Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
November 2003
Grow Wisconsin: Blueprint for Economic Progress

Gov. Jim Doyle’s Grow Wisconsin plan is a comprehensive action agenda to get Wisconsin’s economy moving again and create high-paying jobs. The plan was influenced by what the Governor learned from conducting 12 economic development roundtables this past spring in each region of Wisconsin. Many of you participated in these roundtables and contributed valuable insights and suggestions.

The Grow Wisconsin plan will:

  • Improve job training to give workers the skills they need to earn higher wages and allow our companies to become more competitive.
  • Help our manufacturing sector become more competitive.
  • Promote Wisconsin’s leadership in high-technology industries by encouraging the commercialization of research from Wisconsin’s great universities.
  • Unleash over $1 billion in public and private investment.
  • Build the infrastructure Wisconsin businesses need to grow and compete.
  • Overhaul Wisconsin’s regulatory system, streamlining processes without sacrificing our standards.

Since the day he took office, Gov. Doyle has made growing our economy a top priority. And in just eight months, he has taken significant strides in laying the foundation for growth.

Although he inherited a $3.2-billion budget, Gov. Doyle balanced the budget without a tax increase. Most other states are raising taxes. By holding the line, Wisconsin sent a strong signal to the business community that we are determined to be competitive.

The Governor also signed single-favor tax legislation and financial modernization legislation; rejected an 11-county expansion of the nonattainment area; and appointed a high-level economic growth council to engage the private sector as a partner in our efforts.

Gov. Doyle signed important legislation to compensate communities that host needed power generation facilities, and announced a new agreement that will vastly improve our approval process for power facilities.

Gov. Doyle’s vision is for Wisconsin to compete at the high end. To do that, he has set several goals for our state.

First, to create and retain high wage jobs. Despite having a highly-educated and skilled workforce, we have fallen behind the national average in incomes. Our goal is that Wisconsin’s incomes will exceed the national average by the end of the decade.

Second, to prepare workers for tomorrow’s economy. Wisconsin’s people are our best and most important asset. Grow Wisconsin targets well over $50 million to build our workforce’s skills to help families move up the economic ladder.

Third, to create and unleash knowledge to build emerging industries. Wisconsin produces world-class intellectual property in our universities, laboratories, and companies. We must improve our efforts to convert these discoveries into high-paying, job-producing businesses.

Fourth, to add value to Wisconsin’s economic base -- including manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism. A high-end economy doesn’t mean abandoning these traditional industries, but rather upgrading and expanding them through education, training, and technology.

Fifth, to tap the full potential of the Milwaukee area so that finance, culture, entertainment, and urban amenities are fully developed and benefit the entire state.

Sixth, to implement strategies regionally because we are a diverse state with differing economic needs and a wide variety of industries.

Seventh, to lower regulatory burdens while keeping our standards high. We should not sacrifice our standards, but we also shouldn’t take years to enforce them.

Finally, to build a modern and accessible energy, transportation, and communications infrastructure so that Wisconsin businesses can be fully connected to the national and world economy.

The heart of the Grow Wisconsin strategy is to capitalize on Wisconsin’s strengths – excellent schools, universities, and technical colleges, a superb quality of life, natural beauty, a legacy of innovation, a commitment to quality, and a hardworking, highly-educated labor force.

In developing a strategy to Grow Wisconsin, we must be mindful of fiscal constraints, being innovative without breaking the bank. We must be focused and use resources efficiently.

The fact is, we already have a wealth of state and federal programs devoted to economic development, but what has been missing is focus and strategic vision. Grow Wisconsin takes a comprehensive look at our existing resources, and makes strategic decisions on how to deploy them as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Let me mention a few of the highlights:

  • A $10 million manufacturing competitiveness program – leveraged with other public and private funds – to provide grants to help manufacturers improve productivity through training, technology, and technical assistance.
  • A $10 million training fund to offer free training to companies that create significant numbers of new, high paying jobs in Wisconsin.
  • A new state authority that will leverage a minimum of $300 million over the next decade to invest in seed and early-stage companies, to help convert scientific discoveries into high-paying jobs.
  • Accelerated deployment of existing tax credits that encourage investment. This includes needed reform of the community, technology zone and enterprise development zone credits to allow more companies to participate – so that $60 million of tax credits that have already been budgeted for can be put to work immediately.
  • Regulatory reform. The Grow Wisconsin plan calls for a number of important reforms, but let me highlight just one. The Governor inherited a large backlog of air operating permits at the Department of Natural Resources, some of which had been awaiting action for several years. He directed that agency to eliminate the backlog and to establish a target to approve or deny permits within 180 days of their submission.

The plan is not all-inclusive, nor is it meant to be. Rather, it is a starting point. I personally look forward to working with members of the legislature, businesspeople, community groups, labor unions, elected officials, education leaders, and others to continue to expand our efforts, and to to build economic growth in every region of Wisconsin.

--Cory L. Nettles, Secretary

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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