Madison: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

The principal economic sectors in Madison are manufacturing, services, and government. Meat packing and the production of agriculture and dairy equipment have long been established industries in the city; among other items produced by area manufacturing firms are hospital equipment, advanced instrumentation, storage batteries, and air circulating fixtures. Diversified farming contributes significantly to the Madison economy; nearly one-sixth of all Wisconsin farms are located within the Greater Madison market region. Dane County ranks among the top ten counties in the nation for agricultural production, the primary products being corn, alfalfa, tobacco, oats, eggs, cattle, hogs, and dairy foods.

The home offices of more than 30 insurance companies are located in Madison; included among them are American Family, CUNA Mutual Insurance Group, and General Casualty. The city is also the world headquarters of Rayovac Corporation, Promega Corporation, and Oscar Mayer. Government and education are major economic sectors; about one third of the area work force is employed in federal, state, and local government jobs, and the University of Wisconsin employs more than 36,000 workers. Madison is a banking and finance center, serving the metropolitan region with more than 120 banks, credit unions, and savings and loan institutions. Other service areas important to the local economy are health care and research and development.

Items and goods produced: agricultural products, food packaging products, dry cell batteries, farm machinery, hospital equipment, optical instruments, lenses, fabricated structural steel

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Businesses

Local programs

The city of Madison Office of Business Resources leads start-up, relocating, and expanding businesses through the range of available financial and consultative benefits the local government has to offer. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Wisconsin is an award-winning community resource that aids small businesses by providing practical, customer-focused management education, training, counseling and networking. In addition to counseling, the SBDC conducts workshops and seminars. The city provides below market-rate interest loans for real estate projects in the Downtown Isthmus area and selected other areas of the city. Madison Development Corporation (MDC) provides loans of up to $200,000 to businesses in the City of Madison that show continued job growth.

State programs

The Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Institute (WEDI) are two nonprofit agencies that provide information and financial services, legal and legislative assistance, and networking opportunities for their member businesses. On the government side, the Division of Business Development of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce provides technical assistance and financial incentives to businesses in the areas of business planning, site selection, capitalization, permits, training and recruitment, and research and development. On April 28, 2000, then Governor Tommy G. Thompson signed into law a bill that created the Wisconsin Technology Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan board that serves to create, develop and retain science and technology-based business in Wisconsin, and to serve as an advisor to the Governor and the Legislature. The Council also serves as the key link between the state's colleges and universities and the business expertise and capital offered by the financial service industry. Recently the firm published its "Vision 2020: A Model Wisconsin Economy" as a blueprint for its efforts over the next two decades.

Job training programs

The area's universities and technical colleges offer ample education and training programs.

Development Projects

In July 1998, Madison businessman W. Jerome Frautschi announced a major civic gift to improve the cultural arts facilities in downtown Madison. Called the Overture Center for the Arts, it is a privately funded initiative to promote excellence in the arts and stimulate a downtown Madison renaissance. The Overture Project will transform the current Civic Center block, remodeling and expanding the existing facilities and adding new ones. Phase One of the project, including the brand new, state-of-the-art Overture Hall, a 2,250-seat theater which houses the Madison Symphony, Madison Opera, and the Madison Ballet, was completed in 2004, and by 2005 construction had begun on Phase Two, which includes a renovation of the old Capitol Theater and a new Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. All design comes under the guise of internationally known architect Cesar Pelli and as plans have expanded development costs have surpassed $205 million, all of which was being funded by Mr. Frautschi. In 2005 the Overture Foundation acquired the old Capital Square Building as the new home for the Madison Children's Museum.

Economic Development Information: Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, 615 E. Washington Ave., PO Box 71, Madison, WI 53701-0071; telephone (608)256-8348. City of Madison Department of Planning and Development, 215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Madison, WI 53710; telephone (608)266-4635; fax (608)267-8739.

Commercial Shipping

Madison is served by the Chicago & Northwestern, Soo/Milwaukee, and Wisconsin & Calumet railroads. More than 40 motor freight carriers link the city with markets throughout the nation via an extensive interstate highway system. Air cargo is shipped through Dane County Regional Airport by two companies.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Madison enjoys relatively low unemployment and a high percentage of high-paying jobs in the growing high-technology sector of the economy, all of which provides a strong boost to the local economy in many ways. Forbes magazine has called Madison a hotbed of biocapitalism and Entrepreneur ranks Madison as one of the top five cities in which to start a business. Many of these new businesses are in the high-tech sector of the local economy. In 2005 more than 450 firms in the Madison area were identified as high-tech. Madison Schools are consistently ranked among the best in the nation, and the University of Wisconsin is regarded as one of the nation's finest public universities, turning out thousands of graduates each year and providing a high number of jobs in research and development.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Madison metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 343,100

Number of workers employed in . . .

mining and construction: 16,700

manufacturing: 31,900

trade, transportation and utilities: 60,400

information: 8,000

financial activities: 27,500

professional and business services: 32,000

educational and health services: 33,800

leisure and hospitality: 28,700

other services: 17,000

government: 79,700

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.19

Unemployment rate: 3.9% (February 2005)

Madison: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
University of Wisconsin—Madison 25,614
State of Wisconsin 22,186
U.S. Government 3,900
American Family Insurance 3,570
Madison Metropolitan School District 3,462
WPS Insurance 2,789
UW Health Hospitals/Clinics 2,729
CUNA Mutual Group 2,600

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Madison area.

2004 ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported

2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported

State income tax rate: Ranges from 4.6% to 6.75%

State sales tax rate: 5.0%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 0.5% (Dane County)

Property tax rate: Effective tax rate $23.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation (2004)

Economic Information: Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, 615 E. Washington Ave., PO Box 71, Madison, WI 53701-0071; telephone (608)256-8348.