When Marc Eisen walked into my office one day last fall, he was working on his 20th year of being editor of Isthmus. He was, he told me, wearying of the ever-mounting management duties of his office. What he wanted now, he expressed then, was to do more writing and to have the freedom to follow not so much his muse, but his curiosity.
Well, we rearranged things so that he could do just that. He now holds the title of executive editor, and, as the astute reader will have noticed over the past few months, his byline has appeared in various places in the paper and on the website, especially on pieces regarding food and the business of producing and distributing it. But always lurking on his agenda was the corporate wonder Epic Systems, a medical software company that had been born in Madison and was growing into a giant on our western border.
Epic, as a phenomenon, has fascinated a number of people in local media, but because of its status as a private company and the reclusive tendencies of its founder and leader, Judy Faulkner, a tough story to tell. Over the months since last fall, as Eisen visited dairy farmers and learned the virtues of winter spinach, he worked to gain access to Epic principals and learn the lore of what has become Dane County's largest private employer.
This week Eisen begins telling the Epic story as he has discovered it. He has been thorough, so much so that we are publishing his report in two parts, with the remainder of it running in next week's issue.
In this first part, titled "Epic: Software Innovator Stakes Out Dane County's Claim on Global IT Map," Eisen gives us an overview of what the company has achieved, both in the commercial sense and in the physical world that it is constructing according to its own vision. He tells the history of the still-growing employer of 3,000 that began as a strip mall start-up, Human Services Computing, in 1979. He describes the idiosyncratic corporate philosophy that has assembled a legion of bright and motivated workers and has built an imaginative fiefdom on 400 acres in the town of Verona.
Next week Eisen will deal with the impact that Epic is having on Dane County and farther afield. He will talk about a company with an unquestioned environmental sensitivity on the one hand and an enormous influence on the growth patterns of the area surrounding it. In the end we will know Epic much better than we do now. Alas, Judy Faulkner remains a mystery, at least to the general public.