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Industry leaders, luminaries highlight economic impact of hospitality sector, technical college effect in Wisconsin

Sept. 26, 2014 

Students showcase delectable desserts at the Technical College Effect hospitality event at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

MADISON – Business, civic and education leaders gathered this week to highlight the economic impact of Wisconsin’s $17.5 billion hospitality and tourism sector, and the role of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) in delivering the talent that supports it.

The events – in Madison on Tuesday evening, Sheboygan on Wednesday, and Milwaukee on Thursday – featured special guests while focusing on students and graduates from hospitality-related technical college programs such as culinary arts, meeting and event management, special event management, baking production and golf course management. Cross-college teams of culinary students, with an assist from industry-experienced college faculty, prepared a wide range of hors d’oeuvres and confections for each event.

Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch also addressed the crowd, recognizing the colleges’ role in supporting Wisconsin’s vibrant hospitality sector. She first visited with industry leaders and students and staff from the three technical colleges that teamed up for the event – Madison, Nicolet (serving the Rhinelander region) and Blackhawk (Janesville).

A featured speaker at the Lakeshore Culinary Institute on Wednesday, PGA Championship tournament director Jason Mengel, marveled at the ability of a community the size of Sheboygan to stage an event of such magnitude. Whistling Straits, Kohler’s award-winning golf course, will host the 2015 PGA Championship following successful efforts hosting two previous championships there. Kohler is also slated to host the 2020 international Ryder Cup competition between teams from the U.S. and Europe.

“Rochester, New York – a community only slightly larger than Sheboygan – hosted the PGA Championship in 2013 and estimated the economic impact at about $100 million,” Mengel said. He noted how the right skills set the stage for successful events, and lauded Sheboygan County for its visitor focus and the customer‑friendly mindset of local communities and establishments.

“The economic impact of that venue and this sector goes well beyond a single tournament, no matter how significant,” said Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. “All of our colleges take pride in delivering graduates with the skills and knowledge that consistently support this type of economic impact throughout Wisconsin.”

Those gathered at Lakeshore, including teams of participating culinary students from neighboring Fox Valley and Moraine Park technical colleges, also heard from award-winning local chef and restaurateur Stefano Viglietti, who praised the technical colleges for delivering the talent needed to succeed in a highly entrepreneurial and rapidly-changing restaurant business.

Thursday’s event in Milwaukee focused on the importance of providing skilled hospitality workers from an industry perspective. Those gathered heard from industry association leaders, including Wisconsin Restaurant Association CEO Ed Lump; Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association CEO Trisha Pugal; Bryan Schmidt, CEO of the Wisconsin Bakers Association; and Carmen Smalley, President of the Wisconsin Chapter of Meeting Professionals International.

Technical college graduates in each field discussed how acquiring valuable skills can transform a career and a life. Teams of faculty and students from Waukesha County and Gateway technical colleges joined their peers in Milwaukee.

Many of the hors d’oeuvres, bakery items and confections featured at the events were prepared at “demonstration stations” that allowed guests to see the students in action.