The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) recently made a $750,000 investment in the Water Research and Business Accelerator Center in Milwaukee. This investment in the water technology research and business incubator is a prime example of WEDC’s new target industry investment strategy.
WEDC’s approach is innovative and a more effective approach to target industry advancement than traditional approaches.
Traditional cluster strategies use statistical data to identify concentrations of like-coded companies, or identify the next “hot” industry sector and declare these as target industries, regardless of actual industry support or realistic opportunity. WEDC’s targeted industry approach delivers customized solutions to accelerate business consortia that exhibits strong industry leadership, has a defined plan for growth and has realistic potential for strong and long-term economic impact.
This new targeted-industry investment strategy by WEDC has a number of advantages. First, it is not government picking winners or losers but a market-led strategy that accelerates already promising opportunities. Second, it does not apply a one-size fits all solution but provides an approach tailored to the consortia needs. Third, it maximizes the impact of taxpayer dollars by co-investing in solutions that are likely to yield the best results. For example, WEDC also supports the trucking consortia’s efforts to increase the number of truck drivers and diesel mechanics by coordinating WEDC, Department of Workforce Development, and technical college solutions.
Wisconsin is fortunate to have a number of existing and emerging consortia opportunities to drive regional and statewide job growth. Many of these are part of our strong manufacturing base – an industry characterized by export, strong job multipliers, and high R & D investment. Industry sectors such as water technology, defense vehicle manufacturing, energy storage and biotechnology-related equipment and processes also hold promise for growth. These sectors provide economic diversity and support quality jobs throughout the state.
Here’s why Wisconsin’s water technology industry is a target industry worthy of support. It has strong industry leadership through the Milwaukee Water Council; a concentration of key globally competitive businesses in Wisconsin; and the strong support of local and state resources.
WEDC’s investment to underwrite the rent of start-up water research and technology companies at the Accelerator Center is a unique solution designed to move the entrepreneur from the start-up and research and development stages to the product development and marketing stages. Our customized industry support doesn’t stop there. WEDC will expand water technology growth through exports by hosting a trade mission to India, April 22-May 1, 2012.
WEDC’s identification and investment in the water technology cluster is an example of WEDC’s new, innovative, market-pull approach to target industry growth in the state. This approach will accelerate the growth of more industry-led consortia in Wisconsin.
Paul Jadin is the CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC).