Wisconsin to score big win on economic development

Guest Editorial/Blog by Gregory Schroeder, P.E. (Gas Engineer at We Energies and STEM Forward Board of Director)

It looks as if Wisconsin will score a big win for economic development.  President Trump and Governor Scott Walker have announced that the world’s largest manufacturer will locate an enormous manufacturing facility in southeast Wisconsin. What do you think attracted Foxconn to southeast Wisconsin? 

It’s undoubtedly a combination of things. Among those reasons include the following: abundant water supply, improving transportation systems, large low-priced tracts of land, business climate, energy supply and energy cost, tax rates and a stable economic outlook.  I have one more business location criteria for us to focus on – an able-bodied and educated work force. 

Will Foxconn follow through on their promise? We won’t know for a while, but we can say with certainty that the quality of our workforce will be crucial for many years to come whether it is Foxconn or other businesses.  If Foxconn comes, will they stay? Will they grow? Will they be successful here?  Will they attract other businesses? The quality of the employees they attract and hire will be crucial to answering all of these questions. 

Regarding Foxconn’s choice of Wisconsin, I have read national media citing the UW system and our technical colleges as high-quality state education systems. I agree, but will we continue to invest, and strengthen our schools for the next generation of students?  These are wonderful public assets. You have a say through your elected representatives in how they are supported and run. 

What about our primary and secondary educational systems? We need all hands on deck to support our children in every classroom in the state, especially in urban schools. All children need access to quality, educational opportunities.

What skills will be in strong demand for Foxconn and other future employers? We know the greatest demand will be for students with strong STEM skills. We have multiple opportunities to improve Wisconsin’s STEM educational climate. 

How You Can Help

First, watch for legislation, and support bills that will improve STEM opportunities, STEM resources and quality STEM instruction. Second, you can volunteer at a school and/or participate in tutoring, mentoring or simply visit a classroom, science fair, or career day. Are you an initiator? Start an afterschool program for Future Cities, First Robotics, First Lego League, or Girls that Code.  You could also get involved with a school that is teaching Project Lead the Way’s curriculum. Look for opportunities to share the new Dream Big movie, which is being shown at Milwaukee Public Museum’s IMAX theater from now until January 2018.

Foxconn is a wakeup call. Wisconsin CAN win our slice of the 21st century economic pie. Now let’s do what we can to make this new vision a reality. 

The opinions expressed here are those of the author only, and do not necessarily represent the views of STEM Forward.