The South Central region is composed of six counties; Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Jefferson, Marquette, and Sauk.
Marquette County is the farthest north. From east to west, Sauk, Columbia and Dodge Counties form the middle row. Dane and Jefferson Counties sit on the bottom of the region. Together, these six counties cover roughly 4,700 square miles, or about 8.7% of the state’s total land surface. Between the 2000 census and the 2005 population estimate, the region’s population grew from 710,438 to 755,577 or 6.4 percent, reflecting faster growth than the statewide rate of 4.0 percent. In 2005, the region accounted for 13.5 percent of the the state’s population; between 2000 and 2005 the region accounted for roughly 20.8 percent of the state’s population growth. While Dane and Jefferson counties enjoyed relatively strong natural growth (births minus deaths), Columbia, Dodge and Sauk relied more heavily on net migration (people moving in minus people moving out) to fuel their population growth. Because Marquette County experienced more deaths than births, its population growth relied entirely on net migration.
While similarities bind certain to each other, contrasts between certain counties can be striking. Heavy manufacturing and sharper business cycles characterize Dodge and Jefferson counties, while lighter manufacturing, (particularly plastics), and tourism are found in Sauk and Columbia counties. Marquette and Dane Counties sit at opposite ends of the region geographically and on opposite ends of many measures. Dane County boasts high wages, low unemployment, a flagship university and a mild business cycle. Compared to its neighbors, it attracts more students and young workers who rent rather than buying residential real estate.
According to the 2000 Census, less than 6 percent of Dane County’s working residents worked in another county. The other South Central counties tend to send 40 to 50 percent of working residents outside their respective borders for work. Sauk County, sending just 21 percent of its working residents to other counties for work, is the exception. Many workers commute to Dane County’s high-wage jobs and live (or retire) in more mature communities like Marquette or Columbia Counties where their housing dollars go further. Dane County is the regional hub: in 2004 69.8 percent of the region’s jobs and 74.9 percent of the region’s total payroll.
Wisconsin’s Southwest WDA has 4,435 sq. miles in land area and a population density of 68 people per square mile. From 1970 to 2007, WDA 11’s population grew by 15.6%.
The WDA average household size is 2.53 people compared to an average family size of 3.04 people. WDA 11 has a total of 182* K-12 public schools. There are 7 post-secondary schools, including 3 WI Tech College Campuses. The average ACT score is 21.7, which is 3% below the State’s average of 22.3.*
In 2007, trade, transportation & utilities was the largest of the 11 major industrial sectors. within WDA11 with an average annual wage of $28,343.** Per capita income grew by 33.6% between 1995 and 2005 (adjusted for inflation).***
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
* Source: DPI
**Source: DWD, BWT, LMI, QCEW
***Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis