Kleefisch optimistic about Trump administration

Expects more focus on business interests

Kleefisch speaks at the Waukesha County Business Alliance’s Key Industries for Wisconsin in 2017 and Beyond event.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch this morning expressed optimism about the impact of the Trump administration on Wisconsin businesses over the next four years.

Kleefisch speaks at the Waukesha County Business Alliance’s Key Industries for Wisconsin in 2017 and Beyond event.
Kleefisch speaks at the Waukesha County Business Alliance’s Key Industries for Wisconsin in 2017 and Beyond event.

“I think we will have tremendous good news coming out of Washington, D.C. for Wisconsin,” Kleefisch said while addressing the crowd at the Waukesha County Business Alliance’s Key Industries for Wisconsin in 2017 and Beyond event at the Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee.

Businesses in Wisconsin will not just be competing and surviving, but thriving over the next four years under the new administration, she said. Business owners have tough decisions on their shoulders, which are made more difficult by global headwinds including currency and commodity fluctuations.

“With all of those global headwinds, we haven’t really had a champion for Wisconsin’s chief industries,” she said.

Kleefisch advocated for states’ rights and said she expects Wisconsin will receive more block grant dollars to distribute as state government sees fit during the next administration.

She also polled the crowd about Wisconsin’s infrastructure spending. Most wanted to spend more on fixing roads, and she then asked how they would like to pay for it. Finding efficiencies in existing departments, implementing a gas tax and increasing driver’s license fees were popular responses. Getting federal approval to install toll roads or implementing a vehicle miles traveled tax were unpopular.

The panelists at the Key Industries event.
The panelists at the Key Industries event.

Kleefisch discussed the 84,950 open positions listed on the state’s jobs website and the 45,000 resumes posted there. Wisconsin has more job opportunities than workers to fill them, she said.

First Business Bank also released its annual First Business Economic Survey at the event, which showed 66 percent of businesses reported an increase in sales revenue for 2016 and 82 percent expect an increase in revenue in 2017.

The respondents were businesses in the greater Milwaukee region, southeast Wisconsin, Dane County and northeast Wisconsin.

They reported profitability was at a record high in 2016, with 62 percent increasing net income. And 73 percent expect increased profits in 2017.

The full survey is available at www.firstbusiness.com/survey.

A panel of experts also discussed the outlook for their industries in 2017 at the Key industries event.

Frederick Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Wenthe-Davidson Engineering Co., said it’s important for manufacturers to take an active role in getting children interested in the industry.

“We get them at the seventh, eighth grade level—we can see that it’s going to pay off eventually,” Anderson said.

Scott Heberlein, vice president and general manager at Mortenson Construction, said catalytic projects such as the new Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. office tower and the new Milwaukee Bucks arena are driving southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and are a boon to the construction industry.

“As the economy goes, our market goes. I see a sustained growth possible over the next two to three years,” Heberlein said.

Dr. Asif Naseem, president and CEO of Paragon Development Systems, said the next breakthrough in technology will likely be augmented intelligence, rather than artificial intelligence.

“We know so little about our brains,” he said. “To try to mimic it is pretty aspirational and not really realistic.”

Carrie Norbin Killoran, executive vice president, central region for Aurora Health Care, said the health care industry is working to use technology and innovation to reduce costs while providing quality care.

“What we’re providing is a basic service that everyone needs…and everyone feels they deserve the very best quality,” Norbin Killoran said.

And Eric Steimer, championship manager for the 2017 U.S. Open, said technological advances have allowed the golf industry to make itself more affordable and accessible. Even months ahead of time, the U.S. Open is already having an impact on southeastern Wisconsin’s economy, he said.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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