Is the Greater Madison Region’s Population Poised to Take Off?

A Greater Madison Vision projects that Dane County’s population will increase by about 157,000 people between 2015 and 2050. If that were to happen, about 670,000 people would live in Dane County by 2050.

But could growth happen faster than official predictions anticipate? Some signs certainly point that direction.

157,000 additional people would be approximately two full Camp Randall stadiums’ worth of new residents.

First, the Madison region stacks up well against top tech industry regions like San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston. In fact, just this week, an economic study reported that the Madison region’s economy is the 13th strongest in the nation. Various firms, investors, analysts, and tech workers are taking notice.

Ranking 6th among the top metros in advanced industry output and 11th for job growth, the Greater Madison Region’s tech industry experienced a 30 percent growth rate, leading the country within that industry.

Second, the recent addition of direct flights between Madison and San Francisco strengthens the connections between Madison and the Bay Area’s tech sector.

If these signs do indeed point to a high-tech economy that’s about to take off, how much additional population growth might we see? Two “what ifs” shed light on that question.

1) What if growth in the region continues its recent, faster pace?
Since 2010, Dane County grew faster than the State of Wisconsin’s official demographic projections. If growth continues at that pace, the county would add about 253,600 people by 2050, an additional 96,000 residents compared to the standard projection.

2) What if the region is at a “tipping point” similar to what other regions have experienced, and population growth accelerates?
The City of Austin, TX has experienced extremely rapid growth in the past generation or two. Austin’s population in 1970 was about 250,000, or about where Madison’s is now. Today, Austin is home to 950,000 people, with over 2 million people in its metro area. Needless to say, Austin’s growth vastly exceeded what the official State of Texas numbers predicted. Austin revised its own growth projections upward based on recent in-migration and thinks that its population by 2040 could be 38 percent higher than the state projections. Austin, like other cities, experienced a huge population and economic boom associated with a rapidly expanding tech and services economy. If we applied that same logic to projections for the Madison region, we could add 350,000 people by 2050.

Current signs point to faster growth than projected. This has implications for how we invest in transportation, what kinds of housing and neighborhoods we build, how we protect the health of our lakes, rivers, and soil, and many other issues. How much will Madison grow? Only time will tell, but it is smart to consider the possibilities.

We Heard from You in 2017!

2017 was a big year for A Greater Madison Vision! With an engaged steering committee, a solid understanding of the region’s big trends and issues, and a diverse set of strategies, we set out to learn what you thought the future could and should be like in the Greater Madison Region.

We engaged directly with 916 people in workshops and at tabling events. Online, people interacted with our website, social media posts, and survey questions a combined 6,302 times. Staff and Steering Committee members presented to 37 different stakeholder groups, reaching a total audience of 626 local leaders. All told, we had more than 7,000 different points of engagement in 2017!

We learned a lot from all this valuable engagement across a wide variety of groups, events, and platforms. Keep reading to get summaries of what you told us in 2017!


Driving Forces

Photo courtesy of United Way of Dane County

In our Driving Forces workshops and surveys, we talked to 272 people over the course of the spring and summer of 2017. We were able to whittle down a long list of trends, innovations, and ideas that could influence our lives in the future! Check out our Driving Forces page to see the list.

We were able to gather several common themes and issues from across these discussions:

  • Education as a vehicle for modeling inclusivity, equity, and critical thinking skills
  • Enhance collaboration among business, education, and social service organizations to address impacts
  • Getting people to services, or getting services to people?
  • Need for a more comprehensive regional transit system that extends beyond the central Madison area
  • Emphasis on services rather than infrastructure (specifically regarding health care, but applies over multiple categories)
iPlan Greater Madison

Screenshot from iPlan workshop

In our ten iPlan workshops, we asked a total of 124 participants to make development maps of the region that make room for at least as much population and job growth as we’re expecting over the next 30 years. The game provides a wide range of ways to accomplish that goal, but the catch is that various interest groups will oppose your map if it negatively affects the issue they are most concerned about. We saw participants use various approaches to making their maps, and the workshops prompted rich and lively conversations that reflect an increased understanding of the tradeoffs involved in regional planning for growth and development.

Imagine Madison

Courtesy of City of Madison Planning Division

The City of Madison is currently undertaking a major update of its comprehensive plan, an initiative called Imagine Madison. AGMV staffers collaborated with city planning staff by sharing resources, working together on survey questions, and contributing data and displays to events and workshops. Imagine Madison gave grants and resources to community groups to hold “Resident Panel” conversations about the future of the city. The city reached out to groups and organizations from communities typically underrepresented in planning efforts. As a result, their discussions and feedback were a great opportunity for both the City of Madison and A Greater Madison Vision to learn about how people from diverse communities and backgrounds view the future. Many thanks to Imagine Madison and the Resident Panel participants!

Hip Hop Architecture

Photo Credit: Madison365

We also used our neighborhood model blocks at the Hip Hop Architecture Camp sessions at the Madison Public Library in February 2017. This innovative and award-winning program to introduce youth to the built environment and how it impacts their lives through hip hop music, run by Madison-based architect Michael Ford, provided a rich environment in which to introduce neighborhood and community design concepts. AGMV and Imagine Madison staff joined Mr. Ford and around 40 young participants on four Saturdays in February.

Camp participants showed us how they would go about creating the neighborhoods of the future. One of the biggest takeaways from the sessions was how many participants placed essential community services and gathering spaces, like community centers and grocery stores, at the figurative and literal center of their model neighborhoods.


Photo by CARPC staff

AGMV staff, interns, and volunteers set up informational tables at the Dane County Fair, several different outdoor markets, the Hmong New Year celebration, and many other events. We also provided information at public meetings for Imagine Madison, the City of Madison’s comprehensive plan update process. We interacted with over 520 people at tabling events this summer, including nearly 400 at the five-day Dane County Fair. Attendees of all the events at which AGMV was present were able to interact with our model block neighborhoods, tell us about their most important driving forces of future change, and help us understand how they envision their future in the Greater Madison Region.

One of the most important lessons we learned from tabling was how much where we live now influences where we see ourselves in the future. At the Dane County Fair, many of the visitors to our table live in more rural areas. When asked to show in a set of model neighborhoods where they see themselves living in the future, the majority of them picked places that were as rural or even more rural than where they live now. A significant number of kids under 18 picked low-density suburban places, while many of their parents (and other younger adults) valued the privacy and closeness to nature in rural living. Older adults tended to be split between rural areas and urban neighborhoods. People’s choices of future neighborhoods at the Dane County Fair stood in contrast with table visitors at more urban events, who tended to pick denser, more urban places. These valuable outreach opportunities got people thinking about the future of their communities and helped remind us of the broad range of perspectives about neighborhoods, community, amenities, and access to nature across the Greater Madison Region.


On top of reaching out to the broader community, we engaged with groups, communities, and organizations with a particular interest in one or more elements of regional planning. This includes municipalities, social service providers, business and development groups, economic development professionals, agricultural groups, environmental organizations, and more. In 2017, we gave presentations to and took questions from 37 different groups, reaching a total of 626 stakeholders. Many of these outreach efforts led to more sustained relationships. For example, a presentation to one civic group on Madison’s west side got members engaged enough that they invited staff back for an iPlan exercise, and staff engagement with a social issues class at Madison’s LaFollette High School prompted the teacher to start developing a curriculum for teaching about local government and decision making that could be shared with other schools.

Special Events

Photo by CARPC staff

In May, A Greater Madison Vision partnered with the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) to host a discussion with Dr. Chris Benner, a leading scholar of regional economic development, at University Research Park. Around 40 people attended in person, and over 100 people tuned in via a live Facebook video! We also polled over a hundred attendees of MadREP’s Economic Development and Diversity Summit about regional issues.

In August, AGMV hosted an event at the American Family Dream Bank as part of Forward Fest, the annual gathering of the technology and startup communities in Madison. Our event, called “Technology and Regional Planning,” combined an iPlan workshop with our neighborhood-building model blocks and 3D visualization tools.

These events and others helped introduce regional planning issues to audiences in new ways. Working with MadREP to unite the worlds of economic development and regional planning underscores the economic benefits of regional collaboration. Introducing planning concepts at a Forward Fest event reaches the technology and startup communities on their own turf. Our thanks to MadREP, Dr. Benner, the Forward Fest organizers, and the Dream Bank!

Social Media

A Greater Madison Vision has a very active Facebook page! In 2017, our 145 posts made 24,575 impressions, including likes, views, comments, and shares. We also cross-post on Twitter, at @AGM_Vision.

Some of our most popular social media posts have been focused on driving forces of future change, especially related to technology and transportation. Other popular posts include photos and video from our events and outreach activities.

More and more people are signing up for our monthly AGMV newsletter! More than 150 people have signed up so far. It’s one of the best ways to get a regular summary of what we’ve been up to. Click here to get signed up, or use the sidebar on this post!

Welcome new Steering Committee members!

The Steering Committee of A Greater Madison Vision is pleased to welcome several new members!

What started as a 35-member body in 2016 has grown to 43, with a number of great new additions.

In July, we welcomed three new members: Chris Ehlers, Keith Reopelle, and David Stark. Now, the Steering Committee is pleased to announce five more members: Nhi Le, Phil Yang, Justice Castañeda, Godwin Amegashie, and Sabrina Madison!

Four of the new Greater Madison Vision Steering Committee members, from left to right: Sabrina Madison, Justice Castañeda, Nhi Le, Godwin Amegashie. (Not pictured: Phillip Yang, Chris Ehlers, Keith Reopelle, and David Stark.)

Meet the new Steering Committee members

Godwin Amegashie, Consultant

Godwin Amegashie holds a Master’s of Science in Business from the University Of Wisconsin School Of Business with majors in finance, investment and banking, and international business. He is also a Fellow of the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank.

Mr. Amegashie is a founding member of the African Association of Madison and has served as president and chairman of the board. He is a Melvin Jones Fellow in Lions International and has served as president of Madison West Lions Club on two occasions. He is a member and former treasurer of the 100 Black Men of Madison.  Currently, he serves on the Dane County Community Development Block Grant Commission.

He has held appointments from the mayor of the City of Madison on the Economic Development Commission, Administrative Review Board and the Community Development Authority. He also served for more than 10 years as a member of the board of the Madison Development Corporation. He is a former board member and current advisory board member of the Wisconsin Women Business Initiative Corporation. Former Governor Thompson was pleased to name him to the State of Wisconsin Minority Development Loan Fund.

Professionally, Mr. Amegashie has had two careers paths- the private and public sectors. He is a graduate of Citibank’s Executive Training Center in Beirut, Lebanon where he started his banking career. He has attended several professional development training by Citibank in Glen Cove, New York and, Nairobi Kenya. He was trained in economic development by the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Following his graduate studies from the University of Wisconsin in 1980, he joined the Affiliated Banks, forerunners to the M&I Banks in Madison. Among several duties, he served as planning officer, international banking officer, loan officer and head of the Small Business Banking Center in the Commercial Banking Group at M&I Bank (now known as BMO Harris Bank.).

He joined state service as Director of the State of Wisconsin Minority Business Program in 1999. In 2006, he became Policy Advisor for the Division of State Facilities. He created the Wisconsin Supplier Diversity Program in 2012 and retired from state service in 2017.

He works as a consultant in the areas of supplier diversity, small business development, international trade and public policy.

Justice Castañeda, MA, MCP, Common Wealth Development

Justice Castañeda currently serves as the Executive Director of Common Wealth Development, Inc. Justice is an educator and community development specialist by trade, whose praxis negotiates the intersections of housing policy, economic development and community violence, looking at the role these intersections play in educational & life outcomes for youth and communities of color. A Madison, WI native, Justice’s professional career began in the Marine Corps, where he spent 8 years before being honorably discharged. His academic career began at Red Caboose Day Care on Williamson St., and he advanced from Kindergarten and earned his 5th grade graduation at Mendota Elementary School on Madison’s North Side, earned his 8th grade graduation as part of the inaugural class at O’Keefe Middle School on Madison’s East Side, and is a proud graduate of Madison East High School.

Chris Ehlers, Ehlers Development Co.

Chris Ehlers is a developer of residential, multi-family, commercial and worship sites in Dane County. He holds a BA in Real Estate from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. During his 12 years at a large national developer in Phoenix, AZ, Chris gained valuable experience on the development of several master plan communities, including Del Webb’s award-winning Sun City Anthem communities. In 2010, Chris accepted an offer to become president of a national homebuilder’s Wisconsin division and returned home to Dane County. Over the next five years, he turned the once-struggling division into one of the company’s most profitable divisions in the country.

Upon realizing his passion for land development, Chris set out on his own in 2016 to start Ehlers Development Company. Today he not only develops land but also lends support to local farmers and land-owners by providing advice on how their property should be developed to achieve highest and best use. Chris’s commitment to the community has resulted in excellent relationships among alders and commission members of Dane County’s municipalities, and has even inspired him to consider running for office. Chris is currently the 2018 president-elect for the Madison Area Builders Association.

Nhi Le, Gener8tor

Nhi is the Director of gBETA Madison and is completing her PhD in Materials Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology (BS in Materials Science and Engineering and BS in Biomedical Engineering), she moved to Madison to for her PhD. Over the past 10 years, Nhi has also worked extensively with underserved communities through nonprofit involvement with the Graduate Engineering Research Scholars, Gates Millennium Scholars Program, and AmeriCorps Jumpstart.

Sabrina Madison, Heymiss Progress

Award winning entrepreneur Sabrina Madison is affectionately known as “Heymiss Progress”. Under the Heymiss Progress brand, she’s created the Black Women’s Leadership Conference, the Conversation Mixtape, the Black Business Expo, and the Black Excellence Youth Conference. In 2016 she was recognized by In Business Magazine as one of the most influential people in the Greater Madison area and named one of the most influential African Americans in the state of WI by Madison365. She’s a BRAVA Woman to Watch and was named to Madison Magazine’s M List for 2016 on behalf of her work in creating the Black Women’s Leadership Conference.

A Grand Poetry Slam Champion, Sabrina thrives as a motivational speaker and social entrepreneur.  She has motivated students nationally including the National Conference on Student Leadership and local groups including AVID TOPS and the DELTA GEMS to live their dreams despite tough circumstances.  As a quarterly speaker for the American Family Insurance DreamBank, she’s helped countless community members leverage their strengths to live their dreams! From inspiring keynote addresses to leading workshops on personal branding success, she’s a woman who leads with purpose and does the work from a love ethic. From inspiring keynote addresses to leading workshops on personal branding success, she’s a woman who leads with purpose and does the work from a love ethic.

Sabrina will soft launch the Sabrina V. Madison Center for African-American Leadership, Entrepreneurship + Media this fall with a full launch in spring 2018.

She’s the mother to a brilliant young man, a community organizer, poet, connector and master collaborator!

She also finds you to be beautiful.

Keith Reopelle, Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change

Keith is the Director of Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change. Prior to coming to Dane County, Keith was the Senior Policy Director at Clean Wisconsin where he worked for 32 years leading clean energy campaigns at the state and regional levels. He has served on numerous energy and climate -related task forces and advisory committees. He was a member of Governor Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming where he served on the full Task Force and co-chaired the cap and trade working group. Keith also was a member of the Midwestern Governor’s Association Greenhouse Gas Accord advisory committee and served on the group’s modeling working group for two years where he helped advise on IPM and macro-economic modeling. Keith has a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife ecology and a Masters of Science degree in environmental communications from the University of Wisconsin -Madison.

David Stark, Stark Company Realtors

David Stark is the president of Stark Company Realtors, for whom he has worked since 1978. He has held several offices in national, statewide, and local real estate organizations and associations, including the Wisconsin Realtors Association, the Greater Madison Board of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors. David was elected to In Business Magazine’s Executive Hall of Fame in 2008. Alongside his years of work in the real estate industry, David has been very involved with the United Way of Dane County, serving on many committees and campaigns and as chairman of the board from 2001 to 2003, and with the Madison Community Foundation, where he currently serves on the board of directors. A graduate of Memorial High School and the UW-Madison, David lives in Middleton with his wife, Marcie, and has three children.

Dr. Phillip Yang, Wisconsin Hmong Association

Dr. Yang is the Executive Director for the Wisconsin Hmong Association, Inc. Dr. Yang has over 23 years of professional experiences in non-profit organizations, state agencies, K-12 and higher education settings. He has a strong background in philanthropic work, civic engagement, and community advocacy. He has been serving as Vice-president for Southern Wisconsin Hmong Association, serving as Executive Committee Member for the President at Madison College, facilitating the Hmong Parent Empowerment Group (PEG) for Madison School District, Co-Chair of the Madison Community of Color with Madison College, and initiated the Hmong Education Council and Hmong Health Council for Hmong and non-professionals who are interested in advancing the Hmong community.

See the entire Steering Committee roster here, and read about what the Steering Committee is discussing on our resource page!

Regional Scenario Design Workshop – Saturday, September 30

Who: Everyone who wants to be part of the Greater Madison Vision initiative!

Where: South Madison Library, 2222 S. Park St, Madison, WI

When: Saturday, September 30th, 9am – 4:45pm

Join us on September 30th at the South Madison Library for a full-day scenario design workshop! Help us finish off a great summer of public engagement and move forward with the next exciting phase of A Greater Madison Vision.

Please register at our EventBrite page to help us provide the correct amount of refreshments. Invite your friends and spread the word on social media.

Visit our dedicated event page frequently for more information as it becomes available. We hope you can join us!


Join us Monday, August 21st for Technology and Regional Planning

What: Forward Fest Technology and Regional Planning session

Where: AmFam Dream Bank, 1 N. Pinckney St, Madison, WI

When: Monday, August 21st, 2pm – 5pm

Register through Eventbrite or our Facebook page

A Greater Madison Vision is happy to be part of this year’s Forward Fest, Wisconsin’s largest technology and entrepreneurship festival. Held throughout an 8-day period at venues across Madison, Forward Fest features workshops, panels, behind-the-scenes tours, and more.

We are hosting an event on Monday, August 21st from 2 to 5pm at the American Family DreamBank called “Technology and Regional Planning.” This event features a number of hands-on planning activities, including our “iPlan Greater Madison” computer game, turning model block neighborhoods into beautiful 3D models and renderings, and a peek into the virtual reality future of planning!

Register for our “Technology and Regional Planning” event on Eventbrite, or our Facebook page.