Milwaukee could become new industrial energy hub

    Editor’s note: This is the third column in a series written by State Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) about his proposed Battery and Advanced Energy Storage Bill, which will receive a hearing in the State Senate later this month. The bill would abolish the state’s vehicle emission testing system and establish incentives for investments in alternative energy and hybrid vehicles.

    In the first column of this series, we looked at the legislation and how it was developed, and what sort of opportunity we have before us. In the second column, we took a closer look at how the buyers of extended range electric vehicles, and future plug in hybrid electric vehicles, will benefit from this legislative effort.

    In this section, we will take a closer look at just what an industrial hub based on advanced energy storage and battery development could mean to our region.

    With this legislation there are two items that will both encourage growth in these areas and will financially support the development of this type of hub. The first item creates a tax credit for equipment used in research and development of products by classifying it as manufacturing equipment. This item was included in the most recent budget that was passed in 2009. This legislation will advance the effective date for this benefit into July of this year.

    Given the rapid developments in this field, it was agreed that sooner was indeed better than later for implementation of the change. Allowing this change to become effective more quickly will be crucial if we plan to be research and development leaders in this industry.

    The second item to impact growth of an industry hub is contingent on ending the auto emission testing program here in SE Wisconsin. Once an agreement can be reached with the federal government and the current contract for the testing expires, the funds currently used to pay for the testing program will be sent to the Department of Commerce to be invested in advancing this industrial hub.

    This will represent over $6 million each year that can be used to best assist in developing and expanding this initiative. Given the concentration of industries in the region that are already at the forefront of the advanced energy storage and battery industries, this investment should help to propel the region to national and world prominence. We can see how this is working with the water hub effort. It is expected that the energy hub effort will result in expanded employment opportunities and lead to creation of new businesses and services to support this type of industry.

    While there is no hard and fast rule on how the monies from Commerce are to be spent, the discussions in the drafting of this legislation lead to some very interesting possibilities. The funds could be used in the form of grants or loans to expand the existing companies in this field. New equipment or facilities could be supported by these funds.

    Seed money could be given to help entrepreneurs startup and grow new companies. The monies could also be targeted to attract companies currently outside of the state. As this funding stream is ongoing, each year will present new and additional opportunities to invest in the region. The new job opportunities that will come from this type of effort will be a blessing for the region and all of Wisconsin. This type of industry is still very much in its formative stage; the opportunity to become leaders in this industry will help Milwaukee and the entire region to prosper for generations to come.
    During the time that the workgroup developed this legislation, it became evident that the final component to attracting companies to invest and grow in this region is the presence of a workforce that is ready to work in this type of industry.

    To that end, the funds that will be used by the Department of Commerce will also be made available to the academic institutions in the region that will train the workforce needed to supply a growing industry. A closer look at the academic impact of this legislation will follow.


    State Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) represents Wisconsin’s 82nd Assembly District.

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