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Largest Employers in Dane County — Job one: Creating jobs

Company Growth
Article Reference - IB Madison | Published September 2018 by Joe Vanden Plas

Long running Fairway

Steven Jacobson knows a thing or two about competitive situations. The Wisconsin native is a former captain of the University of Wisconsin basketball team, where he played for the late Bill Cofield and achieved Academic All-Big Ten honors his final year, but as founder and CEO of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp., Jacobson and his staff have built a formidable contender in mortgage services.

Steven Jacobson and his staff at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. jumped 23 spots on the Largest Employer list with more growth on the way. Through mid July, the mortgage services company had closed on $14 billion in loan volume, up 40% over the same period in 2017.


Fairway is one of the fastest movers in this year’s Largest 100 Employers list, gaining 23 spots after debuting at No. 100 last year. Founded in 1996, the Madison- based mortgage lending company provides loan origination services and actually has two main corporate offices — in Madison and in Carrollton, Texas, near Dallas. In the past year, the Madison workforce has grown by 50 people, and nationwide Fairway has more than 4,400 employees in over 500 branches with $21 billion in annual loan volume — and growing. Through mid-July, Fairway had closed on $14 billion, up 40 percent over the same juncture in 2017.

“The growth in Madison is because the company is growing overall,” Jacobson explains. “It’s growing across the country more so than locally.”

That contributes to local growth, however, because accountants, human resources and legal professionals, branch support personnel, and compliance and regulatory experts staff the Madison office.

Another factor in Fairway’s local workforce growth is a new, 90,000-square-foot facility at 4750 S. Biltmore Lane. “It offers us more opportunity to grow corporately,” Jacobson explains. “We have roughly 400 corporate employees in the Dallas area, and the building has allowed us to add more infrastructure potential in Madison.”

Jacobson, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in management from UW–Madison, has been in the mortgage industry for 35 years, and while the housing market has rarely been this hot, that creates other challenges. “Most places have very low inventory,” he notes. “If you have houses for sale, they go pretty quickly. That’s pretty standard throughout the country, but right now, one of the biggest issues across the board is housing availability.”

Partially funded Journey

Sometimes, organizations pop up on the Largest 100 list due to an oversight, and that’s the case with Journey Mental Health Center, a 70-year-old, not-for-profit mental health/addiction facility in Madison.

For those who are unfamiliar with Journey, President and CEO Lynn Brady believes there is widespread need for a mental health/addiction center in Madison. “You probably can’t find a family, a workplace, or any other community group that hasn’t been touched by a mental illness or substance abuse disorder,” she notes.

Lynn Brady would like to see state government step up its game when it comes to fully funding services for mental health/addiction, which impacted more than 12,000 county residents last year.


By 2017, the population served by Journey had grown to 12,208 people, but they are not broken down by mental health or addiction diagnoses. “You have to understand that many people deal with both situations,” Brady explained. “Oftentimes, people are using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate their mental illness.”

Journey (No. 60) provides emergency, community-based services, and with its new campus, clinic-based services are offered in a stand-alone building. The stand-alone facility is dedicated to increasing the organization’s capacity “to see more people and to provide those services in an atmosphere that feels safe and welcoming,” Brady states. “It allows us to have a clinic area. We’ve got clinicians, doctors, and other prescribers, a pharmacy, and group rooms, and it’s designed specifically for the client population.”

Through Journey, which receives the bulk (68%) of its $27 million in annual funding from the Dane County Department of Human Services, Brady advocates for the patient population in a variety of ways. While the organization remains hopeful that funding challenges at the state and federal level will be resolved through legislation, some additional persuading will be necessary. In particular, she says Medicaid rates in Wisconsin are some of the lowest in the nation and come nowhere near the cost of covering services.

“Medicaid fee-for-service rates cover around 50% to 60% of the cost of providing service,” Brady states. “So you have the most vulnerable population, and the population most in need, without access to services because the very program that is supposed to cover those services doesn’t cover them.”