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Category: Public Policy News

Here you’ll find out who’s making the decisions shaping our community: Policy-makers are always busy creating new ways to advance the Madison region. Stay informed on the latest policies that may impact the way you do business.

Photo by Richard Hurd

Chamber Urges Immediate Action to Avoid Multi-Year Road Work Delays

Today the Chamber sent a letter to state legislative leaders and Governor Walker, urging immediate action to avoid multi-year delays to critical road projects including I-39/90 and Verona Road. For business, economic, mobility and safety reasons, multi-year delays are just plain unacceptable.

Ideally, we would like to see long-term transportation finance reform to provide sustainable revenue sources for projects. In the short-term, however, immediate options must be considered, including use of the budgeted contingency bonding, to lessen the impact on these critical projects.

Read the Chamber’s complete letter here.

Photo by Richard Hurd

All Signs Point to Improvement for City Sign Code

Over the last year, the Chamber has led a workgroup of city and business leaders focused on finding solutions to problematic areas of Madison’s sign code that would support city planning, safety, and private business goals. This effort began with the introduction of proposed changes to Madison’s sign code that would have created new, across-the-board restrictions and reduced signage for commercial signage. The Chamber opposed the original proposal and built coalition of partners to encourage a more meaningful, comprehensive discussion on Madison’s sign regulations to address city and business concerns. Read the coalition’s letter to Mayor Soglin here.

The Mayor agreed to hold off on his proposals and proceed with the proposed review. To guide that discussion, the workgroup developed six shared goals:

1. We both seek to appropriately manage the use of commercial messages within the city, to provide attractive signage compatible with surroundings, and to prevent unnecessary clutter within the city.
2. Signage options should be affordable for businesses, functional for their locations, and visible for customers.
3. Ordinances should not limit originality or sense of place but allow for the creation of beautiful, vibrant, and safe buildings with quality design.
4. The sign code should prioritize visibility of business signs and take into account factors such as location while making provisions to be flexible, functional, and allow for creative flair.
5. Businesses should have access to clear and easy-to-understand information about signage, city codes, and sign application process.
6. Finally, the sign permit and approval process should be timely and efficient for city staff, committees, and businesses.

Last week, this work culminated with the introduction of several proposed changes to Madison’s sign code. If adopted, these changes not only will provide more flexibility for businesses, it also recognizes the important role that appropriate and identifiable signage has in helping businesses inform, direct and communicate with customers.

We expect more conversations on signage in the future, but this proposed set of changes is a positive step forward.

Photo by Richard Hurd

Chamber Guides Collaborative Approach to Benchmarking

Earlier this week, the Madison Common Council directed city staff to begin work on the creation of a public/private voluntary energy benchmarking program. Benchmarking is a way to measure a building’s energy usage by comparing to usage from similar-sized buildings.

The adoption of this ordinance is the culmination of nearly two years of work. Originally, the program was proposed as mandatory for every city building over a certain size. The Chamber opposed a mandatory approach, which would have been costly, contentious and created false, negative public perceptions regarding energy usage. Rather than malign businesses, the Chamber advocated for a voluntary program that could educate businesses about the benefits of benchmarking to reduce energy consumption and lower costs.

The Chamber commends city leaders for defeating a mandatory, combative approach, and working towards a collaborative, voluntary program that can do great things for both the city’s sustainability and private business goals. In particular, special thanks goes to Alder Matt Phair for his leadership on this issue.

The Chamber will continue to work with all stakeholders in the design, promotion and execution of the program.

Photo by Richard Hurd

Chamber Joins Federal Call to Action for Innovation

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce joined more than 250 organizations in business, education, science, industry and engineering in signing “Innovation: An American Imperative.”   This statement is a national call to action to strengthen federal policies as well as find sustainable investment channels for research and development that fund important innovation.  A similar statement was released in 2007. The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce is the second city chamber in the country to sign on to the initiative.

CEOs from around the country joined the effort including signatories below:

  • Samuel R. Allen, Chairman & CEO, John Deere
  • Norman R. Augustine, Co-Chair, Restoring the Foundation
  • Wes Bush, Chairman, President & CEO, Northrop Grumman
  • Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman & CEO, Merck & Co., Inc.
  • Marillyn A. Hewson, Chairman, President, & CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Charles O. Holliday, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell plc
  • Joseph Jimenez, CEO, Novartis
  • W. James McNerney, Jr., Chairman of the Board & CEO, The Boeing Company
  • Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
  • Jay Timmons, President and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers

This initiative focuses on important areas of the Chamber’s most recent legislative agenda including:

  • Ending sequestration’s deep cuts to federal investments in R&D
  • Making permanent a strengthened federal R&D tax credit
  • Reforming U.S. visa policy
  • Stimulating further improvements in advanced manufacturing

For a complete copy of the statement, see here.

Photo by Richard Hurd

Chambers: reduce cuts to UW system


Members of the Joint Finance Committee:

As the voice of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of workers throughout our state, the Chamber of Commerce signatories below are united in our concern over the proposed cuts to the University of Wisconsin System.

Innovative and prosperous companies are often found in the shadow of great universities and we are fortunate to have world-class universities throughout the state of Wisconsin. They are critical to each and every region’s economic success. The UW System is a vital statewide asset. It serves as an economic engine, a hub for cutting-edge research that creates new businesses and jobs, and a draw for attracting and retaining world-class talent in both students and faculty.

The total economic impact on our state economy of the UW System is more than $20 billion annually, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs, creating exciting startup businesses and generating an admirable talent pool for our future workforce.

Our level of concern is heightened by the fact that the flexibility originally proposed for the UW System has been eliminated, yet $300 million in cuts remain on the table.   The business community recognizes that you are wrestling with many competing priorities and extremely difficult financial decisions as you do the hard work of assembling the next state budget.

We encourage you, however, to ensure that the UW System’s ability to sustain the economic benefits it provides throughout the state of Wisconsin is not compromised by cuts too large for the UW System to absorb.

We hope you agree that we cannot afford to stall this engine that fuels our state’s economic success. Thank you for your public service and your commitment to growing Wisconsin jobs, businesses and prosperity.



Zach Brandon
President, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce

Tim Sheehy
President, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce

Bob McCoy signature
Bob McCoy
President/CEO, Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce

Shannon Full
President/CEO, Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry

laurie radke
Laurie Radke
President, Greater Green Bay Chamber

Lou Molitor
Executive Director, Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce

Michelle Dingwall
CEO, Greater Menomonie Area Chamber of Commerce

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John Casper
President/CEO, Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce

Keith Pilger
President of Board of Directors, Portage County Business Council

Chris Blasius
CEO, River Falls Area Chamber of Commerce