Wisconsin tech leaders urge lawmakers to aid IT development

Executives of several Wisconsin-based finance and IT companies came together last week for a roundtable at the Wisconsin State Journal's office in Madison. Participants agreed that the state has a chance to carve out a niche for itself in the national tech landscape, but said that careful planning will be paramount. They concluded that Wisconsin should not aspire to Silicon Valley heights and that state lawmakers should be doing more to boost IT growth.

The need for more venture capital is clear, and Wisconsin has made strides in that department over the past few years. Still, most U.S. capital is based in California, Massachusetts and New York, and remains there when it is invested. To improve this situation, the executives said the state should follow Michigan's model. Michigan has allocated $315 million to invest in entrepreneurs and helped to attract private investors as well, reducing that state's dependence on the auto industry.

Other suggestions for lawmakers included improved transportation with major cities like Chicago and tax breaks to promote research and development. Companies should be encouraged to collaborate with each other, as should the state's major universities, most of which have agrarian backgrounds but are advancing by leaps and bounds in their use of technology.

Where the speakers were most optimistic was in the area of health care. Companies like Epic Systems, the nation's largest provider of electronic health records, highlights a major Madison-Milwaukee corridor of medical IT development. While focusing on a single industry would be unwise, raising awareness of this area could benefit the state as a whole.

Local technology consulting companies can provide managed IT services to businesses, government organizations and universities, helping to ensure that Wisconsin enjoys a preeminent place in the U.S. tech scene.