Tom Still


Wis. — Hockey great Wayne Gretzky is credited with proclaiming, “I skate to
where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Maybe Gretzky should have become an
economist after he hung up his hockey gear. His advice is salient off the ice
as well as on.

As members of the Wisconsin Legislature
suit up for the start of their 2015 session and a budget debate that is likely
to last until summer, they should skate toward the “puck” of predicted economic
growth rather than chasing prosperity where it was years ago.

Sectors such as manufacturing and
agriculture will continue to fuel the Wisconsin economy in many ways, of
course, but they will not necessarily lead the charge in creation of net new

As the economy continues to transform
itself nationally, globally and in Wisconsin, other sectors more in line with
changing conditions are producing comparable if not greater numbers of jobs.
Quite often, those emerging sectors are yielding the best-paying jobs, as well.

Wisconsin must recognize changes in the
national and global economies and understand how to make those shifts work for
Wisconsin. Here are national forecasts that helps to tell the story: 

Total employment is expected to increase
nationally by 14 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics. That follows a 2 percent decline in 2000-2010. However, the 20.5
million jobs expected to be added by 2020 will not be evenly distributed
across major industry and occupational groups. Changes in consumer demand,
improvements in technology and other factors will contribute to the nation’s
changing employment structure, the BLS noted.

The Georgetown University Center on the
Economy and Workforce took it a step further with state-specific figures that
help to understand Wisconsin’s need for workers with post-secondary education
and training.

By 2020, the center predicted, Wisconsin
will have 649,000 job openings that will require at least some post-secondary
training, compared to 392,000 that will not. Georgetown analysts also predicted
that 62 percent of all jobs in Wisconsin will require some post-secondary
training by 2020. If you think that sounds high, the national estimate is 65

Here is where the Georgetown report
expects jobs to be added in selected major sectors in Wisconsin:

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and
310 jobs from 89,110 in 2010 to 89,420 in 2020/ 0 percent growth.

Construction: Up 6,270 jobs from
130,200 in 2010 to 136,470 in 2020/ 5 percent growth.

Manufacturing: Up 13,460 jobs
from 367,890 in 2010 to 381,350 in 2020/ 4 percent growth.

Wholesale and retail trade: Up 26,790 jobs
from 402,330 in 2010 to 429,120 in 2020/ 6.6 percent growth.

Finance and insurance: Up 28,810 jobs
from 157,390 in 2010 to 186,200 in 2020/ 18 percent growth.

Professional, Scientific and Technical
Up 14,890 jobs from 127,510 in 2010 to 142,400 in 2020/ 12 percent growth.

Administrative, Support, Waste Management
and Remediation
Up 34,050 jobs from 138,790 in 2010 to 172,840 in 2020/ 25 percent growth

Health care and social assistance: Up 66,470 jobs
from 325,220 in 2010 to 391,690 in 2020/ 20 percent growth.

Other significant Wisconsin categories
predicted to show double-digit growth in employment are information (10
percent), arts, design, entertainment and recreation (28 percent), educational
(27 percent), management of companies and enterprises (17
percent) and transportation and warehousing (11 percent).

can policymakers do to help Wisconsin seize the moment? Republicans and
Democrats alike can focus on four themes: Enhancing Wisconsin’s startup and
scale-up business climate; building the state’s supply of knowledge-based human
capital; improving access to investment capital for Wisconsin entrepreneurs;
and improving technology development, delivery and transfer from the lab bench
to the marketplace.

that, policymakers can simply stay out of the way and not enact regulations or
prohibitions that hamper Wisconsin’s ability to compete. Given the choice in a
tight budget year, however, they can invest in sectors likely to grow versus industries
that may not need the help or which have peaked.

growth depends on attracting and retaining companies and people in industries
that add diversity and resilience to the economy. If policymakers want to keep
Wisconsin’s young people at home and attract them from elsewhere, the state
must exude a sense of opportunity, collaboration and excitement … and skate
toward the puck where it is heading.