Wisconsin has adopted a bold approach to attracting, growing and retaining business in the state. At the heart of that approach is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). In 2013, programs and investments from the WEDC created or retained more than 37,000 jobs in Wisconsin that otherwise would have left the state.
Wisconsin Biz recently sat down with WEDC CEO and Secretary Reed Hall to learn more about the program and its progress to date.
“It’s a start, and we hope to continue to have this kind of positive impact on the Wisconsin business climate and economy,” said Hall.
The WEDC was established in July of 2011 to replace the once heavily-mandated Wisconsin Department of Commerce. Today, the organization is focused on advancing Wisconsin industries including forestry, agriculture, manufacturing, food and beverage, water technology, financial services, energy and the state’s growing biotech and aerospace industries.
According to Hall, the WEDC provided more than $330 million in financial assistance in the form of loans, grants and tax credits to businesses and communities in 2013.
The interest in that type of assistance continues to grow.
“We have several programs in place designed to have immediate impact, and then other longer-term goals that benefit Wisconsin as a whole,” Hall said.
Fiscal year 2014 is off to a great start, he stated, with a renewed focus on entrepreneurial ventures, startups and the continued marketing of Wisconsin’s business climate nationally and globally.
“We’ve done a lot of marketing to neighboring states regarding the advantages of doing business here,” Hall said. “We’ve seen an increase in calls as a result of those efforts, and while we continue to encourage businesses here and in our neighboring states to grow in the state of Wisconsin, we can look internationally as well.”
Exports and foreign investment will be critical to Wisconsin’s future, as the world’s population shifts to eastern countries.
“It’s important for us to look globally at these issues,” Hall said. “Wisconsin has a lot going on that other states cannot claim.”
Wisconsin increased its international market presence from four countries in 2012 to 36 countries in fiscal year 2013.
Hall expects that trend to continue.
“The quality of our workforce is superior, and the products produced here are superior – particularly in the tool and die industry,” Hall said.
The Wisconsin state budget is balanced, and the state also does not have the pension obligations many other states in the nation have, he added.
“We have a great ability to work hard, and I think the political and regulatory situation in the state is superior, particularly compared to many of our neighboring states. Wisconsin is a very attractive place to do business, we hope to continue our success in marketing it that way.”