In This Edition…

  • Message from the WEDA Board Chair: Jason Monnett
  • State of the Association: WEDA President and CEO Mary Perry 
  • Moving Our State Forward: A Guest Column By State Representative Rob Summerfield 
  • A Critical Investment in Wisconsin’s Workforce: A Guest Column by Department of Workforce Development Secretary Amy Pechacek
  • Gov. Evers Announces Application Dates for $420 Million in Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants
  • In Case You Missed It: WEDA Government Affairs Update
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Academy Update: Kathy Heady, Academy Manager

Message from the WEDA Board Chair: Jason Monnett

WEDA Board Chair Jason Monnett

As we kick off summer, I am thankful that every day feels a little bit more normal. This includes a lot of activity for WEDA:

  • The recent WEDA Academy webinar (5/26) on Business Attraction and Selling Your Community Assets was well attended and shows communities are looking toward the future. This is a far cry from a year ago when pandemic uncertainty still reigned. I believe optimism is beginning to replace the uncertainly of the past 14 months. 
  • There is a lot happening in the State Capitol, and I am very appreciative of our government affairs efforts in representing WEDA and pursuing our legislative priorities to help drive economic growth in this unique time.
  • Planning for our upcoming Bests Practices Conference (9/29-10/1), as well as the Community and Economic Development Awards “CEDA” and WEDA Legislative Day (both on 9/15) are all in full swing. Thank you to Mary Perry, the WEDA Staff, and our volunteer members working on these important events. We are certainly laying the groundwork for a busy, yet exciting fall event season.
  • The WEDA Board will meet in-person in July for our regularly scheduled meeting and will focus on strategic planning for 2022 and beyond.

Thank you for your support of WEDA. I look forward to seeing you in person soon!

State of the Association: WEDA President and CEO Mary Perry

WEDA CEO & President Mary Perry

Hello WEDA Nation! We start our traditional summer season honoring the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, courageously giving their lives fighting for our freedom. We hope you have a safe and happy Memorial Day, surrounded by friends and family, and in remembrance of our fallen patriots.

Even though the “lazy days” of summer are here, behind the scenes, WEDA continues to work on exciting program planning and development activities. Here is a glimpse into WEDA’s upcoming events and offerings:

The WEDA Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Network virtual statewide meeting will be held on June 24. Please note the meeting was originally scheduled for June 17. The CRA Network aims to connect development organizations with community and economic development projects that may be eligible under the Community Reinvestment Act to potential funders. It essentially creates a match making tool to help financial institutions collaborate locally and statewide on Community Reinvestment Act eligible opportunities and strategies.

The WEDA Academy continues to offer exciting economic development programming. Earlier this week, we held a tremendous webinar on Business Attraction and Selling your Community Efforts. On August 4, the Academy will hold a seminar on Managing Economic Development Organizations, which will be taught by leading experts in the field. Look for registration to open soon on this great learning opportunity.

The Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC) will be held September 13- 16 at the Pyle Center at UW-Madison. The four-day BEDC is designed to provide an understanding of the basic concepts, theories, methods, and practices, which will be taught by professionals who have earned the CEcD designation and members of the University of Wisconsin Extension Center for Community and Economic Development.

WEDA Legislative Day will be held in-person on September 15 in Madison. This free, WEDA member only event brings economic development professionals from across the state together in the State Capitol to build relationships with lawmakers and educate them on key economic development policy issues that drive opportunities for growth and prosperity.

The 2021 Community and Economic Development Awards ceremony will once again be held in-person on September 15 at the Edgewater Hotel in Madison. The CEDA Awards was established to recognize the businesses, projects, and organizations that are making significant contributions to economic development in Wisconsin – and are making their community a better place to live and work.

The inaugural WEDA Best Practices Conference (previously know as the Fall Conference) will be held in Appleton on September 28 – October 1. This year’s conference will feature an interactive community RFP scoring exercise led by internationally known site selector Minah Hall of Compass Key Solutions. Come for the networking and professional development—stay a few days to enjoy the “Fall in Wisconsin” experience!

These events and programming alone are enough to illustrate the value of a WEDA membership. if you are not a member yet, why not? We strive to advance economic prosperity through effective education, networking, and advocacy. Click here to find out more about individual and corporate memberships.

Moving Our State Forward: Guest Column by State Representative Rob Summerfield 

Rep. Rob Summerfield

Wisconsin’s future rests on our ability to address two emerging public policy problems: a lack of affordable workforce housing units and a lack of access to basic high-speed internet services.

At a recent informational hearing in the Senate Committee on Housing, Commerce and Trade, various experts painted the picture of a Wisconsin that is at risk of falling behind. According to Dr. Mark Eppli, a professor of real estate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, while housing demand is stable, the homeownership rate is falling. In fact, the median age for first-time home buyers is now 33 years old. This is primarily the result of a lack of supply in affordable housing units, which has driven up costs and forced many young people out of the market.

This trend has made Wisconsin an unattractive destination for the next generation. According to Dr. Eppli, our state is currently running a migration deficit with individuals ages 20 – 24 as many students opt for leaving the state after graduation. This is not good for the economic outlook of Wisconsin as its workforce continues to age without a replacement population available.

This issue is further compounded by a lack of reliable high-speed internet services. The internet underlies all the major facets of our modern society, including education, healthcare and business. I think this is one of the notable takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, according to the FCC, roughly 400,000 Wisconsinites lack access to basic internet speeds, with some 20% of rural residents falling into this category. It is hard to sell Wisconsin as an attractive option for families, and especially young people, when many areas cannot provide access to basic services. Neighboring states, like Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, have all rolled out aggressive proposals to connect their states and bolster their economies. Our state needs bold, innovative solutions to ensure we can compete.

The Legislature has been making progress on these issues over the past few years. During my first term, I worked with Governor Walker to enact 2017 Wisconsin Act 176 to create a low-income housing tax credit program (LIHTC). This proposal was followed up by an entire workforce housing package the following session. Although the pandemic struck soon after and we ran out of time, I reintroduced one of those proposals earlier this year – Assembly Bill 156. This bill builds on the model of LIHTC by creating a workforce housing tax credit to incentivize the construction of workforce housing units.

We are making similar progress on the broadband front. The broadband expansion grant program has been an incredibly effective tool at encouraging expansion into previously unserved areas. Internet connectivity has also received increased interest across the board. Over the past two years, the federal government has created grant programs totaling over $11 billion to address access concerns. At the state level, I have been working on securing more funding for the expansion grant program and restructuring it to ensure funds are better utilized to connect the state.

Despite there not being clear, easy solutions to solving Wisconsin’s workforce housing shortage and lack of high-speed internet access, these recent steps are positioning our state to remain a competitive economic environment for decades to come. I am optimistic we are making progress and moving in the right direction.

State Representative Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer) represents the 67th Assembly District in the Wisconsin Legislature. His Assembly district includes most of Chippewa County and roughly half of Dunn County. 

A Critical Investment in Wisconsin’s Workforce: A Guest Column by Department of Workforce Development Secretary Amy Pechacek

DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek

The last year has brought countless challenges and struggles for the people of Wisconsin—workers worried about finding work or being safe at work, employers who are anxious about the future of their businesses and how they will keep afloat, and entrepreneurs who had to halt their dreams, ideas, and innovations to pivot in this new workforce landscape.

Gov. Tony Evers recognizes that putting Wisconsin on the path to recovery takes bold investments in comprehensive training and education. That’s why his Badger Bounceback plan makes an immediate investment supporting businesses, individuals and organizations affected by the pandemic with $10 million in Wisconsin Fast Forward grant funding. The funds support business-led skills training programs, connecting new and incumbent workers with hands-on training opportunities that will allow them to advance within their current industry or explore completely new careers. His budget also includes money for Pandemic Recovery Grants and Healthcare Recruitment and Training. The funds would flow through Wisconsin’s Workforce Development Boards to help meet the regional needs that vary across the state’s eleven workforce areas.

A key part of our mission at DWD is supporting the next generation of Wisconsin’s workforce, whether it’s connecting young adults to training programs, degree programs through the technical college system, or engaging in apprenticeships. Fundamental to this goal is the budget’s investment in Youth Apprenticeship with a $250,000 increase in each year of the biennium. Youth Apprenticeship is a proven program that has served nearly 5,400 high school juniors and seniors during this school year alone and over 6,000 during the previous year. The budget also supports Wisconsin’s Registered Apprenticeship program by increasing funding for the Apprenticeship Completion Award Program. Investing more in these proven initiatives will better position more individuals to bounce back from the economic downturn we’ve experienced over the past year.

A main pillar of any bounce back from the last year is a strong investment in Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance (UI) benefit system. The emergence of COVID-19 created not only a historic public health crisis, but a workforce and economic crisis. Since March 15, 2020, DWD’s UI Division has paid out more than $6 billion to 641,000 people. This record volume of claims exposed the flaws of Wisconsin’s dated mainframe UI computer system and revealed the difficulties many people face to qualify for UI benefits due to the complex nature of the program. We owe it to the people of Wisconsin to be better positioned when faced with similar challenges in the future, which is why Governor Evers’ budget proposes $80 million to overhaul and modernize the state’s massive UI system.

The Governor’s Badger Bounceback budget also addresses disparities and supports workers throughout Wisconsin by making gradual and necessary increases to the state’s minimum wage, reinforcing employment protections and workers’ rights, expanding Wisconsin’s family and medical leave provisions, and ending discrimination by “banning the box” and including gender identity and expression as key discrimination protections. The budget further supports workers’ rights with $70,000 over two years to fund the development of a new online form people can use to file equal rights complaints.

Beyond expanding our existing programs, the 2021-2023 Biennial Budget bill supports Wisconsin’s recovery efforts through other innovative and critical initiatives, like our Wisconsin Worker Connection Pilot program. The budget provides about $10 million over the biennium to create customer-centric program that removes barriers to employment and connects Wisconsinites to employers that are ready-to-hire, as well as training and supportive services. The budget also creates a Wisconsin Work Opportunity Tax Credit to help increase the hiring of individuals with certain barriers to employment.

The road ahead will not be an easy one. While employment is beginning to rebound, about 140,500 fewer Wisconsinites have jobs when compared with February of 2020. The pandemic has structurally changed the nature of work across many industries, and matching individuals with the skills and training needed by our state’s employers in this new economy is vital. Governor Evers’ budget funds rapid and innovative solutions to address the critical issues facing our state. Whether through modernizing our antiquated Unemployment Insurance system, ensuring workers’ rights and protections, or advancing industries and supporting employers, we will help strengthen our state’s workforce and economy. And more importantly, after a year that has tested all of us, we will continue to build hope in Wisconsin’s future.

Gov. Evers Announces Application Dates for $420 Million in Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants

Participating businesses to receive $5,000; grant program to help up to 84,000 Wisconsin small businesses

Applications for up to $420 million in new Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will open at 8 a.m. Monday, May 24 through 4:30 p.m. Monday, June 7, Governor Tony Evers announced today.

The Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants program is a collaboration between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Department of Revenue (DOR). The effort, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), will provide as many as 84,000 Wisconsin small businesses with annual gross revenue between $10,000 and $7 million with a flat award of $5,000.

The grants are part of Gov. Evers’ plan to use the $2.5 billion the state will receive under the ARPA, which includes $600 million in funds designated to supporting small businesses. The Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery grants are included in that $600 million.

The new grants will target Wisconsin small businesses, including those that started in 2020, in sectors that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Individuals and businesses interested in learning more about the Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant program by visiting the of the Department of Revenue website.

In Case You Missed It: WEDA Government Affairs Update

Keep up-to-date on WEDA’s legislative efforts and other policy developments that impact WEDA members and economic development in Wisconsin.

Click here to review the latest WEDA Government Affairs News. You can also take advantage of the WEDA Bill Tracker tool that tracks legislative proposals WEDA is actively lobbying on in the State Capitol.

Wisconsin Economic Development Academy Update: Kathy Heady, Academy Manager

It is hard to believe that we have already completed half of the 2021 WEDA Academy programs.  Programming has continued to be all virtual, but we are looking forward to seeing everyone in person at the WEDA Best Practices Conference and pre-conference Academy program in Appleton in late September.

On May 26, the Academy held its second webinar of 2021 – Business Attraction: Selling Your Community Assets.  The course equipped participants with the fundamental tools to employ successful business attraction efforts. A big thank you to our instructors – Robert Hess, Vice Chairman and Kim L. Moore, CEcD, EDFP, EDMP, Senior Managing Director, Consulting with NEWMARK; and Coleman J. Peiffer, AICP, Senior Business Attraction Manager, Alliant Energy.

On August 4 from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m., the Academy will be hosting a webinar, Managing Economic Development Organizations.  The course will be led by two very experienced economic developer leaders – Barb LaMue, CEcD, EDFP, President & CEO, New North Inc.  and Ed White, EDFP, Executive Director, Sauk County Development Corporation.  Topics will include developing a strategy and measuring success, building community and investor support, creating an effective team (staff, partners and board) and budgets and funding approaches.  This will be a great course for those who are considering a leadership role in an EDO, are new to managing an EDO or those interested in learning approaches from other organizations.  This could also be a great course for your board and partner organizations.  Registration should be open in the next few weeks.

The Academy will be hosting a comprehensive program, Workforce Development: Overcoming Barriers – Building Opportunities, on September 29 just prior to the WEDA Best Practices Conference.  Workforce development has always been one of my passions, and I am busy planning a course that will provide participants with ideas and approaches to address barriers and to build opportunities in their communities.  The final program of the year, Placemaking: Creating Your Quality Place, will be a webinar, held on November 10.

I hope that you will be able to join us for one or more of these exciting and affordable educational opportunities.  As a reminder, be sure to look for approved credits/points for continuing education/recertification on the course registration information. Please reach out to me at if you have any program ideas or recommendations, or if you are interested in serving as an instructor.