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A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce


Spotlight: Another Amazing Americas Competitiveness Exchange (ACE) Trip

June 2015 Newsletter

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ACE delegates at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota

What do you get when you take four agencies, 43 high-ranking foreign officials from 26 countries across three states, and to visit more than 40 sites? You get the most successful Americas Competitiveness Exchange to date! On April 19-25, EDA, the International Trade Administration, the Organization of American States, and the U.S. Department of State led an international delegation on a tour of innovative sites in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois for the Third Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The tour kicked off in Minneapolis, where Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development treated participants to a briefing and tour. The next day, the delegation visited the University of Minnesota to hear about how the state is supporting apple breeding and flood mitigation to grow and protect jobs. The delegation then headed to Rochester where they participated in a tour of the Mayo Clinic to learn about the latest medical innovations taking place there.

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Members of the La Crosse, Wisconsin community greet the ACE delegation in traditional German dress

From there, the group crossed the river and headed to La Crosse, Wisconsin and was given a welcome befitting of the region’s strong German heritage. Men and women were dressed in traditional German lederhosen and dirndls as an oopma band played “Ein Brotzein” for the crowd. After the impressive welcome, the ACE delegates received a late-night tour of the Trane manufacturing facility and learned about why the company located in the region. Despite the snowy and chilly weather, the people of La Crosse provided an incredibly warm welcome.

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ACE delegation dons safety gear to tour the Trane manufacturing facility in La Crosse, Wisconsin

After leaving La Crosse, the delegation visited the Westby Creamery in Westby, Wisconsin, the Food Enterprise Center in Viroqua, Wisconsin, and the town of Gays Mills, Wisconsin, which had recently relocated itself several miles upriver to deal with frequent flooding. At each stop, the 43 delegates learned valuable lessons about fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, being flexible in the face of challenges, and finding solutions that increase resiliency.

The next stop on the Tour was Madison, Wisconsin, where the group visited diverse centers of innovation, including Epic, the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, and the University Research Park. They heard from startups working to cure Parkinson’s, find less invasive ways to detect colon cancer, and use virtual reality to create better homecare environments.

In Milwaukee, the group visited equally innovative sites working on completely different areas. After a visit to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Innovation Campus, the group was treated to presentations focused on sustainability. They traveled Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) and the Water Council, which was especially timely as the Water Council recently received an EDA Regional Innovation Strategies i6 award.

Chicago was the final stop on the tour and included visits to Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Illinois Labs and National Digital Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

Over the course of nearly a week, participants saw first-hand that community size is irrelevant when it comes to fostering innovation, supporting world-class manufacturing, or nurturing entrepreneurs. In towns as tiny as Gays Mills to cities as large as Chicago, innovation is driving all sectors of the economy. At the end of the week, participants had made important connections and learned valuable lessons that they will carry home with them as they seek to build more innovative regions and economies in their home countries.