People and Possibilities
back in Madison, which has become a hub for biotechnology innovation,
there are entrepreneurs who would not want to live anywhere else. The
Madison area appears on numerous 2007 best locations lists. The
Kiplinger/Richard Florida 25 Best Cities list, which selected five
cities for each of five different demographic groups, includes Madison
as one of the top five Best Cities for Empty-Nesters. The 2007 Places
Rated Almanac by David Savageau ranked Madison 10th nationwide based on
a wide array of quality-of-life factors, and Money magazine ranked
Middleton, a smaller adjacent municipality that is still part of the
Madison MSA, number one on its list of Best Places to Live 2007, which
focused on smaller towns with populations of 7,500 to 50,000.
Biondi, a biotech entrepreneur who spent the '80s and early '90s in the
Madison area and then lived in Atlanta for six years, returned to
Wisconsin in 2001 "absolutely for quality-of-life reasons," he says.
"There's a great intersection here of people and possibilities that
make Madison an interesting place to live." In 2006, Biondi founded
biofuels enzyme developer C56 Technologies as a spinoff from
Middleton-based Lucigen, a company specializing in cloning
technologies. Recruitment of qualified talent - currently a staff of
five plus several interns - has not been a problem due to the presence
of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "You don't have to go all
over the world to find high-caliber, highly trained people," he says.
"They're already here, imbedded in the community."
Biondi admits that the weather "can get chilly," he prefers Wisconsin's
climate over the traffic congestion that he experienced in Atlanta. He
likes the easy access to both outdoor recreation and downtown cultural
events, and he also prefers what he calls the "ethic" of Madison: "It's
a very health-conscious, environmentally-conscious, artistically
conscious community." It should be pointed out that Atlanta has its
fair share of praises, too, including having been rated one of the five
Best Cities for Married With Kids by the 2007 Kiplinger/Richard Florida
Also passionate about the Madison area's quality of life
is Tera Johnson, president of bio-agriculture business development
company Steele Ventures. "I went to graduate school in Madison and
never left," says Johnson. "The reason I stayed is quality of life." In
October, Steele Ventures was closing on $13 million in financing for a
new company, Wisconsin Specialty Proteins, scheduled to break ground in
January for a new facility in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, where it will
employ 20 in the production of value-added specialty whey protein
products for the food and nutritional supplements industries.
Oregon, which was listed third in the 2007 Cities Ranked & Rated
book by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander, and fourth in Savageau's Places
Rated Almanac, recently attracted New Zealand-based Icebreaker, a maker
of performance outdoor apparel made from ultra-fine merino wool, and
Germany-based SiC Processing, a recycler of silicon carbide and glycol
slurry used in silicon wafer manufacturing.
Portland for its U.S. headquarters, design center, and flagship retail
store not only for the talent pool available there but also for the
lifestyle of the area, according to Sandy La Roe, manager of the design
center, which employs 14 people. The company also considered Boulder,
Colorado, and Boston, Massachusetts, for potential sites, but settled
on Portland "because it was really the true epicenter of performance
apparel design and I was able to quickly put this very talented team
together," says La Roe. "As far as quality of life, Icebreaker is
intended for mountain and urban wear, and the Portland area offers
endless outdoor recreation surrounding a very progressive urban center."
SiC Processing, which considered sites in Missouri and New Jersey
before selecting Portland, finding a qualified plant manager was one of
its top priorities. Process engineer Damon Doelger, who lives in
Portland, was offered the job but "had no plans for leaving the area,"
he says. "They said that if you want the job, we'll locate in
Portland." SiC's new facility there began operations in April 2007 and
now employs about 25 people.
Quality-of-life factors that
attracted Doelger to Portland and made him want to stay included "the
cleanliness and the greenery," he says. "It's a rather small city but
it does supply most or all of the benefits of living a metropolitan
life." Proximity to both the coast and the mountains were also
important; one of Doelger's interests is rock climbing. "It's a
different pace of life here," he adds, noting that "Keep Portland
Weird" is a popular bumper sticker throughout the city. "Either you
like it or you don't."
the work-life balance, don't forget life," says Scott Sullivan, senior
vice president of GMAC Global Relocation Services. Based on his
experience with helping relocating companies market new locations to
transferring employees and attract prospective new employees to an
area, Sullivan says that the three most important quality-of-life
issues for people right now are cost of living, safety, and schools.
generations get older, people look at quality of life more strongly,"
he says. Once a location decision has been made, "companies must
understand at their peril that they need a long-term, sustainable plan
for attracting people. One of the biggest challenges in the U.S. and
globally is the shortage of qualified talent, so it is extremely
important to ask, if they're not already there, where are you going to
attract them from?"