Guest Column: Recent investments demonstrate the breadth and depth of state support for Wisconsin businesses

WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes

WEDC joined Governor Evers in celebrating National Economic Development Week (May 9-13) by announcing several major investments that demonstrate the breadth and depth of our state’s support for Wisconsin businesses.

From Main Street retailers building their dreams with just a few workers to iconic global brands that employ thousands, WEDC and its partners are committed to ensuring that businesses of every size and in every corner of our state prosper.

These recent investments include:

  • $22.5 million in additional performance-based tax credits for Milwaukee Tool to support its latest expansion, which calls for an additional $206 million in capital expenditures by the company and the creation of 1,000 new jobs in Wisconsin.
  • $12 million in credits to assist Fincantieri Marinette Marine in building the next generation of Constellation class frigates for the U.S. Navy. The company plans to invest at least $100 million in improvements to its Marinette and Sturgeon Bay shipyards and create 400 jobs over the next three years.
  • $2.5 million in tax credits to assist Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals, a leading genetic medicine company, to support a $220 million expansion in Verona that will create more than 230 high-paying jobs.

Additionally, the governor announced $25 million in additional funding for the popular Main Street Bounceback grants, raising total funding for the program to $75 million.

The Main Street Bounceback grants provide $10,000 to businesses and nonprofits that move or expand into vacant storefronts. So far, more than 4,200 businesses in all 72 counties have received these grants; the new funding means a total of 7,500 businesses will qualify for the grants. The grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis through Dec. 31.

As part of those announcements, Governor Evers, Deputy Secretary Sam Rikkers, and I had the chance to visit some of the latest Main Street Bounceback grant recipients recently. The governor and I went record-shopping at Audiolust Records in La Crosse, stopped at Brew & Sip and the Schweet Shop in Amery, and visited Honest Dog Books and Silverwaves Jewelry in Bayfield.

A few days later, Sam joined the governor in Stevens Point, where they visited Fall Line Outfitters and Caroline’s Bridal Boutique, and in Milwaukee, where they stopped at the new 3rd Street Market Hall. The Hall, site of the former Grand Avenue Mall, is home to 13 new businesses – Dairyland, Valor Aquaponics, Treat MKE, TEMPO, Kawa 3rd St., Amano Bakery, Anytime Arepa, Dawg City Specialty Hotdogs, Hot Dish Pantry, Make Waves, Paper Plane Pizza, Strega Milwaukee, and The Greenhouse that have received Main Street Bounceback grants.

Whether it’s talking with workers at Milwaukee Tool who are proud to be putting the name of their hometown on some of the best power tools in the world, or the owners of a bookstore in Bayfield, there’s a feeling of excitement in our state about what the future holds.

It’s also a reminder of our how conscious efforts at WEDC to “walk and chew gum” throughout the pandemic and its recovery – that is, to meet the immediate needs of businesses for assistance while continuing our traditional missions of business attraction and expansion, growing our exports, and investing in innovators and entrepreneurs – are bearing fruit.

A recent analysis shows Wisconsin has allocated a bigger share of federal pandemic aid to assisting businesses than any other state and ranks second in the share of federal funds allocated to economic development.

The strategic investments our state has made through programs like the Main Street Bounceback and Workforce Innovation Grants, as well as our traditional assistance programs, are aimed at making sure Wisconsin is in the best possible position for future growth.

Missy Hughes is Secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the state’s leading economic development organization.