One of my favorite membership events is the Downtown Madison Inc.’s What’s Up Downtown Breakfasts. This event gives me a chance to learn about various programs, projects, and initiatives connected to the health and vitality of downtown Madison.
Last month when I attended Sean Robbins, Executive Vice President of Thrive was the keynote speaker. The lavish room at the Madison Club was filled with its usual coffee, rolls and fruit. Although it is routinely well attended, this particular topic, based on attendance, struck a bit more interest than normal. Every seat was spoken for and there were even some business people standing against the wall seemingly ready to pounce on an empty seat.
Robbins’ topic was focused on demonstrating to the audience that Greater Madison is part of a larger economic system throughout the Great Lakes Region. He commented on the recession and offered a solution to more productive growth. That solution was to think differently, think bigger.
The bigger picture he succeeded in illustrating to the audience was that our competition is no longer our neighboring states. In order for Dane County and Wisconsin as a whole to thrive is to collaboratively expand a more diverse economic base, experience more economic innovation, and improve the quality of life. In order to compete with what Robbins announced as our new competition; Latin American, Southeast Asian, and Eastern European countries to name a few; we have to start stitching ourselves into this much larger ecosystem and leverage our neighboring states’ resources as well as our own.
I have to be honest, at first I was skeptical. Similar to looking through a silo and seeing a glimmer of light hoping that glimmer is the way out, I was convinced that we have to stick to what we do best and there is no reason to expand our focus in other economies. We can do that after the economic malaise are over.
However, after reading an article in InBusiness magazine focusing on Sean’s perspective, my memory of his presentation was refreshed and some of his conclusions made more sense. Maybe this is the time for collaborative change. Maybe we do have to reach beyond the traditional borders to become a more dominant player. Are we able to look beyond county and even state borders and put more emphasis on collaborative economic activity? Is now the time?