Terry Ludeman, retired chief labor economist for the Department of Workforce Development, addressed the LGI Board at its May meeting. Ludeman discussed Wisconsin's status relative to the "New Economy" and how this affects local government in our state.
Combining some key statistics about Wisconsin with characteristics about the current economy, Ludeman paints a somewhat troubling picture for Wisconsin's future, unless we are able to successfully tackle a few key issues. Ludeman puts these issues in the context of economic development goals.
1. Wisconsin is a low wage state, ranking 31st.
2. Wisconsin has low post-secondary educational attainment, ranking 32nd for baccalaureate degrees and 36th for graduate or professional degrees.
3. Wisconsin's population is growing at a slow pace, ranking 28th.
4. Wisconsin's population is aging at a faster rate than the nation.
Characteristics of our current and future economy:
4. Rooted in information technology
And finally, the goals of economic development:
1. Increase wealth and income at the community level.
2. Increase the revenue and spending capacity of local and regional governmental units, thereby allowing public investment in infrastructure that will help maintain and grow the economy as well as local wealth and income.
3. Increasing the relative income level and quality of life for the lowest income tier in the community.
Key questions that came out of the discussion include:
If companies locate where they have access to knowledge workers and Wisconsin ranks 36th in the nation for graduate/professional degrees, how will we grow our economy?
If public investment in infrastructure, education and quality of place is needed to retain and attract knowledge workers, which attract companies and grow our economy, but our local governments do not have the revenue/spending capacity to make this investment, how will we grow our economy?
The ensuing discussion focused on the need to drive down the cost of government through efficiencies in service delivery and taking some services off the property tax and pricing those services to provide an incentive for wise use. This could free up some capacity to make needed investments to help grow the economy.
Ludeman's full presentation can be found here: http://www.localgovinstitute.org/?q=node/75