State policymakers might easily believe so-called “advanced industry” jobs are purely a Madison or Milwaukee phenomenon and not really all that relevant to the rest of Wisconsin.

A recently released report from the Brookings Institution, a respected national think tank, dispels that myth by highlighting the importance of such jobs to cities outside Wisconsin’s “Big Two” metros.

Wisconsin is the nation’s 20th largest state by population and 18th on the Brookings’ list of states with the highest share of “advanced industry” jobs. Advanced industries were defined by Brookings as the top 50 industries in terms of spending on research and development and with the largest share of employees in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The top 50 includes 35 manufacturing, three energy and 12 service industries.

On size alone, it’s no surprise Milwaukee (9.9 percent of all jobs) ranked in the top 100, although the study noted some choppy waters ahead for Wisconsin’s largest city. Likewise, the tech-based foundation and light manufacturing expertise in Madison (11 percent) scored high in the Brookings study in terms of intensity and recent progress.

More surprising to many would be the relative standing of Wisconsin’s next tier of metropolitan areas – and how much advanced industries in those cities contribute in terms of jobs and wages.

Advanced industry jobs account for 8.6 percent of direct Wisconsin jobs, or 257,770 overall, based on Brookings’ 2015 data.

They pay nearly $30,000 more per year on average: $74,486 as compared to $45,184 for all industries.

About 130,000 of Wisconsin’s advanced industry jobs are clustered in Milwaukee and Madison, which means a nearly equal number are spread across the state.

Here’s a summary of other Wisconsin metros studied by Brookings for “America’s advanced industries: New trends”:

Appleton: Home to 8,972 full-time, advanced industry jobs, or 7.1 percent of all jobs in the region. Advanced industries in Appleton produce $1.3 billion in annual economic output, which accounts for 11.4 percent of the regional total. Average advanced industry pay is $60,088 versus $45,009 for all industries. Employment share ranking among 250 U.S. small metros: 106th.

Eau Claire: 5,334 advanced industry jobs; 6 percent of all jobs in the region. $800 million in annual economic output; 10 percent of the regional total. Average advanced industry pay is $55,309 versus $40,957 for all industries. Employment share ranking: 145th.

Green Bay: 11,598 advanced industry jobs; 6.5 percent of all jobs in the region. $1.8 billion in annual economic output; 10.8 percent of the regional total. Average advanced industry pay is $66,397 versus $47,090 for all industries. Employment share ranking: 123rd.

Janesville: 4,619 advanced industry jobs; 6.7 percent of all jobs in the region. $800 million in economic output; 13.4 percent of the regional total. Average advanced industry pay is $58,797 versus $42,769 for all industries. Employment share ranking: 116th.

La Crosse: 3,003 advanced industry jobs; 3.8 percent of all jobs in the region. $600 million in economic output; 9 percent of the regional total. Average advanced industry pay is $83,917, more than double the $41,508 average for all industries. Employment share ranking: 233rd.

Oshkosh: 11,309 advanced industry jobs; 11.7 percent of all jobs in the region. $1.6 billion in economic output; 18.5 percent of the regional total. Average advanced industry pay is $80,159 versus $49,293 for all industries. Employment share ranking: 30th.

Racine: 9,736 advanced industry jobs; 12.4 percent of all jobs in the region. $1.4 billion in economic output; 20.8 percent of the regional total. Average advanced industry pay is $82,142 versus $46,737 for all industries. Employment share ranking: 24th.

Sheboygan: 4,521 advanced industry jobs; 7.2 percent of all jobs in the region. $600 million in economic output; 12.4 percent of the regional total. Average advanced industry pay is $62,39 versus $45,666 for all industries. Employment share ranking: 98th.

Wausau: 4,607 advanced industry jobs; 6.1 percent of all jobs in the region. $600 million in economic output; 9.8 percent of the regional total. Average advanced industry pay is $65,444 versus $44,545 for all industries. Employment share ranking: 138th.

Six of the nine Wisconsin small metros ranked in the nation’s top half for employment share in advanced industries. All nine showed economic outputs that exceeded the employment share, usually by wide margins. Likewise, average advanced industry salaries in all nine small metros exceeded overall salaries, often dramatically so.

Wisconsin’s prosperity is tied to creation of more high-value industries and jobs. As the fall election season draws closer, candidates for state office should be asked what policies they believe will best support that vital process.

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Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

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