WEDA releases feedback report on Wisconsin’s workforce challenges

Last month, WEDA held its 2017 Fall Conference – A Convening on Workforce Training, Retention, and Attraction. The conference employed a new format this year to gather feedback from Wisconsin private and public stakeholders on the state’s workforce development challenges and potential solutions.

The conference featured a series of tabletop discussion sessions that included Wisconsin businesses, economic development professionals, and workforce development professionals. For the first tabletop discussion session, conference attendees were asked to respond to five questions regarding workforce challenges facing Wisconsin businesses; the strengths and weaknesses of current state workforce programs; and potential improvements to Wisconsin workforce programs and policies.

Please CLICK HERE to review a report that provides an overview of the feedback received from conference attendees during the tabletop discussion referenced above and through a written survey that asked the same five questions. The report identifies common themes generated during the discussion (and on the written survey) and attaches a response percentage to the top themes that emerged.  Please note the survey is in no way scientific. However, WEDA believes it reflects the opinions of Fall Conference attendees on critical workforce development issues facing Wisconsin.

WEDA joins statewide effort to save federal historic tax credit

The tax reform bill introduced yesterday by Congressional Republicans would eliminate most federal tax deductions and many tax credits – including the federal historic tax credit (HTC). In an effort to save the federal HTC, WEDA and hundreds of organizations and individuals across Wisconsin are taking action.

Most recently, we sent a strong message to Wisconsin congressional members about the benefits of the HTC and the need to preserve the successful federal program. Over 350 Wisconsin state and local officials, businesses, and organizations – including WEDA – signed and delivered the following letter to state congressional Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan:

WEDA would like to thank and recognize the following WEDA members who singed the letter:

  • Barron County Economic Development Corporation
  • Barron County Tourism and Community Development
  • City of De Pere
  • Diane Lupke & Associates, Inc
  • Downtown Eau Claire, Inc.
  • Forward Janesville, Inc.
  • Granite Development Resources
  • Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation
  • Madison Gas and Electric
  • Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce
  • Prosperity Southwest
  • Redevelopment Resources, LLC
  • Sauk County Development Corporation
  • VJS Construction Services

Republicans leaders in Congress would like to pass the tax reform bill by the end of the year. As the bill is debated, WEDA and our stakeholder partners will continue to urge Wisconsin congressional members to save the federal HTC – a program that has sparked economic growth and revitalized communities in Wisconsin and across the country.

REMINDER: State accepting applications for broadband expansion grants

Gov. Scott Walker last month announced a new round of broadband expansion grants for 2018 that will provide up to $7.5 million for broadband projects in underserved areas of the state. The new round of grants will utilize increased broadband funding included in the recently approved state budget bill. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), which administers the broadband expansion grant program, is currently accepting grant applications.

Grant applications must be submitted to the PSC by January 25, 2018. Please note the PSC is advising applicants there are a number of small changes in the application instructions for this round of grants. Please use the following application instructions:  APPLICATION & INSTRUCTIONS.

Grant Process Timeline:

  • October 11, 2017 – Date of issue of the application instructions
  • January 11, 2018 – Last day for submitting questions and requests for clarification
  • January 25, 2018 – Applications due from applicants
  • Jan 26 – Feb 15, 2018 – Public comment period

February 15, 2018 – Last day for submitting comments regarding filed grant applications

Broadband Expansion Grant Resources:

Also, please note that preliminary dates for the Fiscal Year 2019 grant round, which will provide another $7 million in broadband expansion grants, have been set.  Applications will tentatively be due in June 2018, with awards being made in August or September of 2018.

If you have any questions on the broadband expansion grant application process, please do not hesitate to contact the WEDA office at

WEDA Bill Tracker: Follow WEDA’s legislative activity

The WEDA Legislative Committee reviews all economic development-related legislation proposed by the Legislature and takes appropriate action on each proposal — including efforts to support, oppose, or simply monitor any given piece of legislation. WEDA members can review the full list of bills WEDA is lobbying on or monitoring, WEDA’s position on each bill, and the status of each proposal on WEDA’s Legislative Bill Tracker. The bill tracker is updated weekly and provides members with an accurate snapshot of WEDA’s legislative efforts.

Since the last edition of Political News and Notes, there has been extensive legislative committee action in the State Capitol. A handful of bills supported by WEDA, including the artificial wetlands bill (AB 388/SB 320) and the dark store legislation (SB 292) were approved by key committees. It’s also important to note the Legislature was in session this week and the Senate passed the following bills supported by WEDA:

  • Bill Number:  Senate Bill 75
    Bill Description:  Creates a non-refundable corporate income and franchise tax credit for contributions made by an employer to an employee’s college savings account. Under the bill, the tax credit would be equal to 25% of the amount an employer pays into an employee’s college savings account.
    Bill Status:  SB 75 was passed by the full Senate on 10/31/17 and was sent to the Assembly for further consideration.
    WEDA Position:  SUPPORT


  • Bill Number:  Assembly Bill 266
  • Bill Description:  Makes several changes to the eligibility requirements for the Technical Excellence Higher Education Scholarship Program, making it easier for students to remain eligible and take advantage of the program.
  • Bill Status:  AB 266 was passed by the full Assembly on 06/21/17 and by the full Senate on 10/31/17.
  • WEDA Position:  SUPPORT


If you would like additional information on WEDA’s advocacy efforts, please visit the Legislative Bill Tracker or contact the WEDA office at

Quick Notes

QN – Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), the new Assembly Minority Leader, has replaced Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) on the WEDC Board with Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), who is also a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018. Hintz said he believes Wachs will better represent the Assembly Democratic Caucus on the Board’s review of the state’s contract with Foxconn. Barca broke ranks with most of his Democratic colleagues in the Assembly when he voted in favor of the $3 billion incentive legislation for Foxconn.

QN – The UW System recently announced plans to merge the 13 two-year UW Colleges into seven nearby four-year institutions, effective July 2018. The proposal will be considered for approval this month by the UW Board of Regents. The plan comes as UW Colleges continue to see a significant decrease in full-time student enrollment. According to a UW System release, enrollments at the UW Colleges have declined from roughly 10,400 students to about 7,110 since 2010.

QN – A day before Congressional Republicans unveiled their federal tax reform bill, the WI Assembly GOP announced they would consider a potential overhaul of the state’s tax code. Work on the tax reform effort will be led by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. The Committee’s chair, John Macco (R-De Pere), said in a release that Wisconsin “needs a tax code that will boost economic growth, create an equal playing field and spur job creation across the state.” It’s uncertain what exactly the committee will target or when they plan to complete their work.

QN – Governor Walker has scheduled a Jan.16 special election to fill the Assembly seat of the late Bob Gannon. Gannon, a Republican who represented the 58th Assembly District (West Bend/Washington County), passed away in early October. If a primary is necessary, which is likely in the heavily GOP seat, it will be held on Dec. 19.

QN – Last month, WEDA sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting the agency’s support for WisDOT’s application to the 2017-18 Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant program. The state is seeking a grant to support and expedite the construction of a portion of the I-94 North-South expansion project in Kenosha, Racine, and Milwaukee Counties. A number of other organizations have sent similar letters in support of the state’s application.

QN – In mid-October, WEDA Board member Bob Duffy (Oconomowoc Economic Development Director) testified before the Assembly Jobs and the Economy Committee on behalf of the City of Oconomowoc in favor of Assembly Bill 393. The legislation, which is also supported by WEDA, would create a grant program administered by the Wisconsin Arts Board to provide grant funding to businesses and other organizations to grow creative industries in Wisconsin.