By Brian E. Clark
A little more than a week out from a statewide constitutional vote that
would restrict gay
marriage and ban civil unions, a non-partisan, high-tech organization
sent out a letter restating its backing of tolerance and diversity in
Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council (WTC), said the
group is not taking an overt position on the so-called “Gay Marriage
amendment because the group’s board did not feel that was its proper
said Tom Still, WTC president.
But it is clear from the text of the message that the council is
that passage of the amendment could stifle the state’s economy and hurt
its ability to attract talent and money. The WTC’s board includes
capitalists, patent attorneys, start-up firms and the state’s largest
life-science company, GE Healthcare.
The last paragraph of the WTC letter reads:
“If existing or proposed laws, ordinances and constitutional amendments
send the message that Wisconsin is not diverse or tolerant, the state
be placed at a disadvantage in the national and global competition for
human capital. And without the right human capital, Wisconsin cannot
a prosperous, knowledge-based economy.”
In addition to Still, the letter was signed by Mark Bugher, WTC
Bugher is also director of the University Research Park in Madison and a
former Republican cabinet officer.
“We are not a group that feels comfortable telling voters what to do,”
Still said, noting that one of the WTC’s primary duties is to advise the
governor and the Legislature on technology issues. “We did not want to
“That said, if we see public policy trends like this, it is legitimate
the council to comment,” he said.
Here is the text of the letter:
October 26, 2006
To whom it may concern:
From its inception, the Wisconsin Technology Council has believed a
culture of creativity, diversity and tolerance is essential to growing a
prosperous, innovation-based economy for all citizens of the state. Here
is an excerpt from “Vision 2020: A Model Wisconsin Economy,” first
published in 2002.
“… Wisconsin needs to create a climate that encourages creative people
in turn can produce ideas and businesses that create wealth. Wealth can
only be created in an atmosphere of diversity and tolerance. These
and cultural values are important if we are to achieve our goals of
developing a high-growth economy in the future. … The public virtues of
openness and diversity are common characteristics of all wealthy
The mission and goals set by “Vision 2020” remain a touchstone for the
Tech Council, which was created in 2001 to serve as the independent,
non-profit science and technology adviser to the Governor and the
Legislature. The Tech Council also functions as a catalyst for
high-tech, knowledge-based economy. Its role is to make non-partisan
recommendations for promoting and growing that economy, which may
recommendations for protecting or enhancing the state’s culture of
creativity, diversity and tolerance.
The board of directors for the Tech Council is concerned about the
effects of any state laws, local ordinances or constitutional amendments
that could threaten that culture of creativity, diversity and tolerance.
As noted in “Vision 2020,” many studies have demonstrated that economic
prosperity is directly related to the presence of diverse, creative
in our communities.
“Regional economic growth is driven by the location choices of creative
people, the holders of creative capital who prefer places that are
diverse, tolerant and open to new ideas,” wrote researcher Richard
Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class.”
Wisconsin must remain a place where innovative people want to live and
work. If existing or proposed laws, ordinances and constitutional
amendments send the message that Wisconsin is not diverse or tolerant,
state will be placed at a disadvantage in the national and global
competition for human capital. And without the right human capital,
Wisconsin cannot grow a prosperous, knowledge-based economy.