Madison business leaders see incoming millennial talent

Madison-area business leaders are seeing an influx of millennial talent as a result of the region’s growing tech ecosystem.

“It’s a very exciting time,” says Jeff Naughton, site director for Google Madison. He spoke at a “State of the Sector” event put on yesterday by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce.

Naughton says the tech giant’s Madison office made a lot of new hires in 2017. He notes a lot of new grads are being hired by other companies, while others are moving from the coasts to see what this part of Wisconsin has to offer.

“Seattle area, San Francisco area… people who really want to live in Madison and like the opportunity of working for a company like Google, but in Madison,” Naughton said. “We’re really hoping to continue that kind of thing.”

Kevin Little, vice president of the chamber, spoke about the multiplying effect of gaining tech jobs and Madison’s success in doing so.

“We know that for every one ‘advanced industry’ job that’s created, an additional 2.2 jobs are created elsewhere,” Little said. This term from DC-based research group Brookings covers 50 different subsections, he said, including advanced manufacturing, energy and digital services.

He noted that for job creation momentum in this space, Madison is just outside the top 10 in the country, but “still very competitive overall in the largest 100 metropolitan areas.”

He said the industries fueling this growth are software publishing, scientific research and development, computer system design, architectural and engineering services, and general tech consulting.

Mark Gehring, co-founder of HealthMyne and Propellor Health, says there’s no lack of skilled workers in Madison for companies to grab for these high-skill positions. That’s due to the presence of UW-Madison, a top-tier research institution, but also to the companies that have defined the city’s strength in health care technology.

“It’s unbelievable the number of super-sharp people that come in through Epic,” Gehring said, referring to health care software company Epic Systems. “It’s like getting some kind of graduate degree — work there for a few years, and then move out into the community.”

He says HealthMyne has hired numerous people out of Epic, and hasn’t had much difficulty with recruiting other than for some highly specialized positions.

Maurice Cheeks, vice president of business development for MIOsoft, says “mission-oriented” millennials want to be part of companies making a real difference in people’s lives — studying and treating cancers, for example.

“I think there’s a lot of people who are looking for opportunities to work for organizations that are really trying to change the world,” Cheeks said. “And the fact that Madison is becoming known as a community that’s working to do that is really exciting.”

Rachel Neill, founder and CEO of Carex Consulting Group and East Coast native, has seen Madison’s tech hub profile rise in the eight years she’s been in Wisconsin.

“Now when we talk to people or we’re looking for talent, there are a lot of people who are from those areas who are really interested in relocating here, that want to be a part of what Madison has to offer,” she said.

She listed a lower cost of living, less traffic, access to companies and proximity to UW-Madison as draws for these incoming workers.

“I think that it’s changed a lot for the better, in that the recognition we’re getting is being heard by people, and they’re wanting to come here,” Neill added.

Naughton, a professor emeritus from UW-Madison, says the only way to keep this momentum going is to maintain the university’s strength as a research institution.

“I think it’s something we kind of take for granted,” he said. “It’s very, very hard to build up a university like University of Wisconsin, and not that hard to let it fall down.”

–By Alex Moe