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Economist Urges More Pension Fund Managers To Invest In Midwest

Chuck Quirmbach
John Austin, of the Brookings Institution, at WUWM.

When it comes to the local economy, there’s some good and bad news. It' on the venture capital front — the money provided by investors that often helps businesses get underway or grow.

The good news is that economists say more venture capital dollars are flowing to the Milwaukee area, and the Midwest. The bad news is that some other parts of the U.S. are faring much better.

About half the money in U.S. venture capital deals goes to California. New York gets 14%. Six other Great Lakes states, including Wisconsin, get a combined total of 4%.

But Michigan-based economist John Austin is still optimistic about the Midwest. Austin is a non-resident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Austin says that our region has plenty of strengths.

“Milwaukee has this irony that it is the center of tremendous innovation, not just in the industries [such as manufacturing] that made Milwaukee great, but in a host of emerging areas — like information technology, clean energy, smart water technology and health care," Austin explains. "But that massive innovation, coming out of our companies, and our world-leading research universities and colleges, doesn’t always get commercialized into new businesses and jobs here."

Austin says a key problem is that a lot of venture capital money from elsewhere isn’t reaching Milwaukee, and a lot of Midwest pension fund dollars are heading to the west and east coasts.

Do you have a question about innovation in Wisconsin that you'd like WUWM's Chuck Quirmbach to explore? Submit it below.