State Representative Jason Fields has been named CEO of Madison Regional Econoic Partnership (MadREP), the economic development entity representing the eight counties of South Central Wisconsin.
“I’m looking forward to working hard with a great team,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
Fields currently represents portions of Milwaukee’s north side and the suburb of Glendale in the State Assembly, where he served from 2005 until 2013, and again from 2017 until now. He announced earlier this year that he would not seek another term.
At MadREP, Fields replaces the retiring Paul Jadin.
Fields, 46, spent many years in the financial industry in Milwaukee, but is excited to relocate to the Madison area.
“I worked there as a State Rep for 12 years. At no point in time do I feel like I’m an outsider,” he said. “I’ve been there so much that I get excited still just walking down State Street. It’s great.”
He noted that the area is often touted as one of the best places in the country to live, work and raise a family, but also acknowledged that isn’t always true for people of color.
“When you’re talking about living environment, quality of life issues, the region is ranking in the top 10 in the nation. I think anybody in their right mind who felt like they had some things to offer wouldn’t pass that up,” he said. “Let’s be candid and honest, I’ve been in these situations before. I’ve gone to predominantly white schools. This is not a new environment or new terrain. I think where a person like me becomes effective is that there is a message to focus on: when we all do well it’s good for everybody. And that’s how we really have to continue to preach this thing to make sure that people understand this isn’t just about a group of people or a person. This is about a region that has the potential to go even further and the only way we do that, is if we come together rural, urban, people of color, non people of color and that’s the way you do this thing. I think that’s the mission.”
Fields said his priority will be to focus on developing home-grown businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Number one, the first priority is to sort of get us on a trajectory of coming out stronger as we come out of COVID-19. And I think the way we do that is several things. Number one, we protect and help grow and strengthen our business players in the region in all eight counties. And then two, we’ve got to focus on lifting up and raising our human capital through innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said. “As a Black man, we have to uplift the innovation and entrepreneurship in a community that has it. It’s there. But we have to give them access and a seat at the table in order to do that.”
“I look forward to working with Jason and want to thank Paul Jadin for his work building an accomplished team and shepherding the Madison Region through the first Advance Now strategy,” said Dan Brown, MadREP board chair and executive director of Ho Chunk Gaming Madison. “Paul joined the fledgling MadREP organization in 2012 and brought the expertise to ignite asset-based economic development in this growing region. He cultivated regional, national and international partners while fostering entrepreneurship. The Madison Region is now recognized world-wide as a hub for skilled talent. Additionally, during Paul’s tenure, Inspire Madison Region has become the leader in the state in driving young students to careers throughout our Region and beyond.”
MadREP began as Thrive, a regional economic development entity within the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and became its own independent entity in 2012. It works to support economic growth in Dane and the seven contiguous counties — Sauk, Columbia, Dodge, Green, Jefferson, Iowa and Rock. Fields will lead a staff of five.
“People should be optimistic,” Fields said. “I think the one thing that they’ll find about me is that I’m a firm believer in optimism and that God put us here to be successful. And I think when we tap into that, the humility and the love for the community is what will make our success. For me, that’s the key. Be humble, be thankful and we’ll get it done.”