If we are to have a thriving Wisconsin economy, we need to not only invest in our businesses, but also ensure a skilled workforce that is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. One of the tools the state has to help retain and attract businesses and train the next generation of workers is the Wisconsin Development Fund – the state’s largest economic development fund.
The program provides grants and loans to help companies grow, train workers and develop new technologies.
The Wisconsin Development Fund is the state’s major job creation tool. Over the last four years, the fund has helped create 3,238 good-paying jobs in Wisconsin. It has helped 40 businesses expand in the state. It has served as a vital resource for training workers for the high-tech jobs of the future. And it has connected entrepreneurs with the necessary capital to turn ideas into jobs, products and businesses.
Recognizing the potential it has to boost our economy, Gov. Jim Doyle proposed doubling budget funding for the Wisconsin Development Fund to $50 million – an increase that would support business expansion, retention and targeted business attraction.
The fund would be used to support regional economic development organizations, help develop the state’s first cellulosic ethanol plant, assist businesses in adopting lean manufacturing techniques and help support new emerging industries such as stem cell research and renewable energy. Lawmakers in the state Legislature have slashed this vital economic development tool by more than $35 million – a move that would severely hamper our ability to attract and retain jobs in Wisconsin.
An increase in the Wisconsin Development Fund would greatly benefit the New North Inc. The New North is a regional collaboration effort focused on promoting regional cooperation and economic development in an 18-county region in northeast Wisconsin. Already home to several Fortune 1000 companies, biofuel facilities and countless small businesses, the region would be well-positioned to expand on its success with support from the Wisconsin Development Fund.
Gov. Doyle’s proposal to double funding for the fund would be a tremendous boost for the New North and a great tool to utilize as the organization continues its efforts to grow the economy of the region.
Attracting, developing, and retaining key talent – as well as implementing targeted growth opportunities – are core priorities of the New North. An increase in the Wisconsin Development Fund would help support the New North’s efforts to grow its region’s economy and ensure the New North remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
Jerry Murphy is the executive director of New North Inc. For more information, visit www.thenewnorth.com.