Senate Announces Economic Development Listening Tour
By Senator Devin LeMahieu
This week Senate leadership announced a five-stop economic development listening tour. The Senate Economic Development and Commerce Committee will be traveling around the state to gather feedback from local stakeholders and Economic Development groups. The main focus of the tour is to solicit input about how the Legislature can craft policies to keep Wisconsin’s economy moving forward. Individuals can provide input to the committee either in person or via a website set up to support this tour. As we’ve seen in our own community, Local Economic Development Corporations (EDC) provide much needed support to industry and businesses in our area. Local EDC’s provide a one stop shop for companies looking to expand or relocate to our area. For instance, the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) helps bring in new businesses and people to our community by providing workforce development, attraction marketing, site selection, and non-traditional finance.
The success of SCEDC contributed to Sheboygan County’s double digit increase in exports in the last year. Our county unemployment rate is the 5th lowest in the state and the city of Sheboygan recently posted their lowest unemployment rate in 15 years.
Wisconsin’s economic climate continues to improve. As of August, our unemployment rate is down to 4.5% compared to 5.1% nationally. In addition, Wisconsin was recently ranked the 12th best state to do business by Chief Executive Magazine, an incredible leap from the 41st ranking in 2010.
Numbers and rankings aside, I remain committed to continuously improving our state’s economic and business climate. One main opportunity for improvement lies with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. WEDC, which was created in 2011 to become the state’s lead job agency, has struggled through growing pains over the past few years.
In response to recent audits, WEDC has undergone significant changes. This includes major improvements in areas such as loan delinquency, improving from a rate of 2.7% in 2013 to 0.2% in 2014. I recently met with incoming WEDC Secretary Mark Hogan and shared my concerns about identified challenges in the agency. Mr. Hogan committed to addressing these issues head on while strengthening the positive work of WEDC.
We need to ensure taxpayer accountability at WEDC, while protecting what WEDC is doing well. With a newly appointed director and a clearer objective, WEDC can replicate local EDC’s success on a broader level and become a major economic driver in our state.
The Economic Development Listening Tour will provide an opportunity for Legislators to hear firsthand from business leaders on what the state is doing well and where it needs to improve. If you have any economic development suggestions please feel free to send me an email at Sen.LeMahieu@legis.wi.gov.
Listening Tour Details:
September 24th - Oak Creek
October 5th - Rhinelander
October 8th - Appleton
October 12th - Menomonie
October 26th - Platteville
Senator Devin LeMahieu represents the 9th Senate District, which includes parts of Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and Calumet Counties.