Canadians think Wisconsin is a business paradise

    We’ve been told on talk radio for years that Wisconsin is a terrible place to do business. You know the drill. Wisconsin is a tax hell hole. Wisconsin does nothing to encourage entrepreneurship or development of new businesses.

    We often accept these notions as fact, shrug our shoulders, grumble a little bit and try to get about our jobs as best we can. And we wonder why we stay here.

    Every now and then, however, we get a wakeup call from across state lines that lets us know that hey, maybe we aren’t so bad off after all. In the latest case of sunshine, the call comes from across the national border.

    The headline on a news story in a recent edition of the New Brunswick Business Journal proclaims, "Culture of investment thrives in Wisconsin."

    What’s this? How can that be? What in the world are these Canadians talking about?

    The subhead on the news story gets even more jiggy: "Capital markets New Brunswick Securities Commission turns to U.S. state as a prime example of fostering investment growth."

    What’s this? How can that be?

    The lead of the story entices further: "New Brunswick has found a model for promoting entrepreneurship in a U.S. state whose economy has traditionally relied on farming, mining and forestry. Wisconsin’s love affair with startups and investors – which has transcended the business community and made its way to the state legislature – has had the New Brunswick Securities Commission and other interested parties playing copycat."

    You don’t say.

    The story says Rick Hancox, executive director of the New Brunswick Securities Commission, recently returned from a trip to Wisconsin, his second in three years, to learn how Wisconsin’s economy "has benefited from new investor and entrepreneur networks, research and development commercialization programs, aggressive tax reform and a governor’s business plan competition."

    Wisconsin? Really?

    The story says, "Hancox got turned onto Wisconsin years ago when commission employees had begun scouring the globe for examples of jurisdictions fostering investment growth. After months of eyeing examples out of the United Kingdom and Australia, staff was continually pointed by experts to Wisconsin – a place where declining traditional sectors could not continue to be relied upon heavily to backstop the economy."

    The story notes how State Sen. Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) drafted Act 255 to provide generous tax credits to investors pumping money into high-tech companies in pre-commercialization mode.

    "Meanwhile the business community was lining up to take part and arms-length agencies were being formed to push Gov. Jim Doyle’s ‘Grow Wisconsin’ initiative beyond government," the story sates.
    Do tell. To read the entire story, visit

    The New Brunswick story comes on the heels of the news that VitalMedix, a Minneapolis biotech startup company, is moving to Wisconsin within 90 days. VitalMedix lead investor Charlie Goff said Wisconsin’s investment tax credits "had everything to do with" the move. The company is negotiating leases in Hudson and New Richmond.

    VitalMedix is developing a drug that has the potential to allow humans to endure severe blood loss and deter organ damage during resuscitation. The drug could be tested on humans as early as next year.

    According to The Associated Press account of the story, "Despite a huge budget deficit, Wisconsin this year doubled the cap on the amount of credits to $8 million, raised the cap on eligible angel investments to $4 million and tripled the total credits available each year to $37 million."
    Who knew?


    Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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