Small businesses are at a critical juncture. That’s why the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is working with its more than 600 partners from other government and academic institutions, industry clusters and regional economic development organizations to accelerate support for this cornerstone of our prosperity.
Wisconsin’s small businesses, numbering nearly half a million enterprises, are vital to the health of our state. Yet they were crushed by the pandemic, with industries like retail, leisure and restaurants in the direct line of fire. Many lacked the financing to get them through lean times and had fewer financial reserves to start with. Overall, the number of small businesses plunged a staggering 29 percent, killing the livelihood for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites.
Governor Evers has announced that more than $600 million of the state’s federal economic recovery dollars will go toward supporting small businesses across the state including $50 million in Wisconsin Tomorrow – Main Street Bounceback grants to encourage businesses to move into vacant storefronts in downtowns and other commercial corridors around the state, and more than $400 million in Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Grants that will provide direct aid to up to 84,000 businesses. This support, paired with the nearly $245 million distributed to 60,000 small businesses through We’re All In grants in 2020, is just one of the tools WEDC provides for Wisconsin’s small businesses.
Federal relief serves as a critical down payment on our economic recovery, but we need to maintain the momentum of those programs with new resources and new initiatives. Each of the new proposals for federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars offers us the opportunity to leverage our assets in Wisconsin and invest in the future. Additionally, Governor Evers’ proposed 2021-23 budget provides a $100 million venture capital fund that will allow us to invest in the pipeline of new ideas as well as $200 million in state funds to support small businesses getting back on their feet.
These dollars provide incredible support, but we don’t want to stop there. WEDC is committed to offering programming and resources to small businesses that helps them rebound from the pandemic with new skills and offerings.
The people running small businesses in Wisconsin have navigated a treacherous year and worked tirelessly to stay open – changing their business models, innovating to meet customers’ needs and showing the grit and determination that makes Wisconsin great. We want to help small business owners share their insights and connect with one another’s learnings so we’re sharing a showcase of Wisconsin business owners and the ways they innovated through the pandemic. The lessons we’ve all learned become coaching for the way forward. Find these stories at WeAreAllInWI.com/small-business
It’s exciting to think that after a difficult 2020, we may soon finally be on top of the coronavirus. With the right policies and resources, we can ensure that our small businesses, and our economy, will come out on top as well.