Badger Blueprint Builds on Wisconsin’s Spirit of Innovation

 By State Senator Julie Lassa

In my column last week, I began to share the bold outline for Wisconsin’s future that is known as the Badger Blueprint.  The Blueprint will help reverse our state’s economic doldrums, re-energize our economy and return to Wisconsin’s traditional values of rewarding hard work with greater opportunity.  The Badger Blueprint is built around three major themes: Growth, Innovation, and Opportunity. I covered the Growth platform in last week’s column; this week I’ll address the second of the Blueprint’s themes, Innovation.

Wisconsin has been an innovator throughout its history, from public policy to private enterprise.  Today, Wisconsin is a leader in everything from advanced manufacturing to bioscience to water technology.  The Badger Blueprint will put that innovative spirit to work to revitalize our communities, spark the new industries of tomorrow, make sure Wisconsin has both the conventional and high-tech infrastructure we need to succeed, and improve the way the public sector serves our needs.

For today’s great idea to become an innovative industry providing new jobs and new opportunities, we need successful entrepreneurs.   Currently, Wisconsin is last in the nation in new business start-ups, a condition that has contributed to our slower-than-average economy.  The Blueprint will address this by removing unnecessary barriers to creating start-up companies, and building a culture of entrepreneurism through education and mentoring opportunities.  We’ll build on successful programs that promote collaboration between entrepreneurs and our educational institutions, and give those who start new businesses the guidance and support they need to thrive.

For businesses of any kind to grow, they need access to reliable infrastructure – from the roads, rail lines, ports and airports that move people and products, to the broadband Internet connections that are the lifeblood of our information economy.   We urgently need to find a sustainable, long-term transportation funding solution that can repair our crumbling roads and bridges and build the roads and transit systems we need.  And we need to improve broadband access, especially in rural areas, by building on successful programs like the LinkWisconsin Broadband Initiative.

Just as Wisconsin’s economy thrives on innovation, we need to make sure that the public sector is also looking for innovative new ways to serve our citizens.  We need to do cost-benefit analyses on state tax incentive programs, so we can make informed decisions about whether taxpayers are seeing the results they invest in.  We want to encourage creative proposals for redeveloping and growing Wisconsin’s communities, such as the Public Investment Partnership Plan.

            We can use technology to improve public safety programs, such as tapping into the power of social media to better respond to emergencies. The Blueprint would take action to address our costly corrections system, examining best practices and reducing recidivism.  And we would use 21st Century technology to make voting easier while improving accuracy and protecting election integrity.

Our state’s motto is Forward, reflecting Wisconsin’s heritage of looking to the future and leading the way to prosperity and progress.  The Badger Blueprint will help tap into Wisconsin’s talent for innovation to help promote greater opportunity for all our people.