The region of southwestern Wisconsin is made up of Grant, Green, Iowa, Lafayette, and Richland counties. Most of the region is part of the Driftless Area, which is distinguishable by its deeply carved river valleys and scenic vistas. With a population of 146,594 and at a density of 39 persons per square mile, this part of the state is considered relatively rural. However, over half of our residents live in one of 52 incorporated cities and villages.
One distinguishing feature of our residents is age: 15 percent are 65 and older, compared to 14 and 13 percent in Wisconsin and the U.S., respectively. The racial composition of our residents is primarily White (97 percent). Hispanics comprise two percent of all races (race and Hispanic origin are separately defined). Between 1990 and 2010, however, the region experienced growth in its small minority populations—all non-White races increased 431 percent, while Hispanics increased by 586 percent. Additionally, a large Amish population is present. Amish are set apart from the general population by their basic way of living that does not include the use of many modern technologies.
The vast majority of land is used for agricultural purposes (80 percent), followed by forests and other undeveloped uses (totaling 16 percent). The remaining four percent is developed land and is mainly comprised of residential (2.4 percent) and public uses (1.1 percent). Commercial and manufacturing uses, combined, total only one half percent.
Retail, manufacturing, government, and agriculture-related businesses are the top employers and make up over half of the region’s roughly $3.9 billion economy. The corporate headquarters of Lands’ End and Colony Brands are among the major regional businesses. There are also four postsecondary institutions operating in the region: University of Wisconsin-Platteville (the fastest growing in the UW system), UW-Richland, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, and part of Blackhawk Technical College. These institutions work closely with regional businesses and economic development agencies to train the regional workforce.