In the Madison Region, computer and life science skills form the foundation of a globally competitive cluster in biotech and healthcare IT.
By Ron Starner, Site Selection
In Madison, Wisconsin, technology entrepreneurs aren’t just leading the field of healthcare; they’re changing it.
From Epic Systems’ breakthrough software that revolutionized medical records, to Stratatech’s regenerative skin therapies, the capital region of Wisconsin has been churning out innovative firms whose primary purpose is the promotion of personal health and wellness.
Anchoring a metropolitan region of 866,475 people, Madison outperforms much larger MSAs in a variety of intellectual property pursuits:
- Its 401 IT establishments — many of which support the healthcare sector — employ 17,932 workers and show employment growth of 30.67 percent since 2010.
- 971 industry-applicable degrees and certificates in IT were conferred in 2014-2015 from higher education institutions in and around the Madison Region.
- From 2005 to 2015, employment in software publishers grew by nearly 300 percent in Dane County, Wisconsin, compared to 38 percent nationally.
- In May 2014, Forbes ranked Madison the No. 5 top city in America for winning the battle for information jobs.
- Madison startups now employ 825 full-time and 300 part-time people. In 2016, they created 150 new full-time and 135 part-time jobs. Tech startups also raised a record $114 million in funding in 2016, a 70 percent increase from 2015.
The anchor of this sector is Epic Systems, the country’s leading developer of electronic medical records and the Madison Region’s largest private sector employer with 10,000 workers. Each year, more than 1,000 employees leave Epic, many to start spinoff companies that augment Madison’s leadership position in healthcare IT.
“Epic gets more than 100,000 applications every year from around the world,” says Zach Brandon, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. “When people say you can’t compete in the Midwest for worldwide talent attraction, that is absolutely not true.”
Epic’s Madison campus, at 6.5 million sq. ft., rivals those of Apple, Google and Facebook in California. “In its design, look and feel for the employee, Epic’s corporate campus is second to none,” says Brandon. “When Forbes did an article on cities winning the battle for information jobs, they said you would expect to find a company like Epic in Silicon Valley, Austin or Seattle. You don’t expect to find Microsoft-like campuses in Madison.”
URP adds value in many ways
Illumina has grown its Madison workforce from 55 people in 2011 to more than 100 today. “We expect to add another 20 employees soon,” Caruccio adds. “We are a very technology-heavy company, so we look for people with scientific backgrounds who work in labs. We do high-tech production in bio-chemistry.”
Madison is the perfect fit for this work, he says. “The nucleus of protein expertise was here,” says Caruccio. “Combine that with a university with over 100 years of work in bio-chemistry, and you have a very strong pull. It is easier to attract people here.”
Aaron Oliver, managing director of University Research Park in Madison, says that URP has been a hub of success stories since 1984. “Stratatech is a prime example,” he notes. “A faculty member in one of our labs discovered a way to develop a skin line that lives on its own. The product has no direct competitor in the marketplace. We incubated them from birth to the day they had over 50 employees in Madison.”
Located just 5 miles west of the UWM campus, URP houses the largest concentration of employees in the area outside of state government.
“We serve the needs of the companies and the science coming out of UW. We are building the ecosystems around the strengths of the university,” says Oliver. “We are appealing to companies because we are a helpful partner in facilitating a relationship with UW; the university can provide benefits to companies located in URP; a lot of employers like the idea that their rent is going back into the system that is training their workforce; and we have a great concentration of similar companies.” Read more …