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Blogs / Professional Fellows Exchange Program / E 2 of sustainability: Economic (Part 2)

E 2 of sustainability: Economic (Part 2)

Based on all development factors, we would see the internal strengths of Middleton and also go beyond it to see how this city’s economic benefit could be influenced from the state as a whole through cluster development, tourism, culture, business, and social engagement.

The first competitive cluster is cheese. Wisconsin is famous for its quality cheese and dairy products. People can find organic cheese here too; the word organic refers to the organic production chain which starts from what cows are fed, and how their milk is produced. All of this begins with the effort and motivation of the farmers and producers to create the best quality of cheese for the whole state, and each stage of production must be in a well-managed and controlled quality. Another famous by-product in cheese production is cheese curd. Its consumption seems to go higher though it is not well known by some Americans. Frankly speaking, I do love it, and it may be the most memorable food I had here in Wisconsin. Another field is wine. Though wine cluster here in Wisconsin is not as big as that in California and other big states, winery tour here is quite attractive based on the background and history of the business owner. We were having Wollersheim Winery tour. We learned about some background of the family settling down there originally, viewed a breathtaking landscape, and tasted several different types of authentic wine. This business model can generate a good profit since people love seeing the landscape, how wine is made in the reality, wine history, and they can buy souvenirs and especially more types of wine they prefer after tasting.

We might go beyond Middleton to see how tourism sector in Wisconsin is being progressed. In Culture sector, I have seen some building structures and designs are meant to make money for the locals and investors through its multi purposes of service provided. For example, along with a brief study of the historical, national, and cultural attractions, we went to visit Circus World Museum, Al Ringling, Overture center, Taliesin, and Monona Terrace. The structural design and functions of these buildings are so unique respectively. For example, Monona Terrace, a famous design of the famous American designer Frank Lloyd Wright, provides space renting service in multi purposes aside from standing as a government officials’ venue. Similarly, Taliesin is always popular among the other structures; people go to learn how wonderful the building structure of Mr. Wright is and how the organic structure is embraced in the spirit of Mr. Wright’s design. Interestingly, we also went to visit some other natural sites and enjoyed some amazing experiences such as hiking some bluffs around Devil’s Lake, Morton forest, and Ferry bluff; viewing natural bridge and top of Mound Blue; going to Picnic Point, Olbrich Botanical Gardens, zoo, Longenecker Horticultural Garden, Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area; riding on horseback riding; viewing the lakeside on Merrimac Ferry and Middleton scenic green city on flight; and going to Apple orchard and pumpkin field during Halloween season.


Another exciting heartland of Wisconsin is Sport. Sporting event is always popular in Wisconsin, and there is no doubt that Middleton people love and support sports. For example, Bucky Badger is a mascot of The Wisconsin Badgers football team, the intercollegiate football team of University of Wisconsin – Madison. From observation, I am amazed by how people here are supporting sporting events regardless of the ticket price and venue. Small business retailers are earning much whenever the event occurs. Everything comes along the chain of economic. Food chain is getting more profitable, more souvenirs are acquired for friends, and clothes and accessories with Badger design are more in need. Students have been encouraged to play sports since their childhood in primary school. This whole picture shows how culture of a nation is developed, talents in sport are managed, tourism is grown, and national revenue is earned. During the fellowship, we had a chance to witness this in a women volleyball game and men basketball game. I could feel the inspiration, excitement, and enjoyment during the games. It makes sense that I am also influenced; shouting out loud and waving during the games.

However, economic is able to be leveraged from tradition. We experienced joining the Halloween celebration at the end of October. People designed their house and all settings with pumpkins and other accessories. They gave away candies and chocolates. Let’s imagine how all these stuff are purchased massively, and how they are charged in a different price during the event. Freak fest is another annual celebration that people always enjoy dressing up in many different attractive forms. Christmas is about to be in town now. Hence, all we could see is money people could earn through food, accessories, clothes, and retails with a higher markup but high purchasing power. People are in high willingness to pay since this is a kind of seasonal celebration, and the value they could gain is enjoyment with family, friends, and community.  

Businesses is another main theme for economic development. In Middleton, from personal observation, there are varieties of business- restaurants, small food shops and retailers, small art galleries, and others. Noticeably, I have observed some creative businesses in this city. First, food business is quite popular, and on top of that, Trivia-related restaurant is even more attractive for the locals. To me, trivia seems to be new, but I could see the prospect of its profitability. It often runs on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the restaurants. Early week is not so busy for a normal restaurant, which means less profitable too, but because of the manner of this business, many people gather in team and join trivia night for joy in knowledge gain and challenge by answering various types of question in their team. They do not feel any wait for the food in progress since they are distracted by the game. They come for experience and excitement from the gathering and games. This strategically creates the value of the customers and their high willingness to pay in a regular positive addiction. More interestingly, I also really appreciate a creativity of small family business. We went to a Christmas Art and Craft Fair at a lady’s house. She has started this small fair since she was young. This has become her hobby in this hand-made artistic work, and of course it is also profitable that she could earn it for her annual vacation. This business is also seen at Confectionist which is a small shop of a couple who often bring the small cute stuff from France during their vacation and design their own hand-made stuff.

Expanding further about business talk, Middleton people are also employed by several big companies here. From the statistical data, the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation is Middleton’s largest employer with 3,500 full-time employees. However, during this fellowship, we also went to two interesting companies, ETC and Epic. These companies are really glamourous in terms of its business model, organizational management, and strategy uniqueness.

Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) is a global leader in the development and manufacturing of lighting and rigging technology, including entertainment and architectural lighting and controls. It was founded in 1975 by Fred Foster and his brother Bill, and has its world headquarters in Middleton, where it employs about 700 people full-time. What I have gained from ETC is its implementation of employees’ motivation strategy. ETC gives 33% of its overall shares to its employees as the share option in performance-related pay. This is how ETC is trying to motivate its employees and reduce the agency conflict by allowing the employees get the sense of ownership in the company so they are willing to gain their productivity for the company’s growth. We could see a very authentic and creative space arrangement and location designed in this company. For example, its lobby was designed very amazingly to give joy and relaxing moment for the employees and visitors. Most part of the office was made with the ship container; this ensures the efficiency and creates a unique beauty. The company strives for the environmental friendly process and allows the employees for job rotation. The company is growing through massive production, vertical integration, new product investment, and its scalability in many international markets. Its uniqueness is all about the technology and quality as the company has spent so much in research and development.

Epic is another world of dream we were spending time for. Its uniqueness lies upon a magnificent building structure of the working place which creates a super amazing space along with thematic decoration and design in the location with a superb scenery. We do not know how to stop shouting WOWs due to this glorious environment which keeps entertaining us endlessly. I believe the employees are really enthusiastic to work in this company due to the working environment and culture embracing their productivity. Healthy environment, open communication, talent management, environmental sustainability, customer relation management, and business model are included in its uniqueness which has boosted up the creativity of the employees and the innovation of the company. It invests in human resource development so much; Epic has hired talented people to work and equip them with training of skill and technology, and there is a cooperation between the University of Wisconsin and Epic to support students, working for the company, in computer science course training. It encourages diversity of employees and keeps motivating them through incentives and trainings. All of these has brought employees’ satisfaction to bring growth of the company. Moreover, its business model also focuses on in-house production due to its cost and benefit analysis, manages the good relationship with the customers by creating small teams working closely with customers as BFF, manages its good relationship with the city by matching its plan with the city’s through good communication for risk mitigation as a good neighbor, and makes the right decision for various stakeholders’ interests. The company’s is also doing its global market expansion and extending the number of customer network worldwide. 

In summary, we could analyze Middleton receives its economic benefits from its internal competitive advantages and economic opportunities from the state’s advancement as a place for the visitors and other residents to be accommodated and located their settings. Furthermore, through the connection of all factors, it allows the economic to grow while the political issue does not affect or influence the quality of public service delivery or economic flow of this state. This also shows in 2016 Visitor Guide of Middleton, Wisconsin, which indicates five reasons why it is friendlier here- group friendly businesses, seven outstanding hotels, ideal location for overnight stop or home base, sample attraction suited to group tour such as National Mustard Museum and world famous Capital Brewery, and top regional tour attraction located with a short drive. Hence, although the city has not become the biggest diamond in the state yet, Middleton is going along a way to reach a high level of competitive advantages. I remember one phrase which is “Not a bigger, but a better”.

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