It’s a mixed bag for the Milwaukee metro area when it comes to economic indicators tied to innovation. The Wisconsin Policy Forum has updated its Innovation Data Tool, which was created to gauge the Milwaukee metro area’s performance in several categories often linked to innovation. Those categories include exports, venture capital (VC) funding, educational attainment, idea development, startups and small business development, and more. The Innovation Data Tool also provides data on 10 other peer metro areas. While the Milwaukee metro area has made a sizable gain in the amount of venture capital investments it attracted in 2021, that gain was not nearly enough to catch up with peer regions. The Innovation Data Tool shows that the area’s VC investment total jumped from $46 million in 2020 to $182 million in 2021. However, on a per capita basis, metro Milwaukee attracted less VC investment than all but two comparison metro areas. Much like last year, Austin continues to lead the pack with $5,476 of VC investment per capita. Milwaukee attracted $89 of VC investment per capita, ranking higher than only Cleveland and Oklahoma City, of the 10 peer cities in the report. The average amount of funding per deal in the Milwaukee metro from 2019-2021 was $3.8 million, compared to $9.5 million in Austin. One area where the Milwaukee metro continues to shine is in its concentration of workers in STEM related fields, as well as the number of people continuing to earn high school and college degrees. Compared to peer areas, the Milwaukee metro has one of the highest concentrations of technology workers, according to the report. Per 1,000 working age adults, the region has 53.5 tech workers. Austin once again leads the pack with 63.6 per 1,000 workers. When it comes to scientists and engineers, the Milwaukee metro ranks third with 13.6 workers per 1,000. The region also has an average of 227.1 knowledge workers per 1,000, ranking it fourth out of 10 regions. “In 2021, metro Milwaukee had a higher concentration of scientists and engineers than all but two comparison metros included in our DataTool, even outpacing Austin, Texas – a national standout for economic growth,” according to a press release from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. One area of concern for the Milwaukee metro area is the region’s “steady decline” in global exports per employee over the last decade. “Adjusted for inflation, the value of metro Milwaukee’s global exports was 27.1% lower in 2020 than in 2010. Only three comparison metros saw the real value of their global exports decline faster during that period,” reads the release. The Milwaukee metro had an average of $8,510 worth of global exports per employee in 2020, placing the region near the middle of the pack when compared to its peers. Portland, Oregon ranked first with $24,696 per employee. As for gross domestic product (GDP) growth, Milwaukee ranks last with 24.7% growth from 2010-2020. The United States average is 38.8%. Austin was ranked first in this category with 85.3% GDP growth. The region also had a low ranking when it came to the change in median household income from 2011 to 2021. The Milwaukee metro only saw 12.2% growth while first-place Portland saw 26.9% growth. “Incomes have risen more slowly in metro Milwaukee than in most metros since 2011 and have not kept pace with the nation or inflation,” according to the Innovation Data Tool.
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