Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Wisconsinís new job incubator

by Neal Kedzie - State Senator

August 25, 2011

As the Legislature moves into the second half of the 2011-12 session, our focus continues to be doing what we can to help stabilize the economy and create jobs. Earlier this year, a significant component of that effort was initiated to effectively change the state agency Commerce Department into a public-private entity more focused on the commerce of our state. Many believed the old Commerce Department had become too much of a job regulator rather than job incubator; and with the state on shaky economic ground, the time was right for a much-needed change.

To that end, Special Session Senate Bill 6 was adopted and enacted into law, creating the new Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC.) The charge and the mission of the WEDC will be to develop and implement economic programs to assist companies seeking to invest and create jobs in Wisconsin. The new law also directs the WEDC to support new business start-ups and business expansion and growth in Wisconsin. This is a fundamental shift in the agency, which previously devoted less than 20 percent of its staff time and resources to creating jobs.

Individuals, communities and businesses alike will benefit from the variety of services offered by the WEDC. From business development to community development, export assistance to attracting global investment, the resources offered are extensive. For instance, the Division of Global Ventures targets the world's leading companies for investment in the state, marketing the state internationally in order to help grow Wisconsin's economy both here and abroad.

Local businesses may be interested to know the WEDC utilizes a combination of technical and financial assistance programs that have been designed to help businesses in a number of ways, including: business planning, site selection, initial capitalization, permitting (including environmental), employee training, research and development, business expansion and export development.

Besides businesses, local units of government are also eligible for assistance, such as the Community Development Block Grant — Public Facilities (CDBG) grant program. CDBG grants help local governmental units with needed funding for infrastructure and public building projects, with the exception of government buildings. Recent projects in this program included a senior center and a well replacement project.

The WEDC has hit the ground running, providing tax credits for company development, financial assistance to local units of government, and technical assistance to businesses of all sizes. It should be noted none of the regulatory functions of the old Commerce Department have been discarded, but rather, shifted to the Department of Safety and Professional Services.

Evidence of the WEDC in action is already taking place, even in our area. Diamond Precision Products in Johnson Creek recently received $400,000 in Economic Development Tax Credits from the WEDC in order to help finance an expansion project which will create more than 100 new jobs over the next few years, and preserve 85 current positions. Diamond Precision Products provides contract machining to the construction, industrial components, and heavy truck industries.

Kerry Ingredients and Flavours, in nearby Beloit, recently received a $1.5 million loan from WEDC to support an expansion project. The project is estimated to create more than 60 jobs and preserve 800 positions statewide. Kerry Ingredients and Flavours develops, manufactures, and delivers technology-based ingredients, flavors and integrated solutions for the food and beverage industry. Those are just a couple of examples, and I believe there will be many more to come.

Over the last few months, I have visited with several local business leaders and listened to their concerns about Wisconsin's economic climate. A reoccurring theme is a need for the state to do more to promote their ideas for creating jobs.

It is my hope the WEDC is able to fill that need and foster productive relationships with the private sector to keep Wisconsin's economy on track. For more information about the WEDC, please visit their Web site at, or contact the corporation by e-mail at or by phone at (608) 267-4417. As always, feel free to contact my office for any further information or assistance.

Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 or by calling toll-free 1 (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or online at