Economic Development Successes under the Capitol Dome

Guest Column – State Senator Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac)

The 2023-2024 session has come to a close and there were more than a few legislative accomplishments that will spur economic development in Wisconsin.

First, we were finally able to repeal Wisconsin’s antiquated Personal Property Tax. This is a big deal. Not only are we lowering taxes, but how often does Madison actually get rid of an entire tax? The red tape and paperwork that came with the personal property tax put an unnecessary burden on Wisconsin businesses and I am happy to see it finally wiped off the books.

In the 2023-25 budget we were able to continue the highly successful Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit. This credit has been instrumental in the successes of Wisconsin’s manufacturers and farmers, giving us an enormous competitive advantage over neighboring states.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Technical Colleges, one of my main focuses this session has been the workforce challenges faced by our business community. I’ve heard from countless individuals in every field that there just aren’t enough people in the state to fill all of the high-paying jobs we have available. We need to bring more people into Wisconsin, but we are unable to do this without having somewhere for them to live or a dependable child care facility or daycare to send their children to.

To that end, the Legislature passed a budget that included $95 million in child care assistance as well as a substantial, $525 million housing package. This set of bills created four revolving loan funds for:

  • Creating and restoring housing in the upper levels of Main Street buildings.
  • The conversion of vacant commercial buildings to workforce or senior housing.
  • Upgrades to infrastructure for housing projects.
  • Keeping our current housing stock in good condition through improvements to the Home Repair and Rehab loan.

Lastly, we were able to get modifications to the Business Development Tax Credit to make the program more accessible to more businesses. I authored this bill with Representative Dave Armstrong to refocus the BTC on capital investment instead of jobs created. Businesses can create all the jobs they want, but if they don’t have the people to fill the positions, the job is meaningless. Wisconsin needs to continue incentivizing growth, while reframing how we measure success. ‘Jobs created’ just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

The BTC was also expanded to include a tax benefit of up to 15% of a business’s investment in workforce housing or up to 15% of their investment in child care programs for eligible employees. Government isn’t always the best problem solver, many times it takes the private sector to come up with innovative solutions to the issues we’re facing. This bill will help to get government out of the way and the business community involved in solving both our housing and childcare challenges.

This was a great session for economic development, but as you know, the work never really stops. I’m looking forward to next session where we can continue our mission of taking Wisconsin’s economy to the next level.

Sen. Feyen currently represents the 18th Senate District, which includes the cities of Fond du Lac and Oshkosh. He serves as the Assistant Majority Leader and is the Chair of the Senat Economic Development and Technical Colleges Committee.