Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
May 2004
New Grow Wisconsin Initiatives Spur Entrepreneurship And Manufacturing

Gov. Jim Doyle recently signed two bills that will unleash investment in early stage companies and help manufacturers improve their competitiveness. Both bills are among a number of Grow Wisconsin initiatives that have been signed into law by the Governor. Other successful measures include implementing the most aggressive regulatory reform in the Midwest; expediting the process of siting needed power generation and transmission facilities; and modernizing Wisconsin's financial industry while protecting workers.

Here in Wisconsin, we have great research institutions, a budding biotechnology industry, and a long tradition of great entrepreneurs. But we have lacked the venture capital needed to turn those good ideas into great Wisconsin companies.

Act 255 helps address that need. It represents a $91-million stimulus package---including loans, grants and tax credits---that we expect will leverage about $300 million in private investment. The act has three components.

First is a new program at the Department of Commerce that will provide loans, grants and technical assistance to entrepreneurs. This program will provide $26 million over the next 10 years for technology commercialization. The program creates a network of assistance centers to support entrepreneurs statewide. For the first time, Wisconsin will offer both expertise and grants to companies applying for federal funds or private sector funding.

Act 255 also creates two tax credit programs to encourage investment in start-up companies. Specifically, the bill provides $65 million of tax credits over the next decade to encourage investors to invest money, time, and expertise in new Wisconsin companies. The credits are targeted at seed and early stage companies where investment is especially scarce.

Manufacturing is a vital part of our state's economy. Along with the rest of the nation, however, Wisconsin's manufacturing sector has lost jobs and investment over the past several years. We are at a critical moment when we need to invest in our manufacturers or risk losing them forever. It is especially important that we work together now that the economy is showing some real signs of recovery. New March factory orders far exceeded expectations and rose by 4.3 percent, driven by a 5-percent increase in durable goods orders. According to a US Labor Department study, Wisconsin led the Midwest in job growth over the past year.

Act 256 provides funding to manufacturing extension programs in Wisconsin that will help small manufacturers modernize to stay competitive and create new jobs. Wisconsin has two centers - the Northwest Manufacturing Outreach Center at UW-Stout and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) in Madison.

These centers provide valuable services that to our manufacturers, helping them assess their overall operations and make improvements that will boost productivity and competitiveness. The legislation provides $1.5 million in funding that will allow these organizations to continue to help our manufacturers modernize and create new jobs in Wisconsin.

This new legislation joins other successful Doyle Administration efforts to help manufacturers, including the passage of the single-factor tax legislation, which eliminated the tax on creating jobs; and a sales tax exemption on for fuel and electricity use. The Department of Commerce is also supporting the efforts of manufacturers to stay competitive by directing 75 percent of its training funds to manufacturers.

As you work with the businesses in your counties, make sure they know about these new programs as well as the wide range of other assistance offered by the Department of Commerce. Check out our website at commerce.wi.gov.

-- Cory L. Nettles, Secretary
Department of Commerce

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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