Open for Business: Wisconsin offers a warm welcome

    Moving his Illinois trade show exhibit business to Wisconsin in 2011 was scary, says Tim Roberts, chief executive officer at Catalyst Exhibits in Pleasant Prairie.

    “It was a big decision,” Roberts said. “But it paid off instantly.”

    Wisconsin’s welcoming business climate made his choice obvious, Roberts said.

    “The lieutenant governor was calling me. I had a proposal back to me the next day,” said Roberts, adding that he had no response to calls he made to the development office at his home base in Lake County, Illinois.

    “Wisconsin really seems to be on top of it.”

    Catalyst received a $1.2 million, low-interest loan from the Kenosha Area Business Alliance for equipment and building out its rented space in Pleasant Prairie, and a $500,000 grant from the state that will not need to be repaid if the company meets hiring and other goals.

    The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) is the go-to agency for businesses like Catalyst that want to relocate in Wisconsin and for companies in the state that are ready to grow.

    The agency’s website,, offers detailed information on the services businesses can find in Wisconsin as well as tools for new and existing businesses.

    In 2012, WEDC helped 364 companies with aid in the form of $37.5 million in cash; $95.9 million in tax credits; and $16 million in bonding. The agency provided assistance in some form to 1,061 businesses in 87 communities during the year.

    Goals for 2013 call for helping 1,200 companies in 150 communities.

    Neenah-based Alta Resources, a business process outsourcing company, worked with WEDC to secure $1 million in tax credits for its expansion at its headquarters. The credits are tied to more than 1,000 jobs that Alta expects to create by the end of 2013. Alta also has operations in California and the Philippines.

    “The reason we’ve stayed here is the people we’ve been able to hire in this marketplace,” said chief executive officer Jim Bere. “Their work ethic and talent have delivered consistent results, year after year.”

    Financial incentives from the state make it easier for Alta to stay here, Bere said.

    “It makes us more competitive in the marketplace,” he said.

    Alliance Laundry LLC, a Ripon-based manufacturer of commercial and residential laundry equipment under the Speed Queen and other brand names, will spend $23 million to equip and build a 20,000-square-foot addition in 2013. Alliance is eligible for $1.5 million in tax credits for the 270 jobs that the company expects to add, and also has received a $500,000 loan from the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp.

    “Overall, we’re delighted to be in a great state and a great local community,” said Alliance chief executive officer Michael Schoeb. 

    “They have a strong work ethic, the right attitude, and are well-educated,” Schoeb said. “They enjoy coming to work, and they also understand that it’s a global marketplace.”

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