MADISON (WKOW)--Madison has earned a reputation for being at or near the top of national rankings on everything from the economy to quality of life.
But there was still some surprise in January, when the capital city metropolitan area was named the number one place in the U-S to find a job.
Alise Wozniak is Madison manager of worldwide employment company Adecco. She was called by Forbes.com to explain why our area is number one for jobs.
"I was taken off guard a little," she admits. "With the government, university and healthcare, it truly is, some say, recession proof."
"I think it is accurate that the Madison metropolitan area would be one of the top job markets in the country. We have both high paying jobs and growth in employment and that's what they're looking at. The UW, state government and a lot of high tech jobs in bio-technology and healthcare."
But Lewis says the past four months since the January job rankings have been tough on even those solid employers.
In January, only one of the state's metro areas, Janesville, had an unemployment rate above the national average. Today, he says there are only four of those areas -below- the national average.
"One thing that's helped this region is we also don't have a high dependence on manufacturing, which got hit hard in other parts of the state, the paper industry and auto industry," says Lewis.
Lewis also works with Thrive, a cooperative group that is working to develop a more regional economy in an 8 county area in and around Madison. One of their goals is to promote those high paying fields of healthcare, education and bio-technology.
Lewis says the challenge for the Madison area is to also get the businesses that supply healthcare and high-tech. He says they key to convincing employers to business here is to first convince skilled workers to live here.
"Madison, Middleton, Dane County seem to make all the lists in terms of livable places. It's probably one reason we've seen growth in employment; it's a great place to live."
And while bike trails and bio-tech might not seem connected, Lewis says it's exactly that type of quality of life component that will solidify the area's economic future.
"In a few years, we'll be back to attracting a workforce instead of employers. And employers will follow where the workforce exists."
And, despite our winters, Madison continues to show up high in the 'livablility' rankings.
For instance, last month it came in second to Wichita, Kansas on Newsmax magazine's list of the "Most Uniquely American Cities and Towns" and 13th out of nearly 400 metro areas in Forbes magazine's most livable city rankings.