Take time to look ahead at Waukesha County 2035 event

New BizTimes Media program will focus on competing in a new era of innovation

What will Waukesha County’s economy and business community look like in 2035? Waukesha County 2035, a new BizTimes Media event focused on competing in a new era of innovation, will examine that question, and more.

The event (click here to register) will take place from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday, April 26 at The Ingleside Hotel in Waukesha.

Greg Satell, author, advisor and Harvard Business Review contributor will provide the keynote address.

The event will also feature presentations by W. Kent Lorenz, retired chairman and CEO of Waukesha-based industrial automation firm Acieta LLC, and Jay Hill Jr., chief technology officer and chief operating officer, imaging at GE Healthcare.

The event will conclude with roundtable discussions on making investments in leadership, expanding facilities, digital ecosystems, talent attraction, economic development, housing and transportation. Click here for more information on the roundtable discussions.

“We know Waukesha County will look very different in 2035 than it does today,” said Suzanne Kelley, president and CEO of the Waukesha County Business Alliance, an event partner. “We have amazing businesses, a talented workforce and a strong educational system at all levels, so I’m very optimistic about the future of Waukesha County. However, we cannot become complacent.”

In the early 2000s, companies were just starting to grapple with the changes digital technology and increased global trade would bring to the economy. Some of the most disruptive companies and ideas were just gaining traction or had not even been invented or founded.

Like many communities, Waukesha County has seen a lot of changes brought on by digital technologies, global trade and demographic trends.

In the past 15 years, for example, the number of manufacturing jobs in the county has declined by nearly 11,500. The sector now makes up less than 20 percent of private sector employment, compared to more than 26 percent in the early 2000s.

At the same time, the number of jobs in areas like professional and business services, education and health care has increased dramatically. Those areas now make up more than 30 percent of employment, compared to around 20 percent in the early 2000s.

Waukesha County has grown, adding nearly 40,000 residents and more than 23,000 housing units, and grown older; the median age has increased five years since the 2000 Census. Commutes have also gotten longer, with the average increasing nearly two minutes, to 24 minutes, even as more people work from home.

The next 15 years promise even more change than the past 20.

As digital technologies mature and productivity gains begin to level off, the challenge for the region’s business community is to look ahead to the next wave of change. Researchers and innovators are pushing ahead in areas like artificial intelligence, materials science and genomics in ways that promise greater opportunities than digitization for businesses and communities.

“We need to avoid fighting the last war,” said Satell. “Over the past few decades, the digital revolution was at the forefront, but the future will not be digital. This new future will be far more impactful than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes and we have to start preparing for it now.”

The Waukesha County 2035 event is sponsored by Annex Wealth Management, Davis|Kuelthau S.C. and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Waukesha.

Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.