By Tom Still
MADISON – It’s PGA Championship Week in Wisconsin, which means the golfing world will beat a path to one of the state’s most spectacular doorsteps, the 7,514-yard Whistling Straits course in Kohler. With lake-hugging holes named “Grand Strand,” “Cliff Hanger” and “Voyageur,” it’s an inspiring place for the 86th annual tournament.
But Wisconsin boasts another course, equally impressive, that deserves play by investment- and research-minded visitors who might be tempted to return another day.
Welcome to Technology Trails, Wisconsin’s championship-level “Knowledge Economy” course.
No. 1, Par 4, 408 yards, “A Healthy Drive.” The Marshfield Clinic in central Wisconsin carries out about $75 million in research each year, including globally recognized work in personalized medicine and zoonotics.
No. 2, Par 5, 593 yards, “Tech Transfer.” The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, is a national model for turning academic ideas into patents and marketable licenses. The Center of Advanced Technology and Innovation in Racine is an up-and-coming patent and license model.
No. 3, Par 3, 181 yards, “Chipping for Par.” The Chippewa Valley is one of Wisconsin’s information technology centers, with about 15 computing and communications companies doing business there.
No. 4, Par 4, 493 yards, “Fairway to Heaven.” Wisconsin’s quality of life and environment is a major lure for high-tech workers and companies, especially for those looking to escape the hassles of the coasts without forfeiting the culture or recreation.
No. 5, Par 5, 598 yards, “Heavy Hitters.” Wisconsin is home to some of the world’s biggest firms, such as GE Health Care, Harley-Davidson, Kimberly-Clark, S.C. Johnson and Sons and Kohler, and they all use technology to improve products and bottom lines.
No. 6, Par 4, 355 yards, “Back to School.” Wisconsin’s technical college system is among the top-rated in the nation, producing skilled workers who understand technology and are willing to learn more.
No. 7, Par 3, 221 yards, “Ivy on the Green.” Wisconsin is home to 21 private colleges and universities, including Marquette University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
No. 8, Par 4, 507 yards, “Stroll in the Park.” In 20 years, University Research Park in Madison has grown to 107 companies with 4,000 employees.
No. 9, Par 4, 449 yards, “Green Acres.” Agriculture in Wisconsin in big business, and farmers are using the latest technologies to improve productivity and food safety, protect the environment and boost profits.
No. 10, Par 4, 361 yards, “Technology Oasis.” The state capital of Madison was recently named the nation’s best place for business and careers by Forbes magazine.
No. 11, Par 5, 618 yards, “The Big Club.” The UW-Madison is one of the top three public research universities in the nation, engaging in upwards to $700 million in projects this year.
No. 12, Par 3, 143 yards, “Work to Win.” Wisconsin’s workforce is renowned for being well-trained, flexible and ready to put in the hours needed to get the job done.
No. 13, Par 4, 404 yards, “City by the Lake.” Milwaukee isn’t your father’s town anymore. Yes, it still has beer and heavy machinery, but it also has bioinformatics, medical equipment, information technology and more.
No. 14, Par 4, 373 yards, “Beat the System.” In addition to UW-Madison, Wisconsin offers 25 other public campuses, including many with research programs.
No. 15, Par 4, 518 yards, “Laying a Base.” A knowledge-based economy begins with great schools, and Wisconsin’s K-12 system is rated among the nation’s best in terms of teacher readiness and college placement scores.
No.16, Par 5, 569 yards, “Down the Middle.” Wisconsin has technology centers of excellence in the life sciences, such as world-leading stem cell research, as well as information technology and advanced manufacturing.
No. 17, Par 3, 223 yards, “Doctor in the House” The Medical College of Wisconsin has vaulted into prominence with its research and tech transfer programs, conducting about $130 million in research each year.
No. 18, Par 4, 500 yards, “The Right Attitude.” Wisconsin is holding down taxes, cutting red tape and building a technology infrastructure. It’s a state ready to play with the big boys, on or off the course. Fore!
Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.