Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
December 2006
The Wisconsin Economy: Strong Prospects for Growth

As we enter 2007, Wisconsin's economy is strong and growing, and we can point with pride to many accomplishments. Over the past three years, Wisconsin has created 179,000 new jobs, and the number of jobs in our state is at an all-time high. Wisconsin is the only top 10 manufacturing state to add manufacturing jobs. Wisconsin's exports are up 50 percent, nearly double the national average. Not surprisingly, 70 percent of the state's leading CEOs plan to increase # of employees (June, 2006). We've received national recognition as well:

  1. Wisconsin was one of only seven states to be named to the Corporation for Enterprise Development's Annual Honor Roll.
  2. Wisconsin placed two cities in Inc. Magazine'stop 15 for Best Cities for Business.
  3. Wisconsin ranks 30th lowest for cost of doing business, according to a study by the Milken Institute.

Challenges remain, but we've established a sound footing under Governor Jim Doyle's leadership. The Governor has worked hard to establish programs and policies through his Grow Wisconsin plan that promote business growth and development.

He improved the overall business climate by balancing two budgets without raising taxes by passing the most sweeping regulatory reform package in the Midwest, and seeing to it that permit backlogs were reduced and then eliminated. He passed the Small Business Regulatory Reform Act to protect the interests of small businesses in the state's rulemaking process. And he reduced business taxes through the passage of the single factor tax provision. As result, business tax rates as a percentage of business gross product are now 30 percent less than the national average. Thanks to fiscal restraint, Wisconsin ranks 37th in government administration spending.

Manufacturing continues to be a key component of Wisconsin's economy. Gov. Doyle believes that Wisconsin can grow its manufacturing base by competing at the high end, embracing lean manufacturing and installing new technologies. He provided $850 million to Wisconsin's manufacturing extension partnerships to help them introduce lean principles to small and medium manufacturers and another $700,000 for a manufacturing competitiveness initiative to improve the productivity of supply chains to original equipment manufacturers. To help attract manufacturers and their well-paying jobs to distressed areas, the Governor made available $120 million in Enterprise Development Zone Tax Credits. The Governor also pushed through a tax exemption on energy used in manufacturing.

Governor Doyle is also alert to emerging opportunities for economic growth in Wisconsin. When he came to office, Wisconsin ranked 47th in business start-ups. In 2004, the Governor signed Act 255, which provided $91 million in tax credits, loans and grants over 10 years to promote the development of high-growth, entrepreneurial firms. Under the act, Commerce qualifies new business vestures as eligible for angel and early stage investors, who can then earn a 25-percent tax credit. The Act also established the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Network (WEN) to link and coordinate the state's resources for entrepreneurs and provide customized services at four centralized and 50 regional locations.

These programs have been an immediate success. All of the eligible angel investment tax credits---$3 million---were used in 2005, and more than half have been used so far in 2006. In a little over 18 months, WEN has already served 20,000 would-be entrepreneurs.

In addition, we've raised the visibility of entrepreneurial activity through the annual Governor's Business Plan Contest and the establishment of Inventors & Entrepreneurs Clubs in several counties.

Recognizing Wisconsin's primacy in stem cell research and development, Governor Doyle set out to capture 10 percent of $10 billion stem cell market to ensure Wisconsin keeps its status as the leader and pioneer in stem cell research and development, and add tens of thousands high-end biotechnology jobs. He also launched a $750 million initiative to develop stem cell research and biotechnology in Wisconsin. The centerpiece of this effort is the planned construction of the Institutes for Discovery in Madison. The Governor directed Commerce to devote $5 million annually toward the attraction and development of stem cell companies.

Another emerging growth area is in renewable energy, notably biofuels. Governor Doyle established a goal of generating 25 percent of the state's electricity and 25 percent of transportation fuel from renewable fuels by 2025 and a $450 million public and private investment strategy – including nearly $80 million from the state - in renewable fuel sources to help the nation achieve energy independence.

These are indeed exciting times for Wisconsin. Let's build on our success, seize new opportunities and work together to grow Wisconsin's economy.

-- Mary P. Burke, Secretary

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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