In 1919, autoworkers began flooding into the city of Flint, Michigan, seeking jobs at the rapidly expanding General Motors plant. 
The problem was, Flint didn’t have enough housing for so many new residents. 
General Motors could have looked to the city to solve that problem alone. Instead, it formed a subsidiary called Modern Housing Corporation. Using land that Flint had set aside for new housing — a project delayed by World War I supply shortages — GM built a neighborhood of hundreds of tidy bungalows to sell to workers. Called Civic Park, the neighborhood is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  
Exact Sciences’ Chairman and CEO Kevin Conroy grew up in Civic Park. Living in a vibrant, affordable neighborhood close to jobs, Conroy saw firsthand the power of public-private partnership in addressing workforce housing issues. 
Today, the home of Exact Sciences’ headquarters, Dane County, Wisconsin, faces a similar challenge. According to the recent Dane County Housing Needs Assessment, the county is running short on housing overall — it’s adding jobs faster than it’s adding population, and it’s adding population faster than housing.  
That drives up demand and prices alike. As a result, Dane County also lacks adequate workforce housing, meaning housing that a family earning Dane County’s average median income can afford. 
Housing is a complicated issue for a single entity to address on its own. It involves zoning and land use, financing, infrastructure, supply chain, transportation, and other factors. At the 2019 Cap Times Idea Fest in Madison, Conroy said in a panel discussion that progress in local housing would require creative solutions, like GM’s early partnership with Flint. 
“All this development is not going to come out of the mayor’s office,” Conroy told the panel. “It is going to come out of partnerships and collaborations.” 

The Dane Workforce Housing Fund

Conroy’s remarks foreshadowed Exact Sciences’ investment in a local initiative to build affordable workforce housing around Dane County. 
Launched in 2020 by Madison Development Corporation, the Dane Workforce Housing Fund, LLC, aims to create 500 new affordable workforce housing units in Dane County by the end of 2023 and keep them affordable for 15 years. The fund has raised nearly $12 million from 14 corporate investors, including Exact Sciences. 
Lack of affordable housing poses problems for employers and employees alike. If employees can’t afford to live near their jobs, they may look for work elsewhere. If employers can’t find people to fill their jobs, they may look to move their companies elsewhere.  
Exact Sciences’ growing workforce includes a broad variety of employment roles at campuses around Madison. Those jobs pay a wide range of wages, at both the lower and higher end of the local income spectrum. 
It means that Exact Sciences, in some ways, feeds the Dane County housing crunch. As a responsible corporate citizen, the company is committed to being part of solutions—especially when it’s contributing to a community problem. Investing in the housing initiative proved a fitting response.   
The initiative reached its goal early: To date, eight construction projects have produced 502 affordable workforce housing units around Dane County, with several developments sitting only a few miles from Exact Sciences locations.  
In addition to delivering affordable housing, the fund has begun issuing modest returns to investors. Additional projects fill the pipeline, and the fund expects to raise its next round of investment sometime this summer to continue its work.  
When local companies collaborate on projects like this, Conroy said, everyone will benefit, much as Flint did a century ago.  
“We’ll all be better off for it,” he said. “We’ll be stronger companies. If we have stronger companies, we’ll have a stronger Madison.”

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