By Tom Still

MADISON, Wis. – In case you missed it, Wisconsin has been on a bit of an economic development hot streak of late.

It started in early May when Microsoft announced it will build a $3.3 billion data center in Racine County, largely to meet artificial intelligence needs. The streak grew in late May with creation of a $100-million public-private venture capital fund to help finance startups in health care, agriculture and other sectors – with emphasis on rural Wisconsin and people who don’t normally encounter early stage investors.

It continued this week when Wisconsin was named a “tech hub,” a process that began with the 2022 passage of the CHIPS and Science Act and which spurred a multi-state competition for federal dollars. The Economic Development Administration designated 12 such hubs, spread among sectors ranging from quantum computing to polymers to food technologies, with Wisconsin’s focus being personalized medicine.

The story of how the tech hub designation was won – along with $49 million from the EDA over five years – show what can happen when people in the academic, public and private spheres work together. Here, in alphabetical order, is my reading of what some of these “parents” brought to the birth of the tech hub.

Anjon Audhya, senior associate dean for basic research, biotechnology and graduate studies at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Audhya brought the perspective of a biochemist to the team, with expertise ranging from genetics to mapping mechanisms and pathways that underlie human disease.

Katie Boyce, senior director of corporate impact and community relations at Exact Sciences. Boyce has walked the halls of government and business in her day, gaining a reputation as a problem-solver. She helped secure private support for the tech hub, which was necessary to persuade EDA and others in Washington, D.C., the project had legs. Her involvement made sense: Precise diagnostics, tailored treatments and genomic prevention measures are all sweet spots for Exact Sciences.

Wendy Harris, formerly of GE Healthcare and now regional innovation officer for the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub. Working through BioForward, Harris brought 33 years of medical technology expertise to the job … experience that will pay dividends as the project unfolds.

Missy Hughes and Sam Rikkers, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Wisconsin’s bid in the EDA tech hub competition would be around personalized medicine – a broad term for tailoring diagnostics and treatments to a patient’s genetic makeup or other characteristics. The secretary and deputy secretary of WEDC, respectively, helped to ensure Wisconsin wasn’t competing with itself and advocated for filing a single proposal.

Erik Iverson, chief executive officer, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. While Iverson wasn’t involved in the day-to-day push, his decision a few years back to make development of “theranostics” a priority for WARF’s research and development portfolio fits perfectly into the personalized medicine playbook. Most recently, UW Health announced it will build a new cyclotron to facilitate development of drugs that can simultaneously diagnose and treat patients.

Chris Kozina, assistant vice chancellor for industry engagement, UW-Madison. Kozina brought deep industry experience to the party as well as a collegial way of navigating the university’s many colleges, schools and disciplines. There’s little doubt that research universities such as UW-Madison bring important breakthroughs to the table; organizing them in ways they can be applied commercially or for society is the trick. Kozina brought that perspective to the table.

Jon Schnur, chief executive officer, America Achieves. This Shorewood, Wis., native leads a national non-profit group that defines its mission as working with community partners “to create Good Jobs Economies” across the country. A long-time associate of the UW-Madison’s Kozina, Schnur and his team donated hours of time to the effort. How effective is America Achieves? In addition to the Wisconsin tech hub, it worked with four of the other 11 EDA recipients.

Many Wisconsin elected officials in both parties deserve mention, too, as $7.5 million in matching money was authorized by the Legislature and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., was an advocate on Capitol Hill.

The winning streak may not be over. Two Wisconsin proposals in different sectors are competing for money from the National Science Foundation’s “regional innovation engines” program. These are led by The Water Council in Milwaukee and WiSys, which serves the Universities of Wisconsin. Perhaps more proud “parents” are waiting outside the delivery room.

Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He can be reached at