Business leaders at Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are seeking to create a new architecture building with their latest campaign

Business leaders at Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are seeking to create a new architecture building with their latest campaign

An aerial view of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a fall day near sunset.

A letter signed by more than 40 business leaders from across Wisconsin outlines the urgency of moving forward with the UW-Madison College of Engineering construction project, highlighting the importance of engineers to the state’s economy and opportunities to address unmet workforce needs. The updated facility would allow the university to accept hundreds more engineering students annually. Currently, the college can accept less than 20% of its applicants. Photo: Bryce Richter

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, in partnership with business leaders and allies across the state, has launched a new campaign urging lawmakers to develop a new building for the College of Engineering. The new state-of-the-art building promises to significantly boost engineering enrollment, which is essential to meeting Wisconsin’s critical workforce needs.

The campaign, which includes digital advertising, social media, newspaper placements and a video spot, amplifies Wisconsin businesses’ messages about the need for more engineers and calls on policymakers to take action to move the project forward.

Several major Wisconsin employers are calling for legislative action, including Johnson Controls, Kohler, Epic, American Family Insurance, Rockwell Automation, and Plexus, as well as the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce — organizations dedicated to creating businesses. The best possible environment for economic growth and business success in Wisconsin.

“The response from the business community has been crystal clear: Wisconsin’s economic growth and innovation depend heavily on its skilled engineering workforce, and this project is essential to the state’s continued prosperity,” says Charles Huslett, vice president of university relations at UW-Madison. . “At the core of this campaign is the university’s dedication to strengthening our workforce and building Wisconsin’s talent pipeline. The need for a new building for the College of Engineering is undeniable.

On Sunday, a full-page message of support for the project appeared in newspapers across the state. The letter, signed by Wisconsin’s top business and economic development leaders, calls on officials to pass legislation to develop the new education and research facility.

An image of a document showing the signatures of 40 Wisconsin companies lending their support to fund a new building for the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The letter’s 40-plus signatories demonstrate the urgency to move the construction project forward, highlighting the importance of engineers to the state’s economy and opportunities to address unmet workforce needs. The updated facility would allow the university to accept hundreds more engineering students annually. Currently, the college can accept less than 20% of its applicants.

“These engineering graduates are critical to the state’s economic development needs, but we need more of them to meet the growing demand from our companies,” the letter said.

The statewide campaign, funded by the Wisconsin Alumni Association, highlights the importance of cultivating a strong pipeline of workers and innovation to ensure Wisconsin’s future economic success. The website, engineeringthefuture.wisc.edu, which showcases the College of Engineering’s wide-ranging impact on the state, includes testimonials from business leaders and offers opportunities for alumni, business leaders and others to take action.

In addition to campaign ads and the executives’ letter, a coalition of business allies, economic development groups, industry associations and prominent alumni continue to tirelessly advocate for the project, working both publicly and behind the scenes to advance the building.

  • Editorials from technology leaders and news organizations have repeatedly defended the project and outlined the consequences of inaction.
  • A group of 11 prominent organizations representing Wisconsin employers, contractors and economic development entities issued a letter asking lawmakers to move forward with the project.
  • Another letter from the Wisconsin Technology Council, a 50-member organization that advises state government on matters related to science and technology, called on lawmakers to allow the building to be built.
  • BioForward, the lead agency for designating a regional technology hub in Wisconsin that would bring significant job growth and millions in investment to the state, called on its member companies to support the project.
  • Business leaders, donors, alumni and other supporters of the project continued to work directly with legislators and university officials to advocate for the building.

The engineering facility was the top construction priority for the University of Wisconsin Board of Trustees and was included in a list of projects proposed by Gov. Tony Evers in the 2023-2025 state budget. Nearly half — $150 million — of the project’s budgeted $347 million cost will be provided through private charities, further leveraging state dollars. The Joint Finance Committee’s decision not to develop the building surprised many in the state’s business, economic development and media communities, who saw the project as an obvious step to address critical workforce development issues facing Wisconsin.

Without urgent action, private donors may withdraw their support, project costs will continue to rise, and Wisconsin’s economy, employers and students will suffer.

The campaign over the next month aims to activate support and show that the long-term economic benefits of the project far outweigh the initial costs. By providing the space and resources needed to train a new generation of engineers, the university can help businesses in the state expand, innovate, and drive economic growth in Wisconsin.

You can find additional information about the project at engineeringthefuture.wisc.edu.

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