Wisconsin commerce: Built on solid infrastructure

    Plenty of energy to power a strong economy

    Keeping the lights on is as important to business as it is at home. And Wisconsin has a good track record for keeping them burning.

    “It is one of the most fundamental questions asked by many major coporations interested in relocating or expanding an office, a manufacturing plant, or a distribution center,” said Gale Klappa, CEO at Milwaukee-based We Energies, the largest supplier of power in the state. We Energies serves 1.1 million homes and businesses in the eastern part of Wisconsin and in Upper Michigan.

    “In the late ’90s and early 2000s, the state had gotten quite far behind in terms of its capability in supplying power for new jobs and construction,” Klappa added.

    Since then, We Energies has invested $7.8 billion in upgrades.

    The power provider won the 2012 ReliabilityOne award in the Midwest for the superior reliability of its electric system. It was the eighth such win in the past 11 years for the power supplier.

    Wisconsin’s electrical grid is supported by 118 providers. All are in compliance with renewable portfolio standards, and a majority already have achieved the increased percentage of renewable energy to be required by 2015, according to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSCW). Many provide renewable energy through voluntary green pricing programs.

    Wisconsin’s energy planning reserve margin has the state poised for economic growth, with 20 percent more electricity available than is currently needed to meet peak demand, according to a 2011 report from the PSCW.
    “Wisconsin businesses can count on the availability of reliable electric power,” said PSCW spokeswoman Kristen Ruesch. “New or expanding companies can contact their local utility to make arrangements for service.”

    Cost is the other factor businesses consider when looking at an area’s power grid, Klappa said. We Energies is a little above the national average for rates, but those prices include costs for the improvements in recent years, Klappa said. Other states will need to raise their rates when they upgrade power systems to meet EPA standards.

    High speed data: investing in the future
    Few would disagree with the PSCW’s assertion that “Broadband is a quintessential modern communication media and among the most essential infrastructures of our time.”

    Almost all of Wisconsin’s population is served by at least one broadband carrier, with over 90 percent served by three or more. In total, over 270 service providers meet the needs of business and citizens. State government and private industry are working hand in hand to prepare Wisconsin’s broadband infrastructure for the ever-increasing demands of the future.

    In August 2012, the PSCW released “Wisconsin’s Playbook for Broadband Progress.” The report was the result of a statewide collaboration between broadband providers, business, governmental and citizen leadership, and made a set of recommendations focused around three key ideas:

    1. Leverage Existing Government Resources to Incent Private Investment
    2. Provide Forums for Public and Private Sector Partnerships and Collaborations to Advance Wisconsin’s Broadband Communications
    3. Promote Awareness of Shared Opportunities among Consumers, Government Leaders and Providers

    Since 2008, the state has received over $60 million in grants from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to improve public broadband infrastructure, including grants to improve transmission of medical data.

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