MILWAUKEE — Enhanced collaboration is central to ensuring Wisconsin’s economic future, University of Wisconsin System Regent Jay L. Smith told state economic development leaders Thursday (Sept. 26).

“It is very important that we collaborate – across communities, across regions, and across the state,” Smith told participants at the fall conference of the Wisconsin Economic Development Association. “If our state is to prosper, collaboration is a must.”

Smith, past president of the UW Board of Regents and co-chair of Wisconsin Economic Summit III, used a personal example to highlight to conference participants the power of regional economic collaboration.

As president of JLS Investments, Smith owns and operates Teel Plastics in Sauk County. He said his company is positioned to grow by utilizing the resources of the Sauk County Development Corporation, UW-Baraboo, local banks and other business services.

“There is an infrastructure for Teel (Plastics) in Sauk County,” Smith said. “(And) within a 50-mile radius are located a dozen other plastic companies using similar services. I know firsthand the importance of what you do.”

Smith’s keynote address at the WEDA conference was titled, “Importance of Local Efforts to Wisconsin’s Economic Recovery.” He urged business and economic development leaders to take advantage of the university’s expertise to grow Wisconsin’s economy.

“We want to be available to you,” Smith said. “The university wants to help business and community development. Attitudes have changed a lot in the past 10 years. Barriers to business have come down.”

Smith said one of the best ways for local and state leaders to take part in Wisconsin’s economic recovery is to attend and participate in Wisconsin Economic Summit III. The summit is scheduled for Oct. 14-16 at the Midwest Express Center in Milwaukee. Smith and UW System President Katharine C. Lyall are summit co-chairs.

Smith said the first two summits have resulted in more venture capital interest in Wisconsin, more regional economic development planning and more collaboration among the many groups working to strengthen the state’s economy. Summit III will seek to move from ideas to implementation, he added.

“I can feel the energy as I look forward to Summit III,” Smith said. “A lot of important people are energized around economic development issues. We need to capitalize on this.”

To close his remarks, Smith mentioned a recent business trip he took to Montreal, where he visited Quebec’s new Biotech City. The Biotech City, which opened last year, is a public-private collaboration with specialized centers for research, learning, commercial development and business growth, especially for biotech and biopharmaceutical firms.

Smith said Biotech City was an idea just four years ago and is now winning international awards for its business development work. He stressed that quality competition is moving fast, but added that results can be realized if organizations work together toward a common goal.

“We are in a fight for the state’s economic future. It could go either way,” Smith concluded. “The jury is still out. But it is a fight that will not be won in a day or a month or a year. We have to be committed for the long haul.”

Full text of Smith’s remarks

For more information about or to register for Wisconsin Economic Summit III, visit

Media Contact

Erik Christianson UW System 608-262-5061