Skip to main content

Re-Shaping our region for the 21st Century

By Matt Cordio and Kathleen Gallagher

We’ve got a lot going for us here in the middle.

We are one of the world’s agricultural powerhouses. We’ve got the country’s highest concentration of manufacturing activity. We have a heavy concentration of internationally-recognized health IT and health science companies. We have robust food and beverage, and transportation and logistics industries.

We also have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape our region and re-build our economy using artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics and other technical tools.

Key to leveraging this opportunity will be the creation of a more cohesive ecosystem of technologists, investors and startups. We got some insight into what it will take to build that ecosystem during the inaugural 5 LAKES Forum, a one-day technology and entrepreneurship conference that happened in Milwaukee on Tuesday, May 14.

To give you a feel for it, here’s a sampling of the social media discussion generated by the 5 LAKES Forum:

"At the time, people thought we were stupid but building this company close to @UWMadison has been a huge advantage."@maxlynch @Ionicframework @5LakesForum #5LAKESforward

— Steve Catlin (@steven_catlin) May 14, 2019

Phenomenal insights from @kylenakatsuji and @AmFamVentures on the @clearcover story and investing in great companies @5LakesForum #5LAKESforward

— Lightbank (@lightbank) May 14, 2019

“Good people. Good talent pool.” – @mgorniak such true words about the #midwest #5LAKESforward

— Lacey Van Syckle (@LaceyVann) May 14, 2019

Founders in all the places, like here @5LakesForum… thank you for welcoming a coastal VC to run his mouth…

— Roy Bahat (@roybahat) May 14, 2019

"Without innovation a company can't expect to last much more than 10-15 yrs."

For long-term survival, continuous innovation must become the norm & permeate the whole org.@souheilbadran Chief Innovation Officer at @NM_MKE @5LakesForum #5LAKESforward

— Steve Catlin (@steven_catlin) May 14, 2019

We have a bigger geographic footprint than many of our country’s other innovation centers, so it’s more challenging to connect us all. But that bigger footprint contains endless potential.

Our machinery and equipment vendors must “tech-up” their products with lighter, stronger materials, longer-lasting, faster-charging batteries and remote vehicle systems, to name a few things. Companies in our auto industry supply chain must come up with solutions as the world moves to electromotive power and most heavy metal processing and radiators, alternators, pistons, transmission gears and a host of other parts change dramatically or go away completely. Drones, satellite data, and a host of precision tools and services are re-shaping agriculture.

If we want to own our transformation and control the direction our region will take as new technologies dramatically change existing industries, we need focus, determination and many more conversations and connections.


Can you feel the momentum in the Great Lakes ecosystem this week?

✅ 300 @ComebackCapital in Youngstown
✅ 475 @5LakesForum in Milwaukee
✅ Great turnouts at @EntreFEST in Iowa & #MidwestGCS in Michigan.