Business leader and former Waukesha County Executive Tom Hefty and Trevor D’Souza, a Milwaukee venture capitalist whose firm invests in companies in both cities, reacted to the mayors’ remarks. Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still moderated.

Barrett and Cieslewicz took part in a similar forum May 16 in Madison, hosted by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. At the time, they pledged to hold a Milwaukee forum to highlight their plans for the “M2 Collaborative.”

“Milwaukee and Madison have much more to gain by working together than by competing,” said Still, who also moderated the Madison forum. “These two cities must compete in a global economy, and that begins by building on their mutual strengths.”

Milwaukee and Madison are two points along what the Tech Council calls “the I-Q Corridor,” the 400-mile stretch linking Chicago and the Twin Cities, as well as many Wisconsin communities in between. The “I” in the I-Q Corridor stands for ideas, innovation, intellectual property, investment and interstate; the “Q” suggests quality of life, workforce, education, research and more.

“The barriers between Milwaukee and Madison are far more historic than real,” Still said. “We welcome the efforts by Barrett and Cieslewicz to work together.”

Barrett and Cieslewicz are both serving their first terms as mayor in their respective cities. Barrett is a former state legislator and member of the U.S. House of Representatives; Cieslewicz was a Dane County supervisor, legislative aide and executive director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.

Hefty is the former CEO of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Wisconsin and served as acting Waukesha County executive. He is currently an attorney with the law firm of Reinhart, Boerner Van Deuren, which has offices in Milwaukee, Madison and Waukesha. D’Souza is a partner in the Mason Wells Private Equity firm and a member of the “Spirit of Milwaukee” board. Both are members of the Tech Council’s board of directors.

The Wisconsin Innovation Network is the membership subsidiary of the Tech Council, which is the independent, non-profit and non-partisan science and technology adviser to the Governor and the Legislature.

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