Tom Still: Cities, states and regions must ultimately map own routes to success

This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.

It’s rarely a bad idea to compare-and-contrast when it comes to business development, whether it’s city to city, state to state or region to region.

It can be a really bad idea, however, to get hung up on it.

Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the case these days in Wisconsin, where a slow recovery from the Great Recession has sent business, government and economic development leaders scrambling for answers wherever the grass looks greener.

In Milwaukee, historic suspicion of Madison as a place populated by eggheads, hippies and assorted liberals sometimes splashes over into the economic development world. “What is Madison doing right that Milwaukee can’t do better?” the city’s thought leaders sometimes ask. The answer is “nothing” – except, perhaps, celebrating eggheads, hippies and liberals who have innovative business ideas. (Think Epic Systems and Promega.)

Better comparisons for Milwaukee are places such as Louisville, Kansas City, Cleveland and Pittsburgh – all cities in the nation’s heartland, all roughly the same size as Wisconsin’s largest city and each working hard on its economic future.

The same holds true for Madison, which has been obsessed with measuring itself against Austin, Texas, since the mid-1980s – but for reasons that don’t always add up.

Read the full column for more