November 29, 2018

In This Edition…

  • Executive Director’s Corner
  • WEDC Bulletin
  • REMINDER: DWD Implements Fast Forward Program Changes to Better Meet Employers’ Needs
  • WEDA Legislative Update
  • REGISTER TODAY: 2019 Governor’s Conference on Economic Development
  • Welcome New WEDA Members

Executive Director’s Corner: Brian Doudna, EDFP

Preparing Wisconsin Opportunity Zones for Investment

The Wisconsin Economic Development Association and statewide partners, including the League of Wisconisn Municipalities, WEDC, WHEDA and the Commercial Association of REALTORS, invite communities with designated Wisconsin Opportunity Zones to a full day workshop focused on the creation of an Opportunity Zone Investment Prospectus.
The workshop will be held at the Milwaukee Hilton City Center on February 6th, 2019. Please mark your calendar!

Federal Background:

Opportunity Zones are a new community development program established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide. The Opportunity Zones program provides a tax incentive for investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into Opportunity Funds that are dedicated to investing into Opportunity Zones. The Internal Revenue Service is providing guidance to the investment community on The Qualified Opportunity Zone tax benefits will be administered.

Wisconsin Background:

Once the federal legislation was passed, Wisconsin had a limited time to submit census tracts that matched the federal legislation. The Wisconsin Opportunity Zone designations were made based on recommendations from four state agencies; public comment; and an independent analysis conducted by a national consulting firm. Wisconsin has the maximum number of zones allowed under federal law and are found in 44 counties and 60 different municipalities.

Investors Background:

Individuals, wealth management, accounting firms, financial institutions and institutional investors will be focused on developing the legal structures to make these investments most advantageous to their individual situations. These structures will form quickly as federal guidance is clarified with most investors interested in a 2019 project to take full advantage of the tax benefits.
Opportunity Zone Investment Prospectus – Creating Deal Flow:
The workshop on February 6th is designed to help communities create an investment prospectus document that can be shared to promote opportunities within the designated zone. The workshop will be a working session with development partners to help identify and understand the types of projects and how different economic development tools can be layered to provide rate of return attractive to investors.

The session will bring together all aspects of a development to discuss and explore projects that can provide institutional investors the opportunity to make investments across Wisconsin.

This is a pre-conference session to the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development held on February 7th and 8th.

WEDC Bulletin

An Economic Development Update from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

WEDC awards grant to support startup businesses in southeastern Wisconsin
WEDC awarded the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) an $80,000 grant to support its Growth Accelerator program, which will help 10 entrepreneurial teams start or grow their businesses.

The grant will enable WWBIC to conduct two intensive, 10-week Growth Accelerator classes with five teams in each – one this fall and one in spring 2019.
The WWBIC Growth Accelerator program will focus on startups in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties by providing education and training, mentoring, technical assistance and counseling, and financial assistance to entrepreneurs in rural and metropolitan areas.

Zendesk establishes Midwest regional hub in Madison
Zendesk, Inc., a customer engagement platform, is expanding its operations in Madison and establishing a Midwest regional hub—a project expected to create 136 jobs over the next three years.

The company’s $12.7 million expansion will focus on growing and enhancing the customer service functions of the company, as well as its capabilities in finance, IT and professional services.

WEDC is supporting the expansion by authorizing up to $800,000 in state income tax credits based on job creation over the next three years. The actual amount of tax credits Zendesk will receive is contingent upon the number of jobs created and the amount of capital investment during that period.

Federal Foam Technologies to expand operations in St. Croix County
Federal Foam Technologies Inc., a leading global supplier in the foam and plastics industry, is expanding its operations at its New Richmond facility – a $7.3 million project expected to create 52 new jobs over the next three years.

WEDC is supporting the expansion by authorizing up to $195,000 in state income tax credits over the next three years. The actual amount of tax credits Federal Foam Technologies will receive is contingent upon the number of jobs created and the amount of capital investment during that period.

To accommodate growing demand, Federal Foam Technologies is expanding at its facility by constructing a new 100,000-square-foot warehouse. The building will house the company’s shipping, receiving and warehousing and will provide additional space for new production equipment. Construction began in June and will be completed by March.

Pet food company Stella & Chewy’s expands operations in Milwaukee County
Stella & Chewy’s, a natural pet food company, is expanding its manufacturing facility and headquarters in Oak Creek – a project expected to create 82 new jobs and a $30 million capital investment over the next three years.

WEDC is supporting the project by authorizing up to $500,000 in state income tax credits over the next three years. The actual amount of tax credits Stella & Chewy will receive is contingent upon the number of jobs created and the amount of capital investment during that period.

Due to significant growth in the number of customers and the size of the company, Stella & Chewy’s is expanding its capabilities of its manufacturing and business operations. The expansion will include leasing a new building, as well as the purchase of new machinery and equipment.

Total Administrative Services Corp. expands operations in Madison
Total Administrative Service Corporation (TASC), a third-party benefits administrator, is expanding its operations in Madison – a project expected to create 80 jobs over the next three years.

WEDC is supporting the project by authorizing up to $200,000 in state income tax credits based on job creation over the next three years. The actual amount of tax credits TASC will receive is contingent upon the number of jobs created during that time.

TASC is expanding its capabilities in Wisconsin to engage larger customers and expand to a broader clientele. To meet the needs of new customers, the company plans to hire 80 employees and invest $1 million, which will include the cost of onboarding new employees and computer equipment.

Lavelle Industries expanding operations in Burlington, Whitewater

Lavelle Industries Inc., a leading rubber and plastics manufacturer, is expanding its operations in Wisconsin due to growing market demand for its Korky toilet repair and custom rubber molded products. The expansion is expected to create 70 new jobs, and an economic modeling study estimates the project could indirectly generate 61 additional jobs in the region.

The first phase of the expansion is currently underway at the Whitewater facility, where the company has already started construction on an addition. Over the next three years, the company plans to invest up to $14 million in additional equipment, technology, building infrastructure and staffing to support increasing business in Burlington and Whitewater.

WEDC is supporting the expansion by awarding Lavelle up to $520,000 in state income tax credits over the next three years. The actual amount of tax credits Lavelle will receive is contingent upon the number of jobs created and the amount of capital investment the company makes during that time.

City of Brookfield receives $250,000 state grant to support redevelopment of historic train depot
WEDC awarded the City of Brookfield a $250,000 state grant to help finance the redevelopment of a former historic train depot building into a coffee shop and café.

The Community Development Investment Grant will support the relocation of an 1860s train depot in Brookfield’s historic Village Area. The historic train depot, considered the second-oldest building in Brookfield, will be moved across the street and repurposed into a Fiddleheads coffee shop and café. Fiddleheads is a wholesale and retail coffee business with six locations in southeastern Wisconsin.

The 2,500-square-foot coffee shop will also serve as the trailhead for a Waukesha County bike trail. The county will extend an existing bike trail to Fiddleheads. City officials believe the redevelopment of the depot into a coffeeshop and its establishment as the trailhead will generate foot traffic and growing opportunities to the Village Area, which will in turn benefit the existing local businesses.

Village of East Troy receives $250,000 state grant to support downtown redevelopment project
WEDC awarded the Village of East Troy a $250,000 state grant to help finance the renovation of a vacant downtown building into a new microbrewery and restaurant, a project expected to provide a significant boost to the village’s business district.

The Community Development Investment Grant will be used for restoration work on the former State Bank of East Troy building, which is more than 120 years old and has been vacant since 2017.

The new business will be an integral part of East Troy’s historic Village Square, the centerpiece of downtown that regularly hosts festivals and band concerts. The building, located on southwest corner of the square, is being restored closer to its original look of 1892 and will complement the rest of the historic buildings on the square.

REMINDER: DWD Implements Fast Forward Program Changes to Better Meet Employers’ Needs

In an effort to better meet the need of Wisconsin employers in an improving economy, the WI Department of Workforce Development has made some much-needed changes to the
Wisconsin Fast Forward grant program this month after listening to the recommendations of various stakeholders, including WEDA. The recent changes include:

  • Simplifying the application process;
  • Reducing the turnaround time between the application deadline and grant award;
  • Allowing tuition reimbursement as part of a larger training program when it’s more economical than other options such as on-site training; and
  • Changing the requirement that training be customized to allow for reimbursement of training that has not been previously offered by the employer.

WEDA will be working with the incoming Evers Administration to help ensure the changes are maintained during the transition of power and long-term.

For more information about these changes, please contact DWD at

WEDA Legislative Update

As everyone knows by now, there was a major shift in the Wisconsin political landscape earlier this month, when Tony Evers defeated incumbent Scott Walker to become the next governor of Wisconsin.

Despite what will be a change in leadership and an inevitable shift in policy priorities coming from the Evers administration, WEDA’s Legislative Agenda for the 2019-20 legislative session will not be significantly impacted. One notable exception is the future of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Governor-Elect Tony Evers has said – both during the campaign and after the election – he plans to eliminate WEDC and replace it with a Department of Commerce-like state agency. WEDA believes that would be a mistake. We will be meeting with the Evers transition team next month to discuss our concerns with the potential elimination of WEDC and to make our case why the public-private agency has been effective creating jobs and encouraging business growth across the state. In addition to urging the incoming governor to preserve WEDC in its current form, WEDA will also advocate for the preservation of key economic development programs administered by WEDC.

But outside of WEDC and a few smaller issues that are likely to arise under the new administration, WEDA will be advocating for many of the key issues we have been focusing on over the last several years – from TIF modernization and talent attraction initiatives to closing the “Dark Store” loophole and policies to encourage workforce housing development.

Please find below WEDA’s 2019-20 Legislative Agenda, as recommended by the WEDA Legislative Committee for submission to the Board for final approval next month:

Effective Financial IncentivesPromote new or enhanced financial incentive programs that encourage private sector investment and growth opportunities

  • Legislative Priorities:
    • Increase from 12 percent to 18 percent the limit on the amount of taxable property permitted to be within a municipality’s existing TID or TIDs at the time a new TID is created.
    • Allow small municipalities to have up to three TIDs regardless of the statutory TIF percentage limit. Many of these communities exceed the TIF limit with one or two TIDs due the small amount of equalized value within their borders.
    • Support comprehensive legislation to provide financial resources and new economic development tools to smaller communities and rural areas of the state to advance economic revitalization and growth.
    • Require the state’s Transportation Economic Assistance program to provide grant funding for projects that retain jobs, not just those that create jobs. In the current economic environment, job retention is just as important as job creation
    • Preserve the State Trust Fund Loan program in its current form. The program is one of the largest public investors in economic development projects in Wisconsin, investing over $1 billion over the last decade.
    • Create a state Opportunity Zone program that mirrors the Federal Opportunity Zone program to more effectively leverage long-term investments in communities across Wisconsin.

Advance Workforce DevelopmentAdvance talent attraction and retention initiatives to help address Wisconsin workforce shortage. Also, incentivize the development of workforce housing to help improve the state’s inadequate housing stock for the current and next generation of Wisconsin workers.

  • Legislative Priorities:
    • Create the Earned In-State Tuition Incentive program to encourage, through financial incentives, out-of-state students who attend college in Wisconisn to stay in the state to live and work after graduation.
    • Create a talent attraction incentive program to provide individuals who move to Wisconsin to live and work with grant payments to help offset housing costs.
    • Create a sales tax exemption for building equipment and supplies used in workforce housing development projects.
    • Increase the current TIF “housing improvement extension,” which allows a municipality to extend the life of a TIF and use the increment to improve housing stock within the community, from one year to two years.

Competitive Business Climate – Create a tax and regulatory environment that fosters business development, economic growth and new job opportunities. 

  • Legislative Priorities:
    • Support legislation to close the “Dark Store” property tax loophole in Wisconsin.
    • Preserve WEDC as the state’s economic development agency and maintain the agency’s economic development programs that have advanced growth across the state.

Robust Infrastructure – Support fiscally responsible public investments in Wisconsin’s transportation, telecommunications and energy infrastructure.

  • Legislative Priorities:
    • Support a reliable, yet reasonable funding source for the maintenance and future development of a modern, statewide transportation network.

REGISTER TODAY: 2019 Governor’s Conference on Economic Development

Don’t miss out on WEDA’s biggest education and networking event of the year: the 2019 Governor’s Conference on Economic Development. The three-day conference, which will be held in Milwaukee this year, includes sessions covering some of the most important economic development topics of the day, exhibits, receptions and other networking opportunities. The conference also provides continuing education credits for EDFP and CEcD certifications. AICP certification credits are currently being reviewed.

Conference Details:

  • WHAT: 2019 Governor’s Conference on Economic Development
  • WHEN: February 6-8, 2019
  • WHERE: Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Hilton Milwaukee City Center
  • AGENDA: Click here to review the conference agenda
  • REGISTRATION: Click here to register for the conference

For additional information or questions about the governor’s conference, please contact the WEDA office at

Welcome New WEDA Members

WED A would like to welcome and thank the following new members for joining the Association:

  • Robert Gunther, Village of Somerset Economic Development Director
  • Christopher Mokler, Christopher J. Mokler & Associates, LLC