This is how great cities work.
On Monday night, within sight of the Capitol, I gathered with six other Wisconsin business owners for a meeting to... Well, more on that in a minute. We have some work to do before I share that story. So until then, let me just share this:
Business is community.
This is something that Gov. Scott Walker doesn't understand. Walker is gearing to attract business to Wisconsin by using an outdated model straight from 1980. The types of jobs that Walker is intent on creating are just "jobs." They have no connection to the communities that support them, aside from the few dollars that the wage-earner pumps into the economy. In contrast, the jobs we build create community, and we intend to make this story known.
We seven business owners decided on committing to this after we sat down at Natt Spil to share our vision for the future of business in Wisconsin. We are an eclectic bunch who mostly just knew of one another prior to Monday night. While we had all met at one time or another, most of us only really knew one or two others at the table. We were: Darren Bush (Rutabaga), Christopher Berge (Natt Spil, Weary Traveler, The Blue Marlin and many other Madison restaurants), John Besmer (Planet Propaganda), Lea Wolf (Happy Bambino), Erika Brummel Hotchkiss (Tuvalu Coffee House) and Preston Austin, of too many things to list.
I was struck by the overlapping circles of our stories.
- Every year Darren's business Rutabaga holds an event called Canoecopia, which draws over 25,000 people to Madison for the weekend.
- John Besmer publishes a guide online about where to eat in Madison while you're here for Canoecopia.
- Canoecopia (and John Besmer) sends a lot of business to Christopher's restaurants at a time when he needs it most, his slowest season of the year in mid-March.
- Christopher's restaurants are supported by people that everybody at the table employs, and by our customers as well.
- In fact, at least two of us there currently share employees with Christopher.
- Christopher's restaurants, bars and coffee shops -- along with my business, Boulders Climbing Gym -- create bonds in the community that (among other things) tie people to Madison along with their spouses and their children.
- I'm guessing that over 30 babies have been born from relationships that were started at Boulders, and we could not hazard a guess at how many babies have been conceived by people who first met at Christopher's establishments (The man runs the most popular bars in Madison, need I say more?).
- I know for a fact that many of the babies born from parents who met at Boulders (at least) were first suckled and then weaned at Lea's Happy Bambino, including two of my own kids.
- Many of these kids are, in turn, entertained at Boulders and at Rutabaga, in birthday parties, summer camps and year-round classes that cater to kids and bring families together.
- Rutabaga, in turn, supports vendors that employ me at my other business, PEMBAserves, and these same vendors also employ John at Planet Propaganda.
- Over 60 percent of John's workforce was attracted to Madison from other top design firms nationwide, in no small part because of the great community here, which is best demonstrated by the restaurants, the environment, the ability to recreate and the great schools and places for kids (all these things are why Madison ranks as one of the top places to live in the United States in just about any annual magazine review, anywhere...)
- In growing our community in this way we all create customers for Darren, for Lea, for Erika and for Christopher.
This is the circle of business, the circle of life, the circle of community, and it was well respected between the seven of us.
Just seven of us.
This is how great cities work.
Scott Walker's budget and plan for jobs in Wisconsin fractures the very community that we have worked so many years to create. Our community transforms neighborhoods, builds cities, fosters connectivity and impacts not just our city, county, or region. It's much bigger than that.
Our small community of just seven people and the businesses we have created impacts the state and the nation.
We're going to make sure that this is understood, because it's all at risk under Walker's plans.
Spread the word. We're coming. We will be heard.
Join us, won't you?
Brad Werntz is founder of Boulders Climbing Gym in Madison and runs PEMBAserves, a sales agency catering to the outdoor recreation industry. If you are a business owner or manager and want to be involved in what's next, feel free to friend Brad on Facebook (www.facebook.com/bradwerntz), or send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.