SBA report says Wisconsin is poised for growth

Wisconsin’s education system will help its economy grow better than most Midwest states in the 21st century, according to a report released recently by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Patrick Rea, administrator of the SBA’s Midwest region, said Wisconsin is second only to Minnesota in the report for economic growth potential, largely because of its high-quality education system.
The report, titled, "21st Century Jobs and Entrepreneurship in the Midwest: A Study Capturing the Future of the Heartland’s Economic Landscape," was based on information from larger national reports commissioned by the SBA, including the Rand Report, a nationwide report completed earlier this year. The Rand Report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The "21st Century Jobs" report states that the Midwest and Wisconsin may have slower economic growth than other parts of the nation because the region has less access to immigrants than other areas. However, the region does have some economic advantages, according to the report.
"The industrial strength of the heartland will be (part of) its strength into the 21st century," Rea said. "While (our growth) will not be the same as the rest of the nation, we will have enough to be a major competitor to provide the new workers for industry."
The SBA’s Midwest region includes Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
Wisconsin’s technical college program in particular drew high praise from Rea.
"The one in Green Bay (Northeast Wisconsin Technical College) may be among the best in the country to train 21st century workers," he said. "And Racine has a historically strong one (Gateway Technical College)."
Despite the praise, Wisconsin and the Midwest have issues pertaining to education that need attention, Rea said.
The Midwest’s rate of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree was about 26 percent in 2003, compared with almost 27 percent for the nation. Wisconsin’s rate was about 24 percent for the same year.
However, high school graduation rates in both the Midwest and Wisconsin remain better than national averages. Wisconsin graduated 88.5 percent of its high school students in 2003, compared with 88 percent in the region and 86 percent in the nation.
"The Midwest stands at a very interesting opportunity to capture the 21st century jobs and new entrepreneurships," he said. "And those will be based on an excellent education. Wisconsin is better off than most and will have to continue to emphasize that."
October 1, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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