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Study: Wisconsin's economy lagging in high-tech advances, exports

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - A new study of Wisconsin’s economy shows that it’s not keeping up with today’s high tech advances – most industries ignore a growing export market – and the state’s workforce is not as well-educated as others.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation hired an Ohio firm to examine the Badger State’s economic sectors over the last year.

The review shows that all but one of the state’s 37 largest industrial sectors are in manufacturing – many of which that use processes which date back for 100 years or more.

The data is similar to previous reports. But the numbers have taken on a new urgency, amid reports that Wisconsin’s job growth is the 44th lowest in the nation, and its wages have dropped twice as fast as the national average.

Electrical equipment is the state’s top manufacturing sector, replacing paper mills. Paper conversion is ranked second. It produces things like bags and envelopes.

Lee Swindall of the WEDC says the state cannot do anything about market forces, which Michigan found out when its auto industry got hit hard.

The report said Wisconsin only gets 15 percent of its economic output from innovative high-tech firms – almost 4 percent less than the national average.

Only 41 percent of manufacturers in the survey thought “global engagement” was important, almost 9 percent less than national firms.

Swindell says the export attitude must change, and quickly.

Also, 33 percent of Wisconsin adults have nothing more than a high school diploma – about 5 percent above the national average.

Swindall says the report has a few positives. Electrical equipment manufacturing grew by 31 percent in the state from 2008 through 2011, and cheesemaking has grown 30 percent in that same period.