Wisconsin lags Michigan and Minnesota in latest Milken Institute technology and science rankings.3 min read
Wisconsin was ranked in the middle of the pack, and behind Minnesota, in the latest edition of a biennial report comparing states in categories such as the technology workforce and high-tech investments.
Massachusetts, Colorado and California were the top states in the 2022 State Technology and Science Index from the Milken Institute, a Santa Monica, California-based think tank that’s done the report for 20 years.
Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi ranked the lowest.
At 24th place, Wisconsin was below Minnesota, 13th, Michigan, 17th, and Illinois, 21st.
The report, drawn from data sources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, used more than a hundred metrics in five indexes to evaluate a state’s technological capabilities.
Wisconsin scored in the bottom half of states in the percentage of businesses in high-tech industries and the percentage of payroll in high-tech. Minnesota scored in the top 20 for those indicators.
“Both states scored poorly in terms of net formation of high-tech businesses, with a raw score in the negative – possibly indicating high-tech businesses failing or moving out of state,” said Charlotte Kesteven, a senior policy analyst at the Milken Institute.
Wisconsin ranked 27th in the report’s Human Capital Index, while Minnesota took 7th place. Among recent PhDs awarded in science, health and engineering per capita, Wisconsin ranked 20th and Minnesota was 4th. Massachusetts took first place.
“States like Massachusetts have hundreds of high-tech companies and a network of really high-quality educational institutions,” Kesteven said.
Broadband access was another metric used to evaluate technology capabilities.
Wisconsin ranked 26th in access while Minnesota was 13th.
“It doesn’t matter how great young people are, if they can’t connect to education they’re really going to struggle,” Kesteven said about broadband access.
A slight improvement from previous ranking
Wisconsin’s overall score in the report improved to 24th place from 25th two years ago.
While states on the East and West coasts scored high, they showed weaknesses in companies and workers leaving for states such as Colorado and Utah.
“Companies moving to inland states are doing a much better job of getting new talent, keeping people, and not having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep someone happy,” Kesteven said.
While states previously focused on luring companies to help build a tech hub, they now recognize it’s a multi-pronged strategy that includes attracting human capital, according to the Milken report.
This year’s rankings were done in five tiers determined by the difference in scores between the top and bottom-performing states. Wisconsin placed in the third tier along with Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Idaho, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Minnesota, North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, New Hampshire, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were in the second tier.
In the next report, in 2024, Wisconsin could aim for breaking into that group, said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.
“Maybe I’d call it a stretch goal, but it’s a goal,” he said.
With a few exceptions, the Milken rankings generally don’t change much every two years.
“Minnesota has historically been a little higher than us because they got off to such a fast start in the 1980s and ‘90s with medical devices. They’ve maintained that general spot,” Still said.
Wisconsin has improved in areas such as the percentage of the population with at least a bachelor’s degree.
More than $800 million was raised by early-stage companies in Wisconsin last year, setting a new record for the state, although much of the money came from only a handful of deals.
Wisconsin remained well behind the nation’s top 10 states in angel and venture capital, a fact only partly attributed to population size.