A recent report by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance said the southern and western regions of Wisconsin have seen a 6.4 percent increase in employment over the past decade, outstripping the growth of northern and eastern regions, and even surpassing expansion on a national level.
While South Central Wisconsin, made up of Dane, Columbia, Sauk, Iowa, Lafayette, Green and Rock counties, increased employment, the report showed the state as a whole decreased the number of residents employed by 1.4 percent.
Matthew Mikolajewski, manager of the Office of Business Resources in the Madison’s Economic Development Office, said thanks to this job growth, the city of Madison has experienced a lower unemployment rate in the past few years.
“I think we continue to see within Madison the return of an unemployment [rate] toward that of what we saw before the recession,” Mikolajewski said. “We’re not quite there yet, but we do continue to see our employment picture improving. We’re still not at pre-recession level … [but] it’s definitely improving.”
The city, according to Mikolajewski, does not track the specific number of jobs in the community at one time, but utilizes reports that come from state and federal labor bureaus.
Reports have shown employment increases in technology sectors in information technology, software and hardware, as well as increases in the biotechnology sectors and consistency in manufacturing sectors throughout the city, he said.
Mikolajewski added the city tries to maintain employment in a variety of ways.
“Typically, what the city does is work to try to retain and help grow existing businesses, and then we do some attraction work, so when businesses work to extend within Madison, we try to help them with getting the necessary approvals,” Mikolajewski said. “We’re trying to maintain those jobs that are already here, because that’s the easiest job to create is the one that isn’t lost.”
Madison helps to support local business through occasional financial assistance in tax increment finances, and partnerships with the state of Wisconsin to provide tax cuts for growing businesses, Mikolajewski said.
Mikolajewski said the city does see success in these methods.
“[Our goal is] to retain the existing job rate, and next to help businesses to extend, and finally we do some outreach to try to attract new businesses that aren’t here to Madison, and we obviously bring a lot of jobs,” Mikolajewski said.
However, Ald. Sue Ellingson, District 13, said this support does very little to help job growth at a local level.
She said her experience with economics has shown her government can do little to help the area.
“As a person who has studied economics, I will tell you that I don’t think the local or state governments can do much of anything to affect employment,” Ellingson said. “The federal government, with deficit spending, can affect employment a lot, however state and local governments have to balance their budgets. Deficit spending is not possible at the state or local level.”
Still, Mikolajewski said the efforts of Madison have provided economic growth to the community.
Despite her doubts in the ability of a local government to create economic growth, Ellingson said she still praises the efforts of the city in working with citizens to encourage local businesses.
“However, I will say that I do think that the city of Madison has worked hard to be efficient to make our approval processes as efficient as they can be while still incorporating the necessary amount of citizen input,” Ellingson said.