The Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy held a hearing on Jan. 10 on AB 811, authored by Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) and Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac), that directs the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), in coordination with other agencies, to develop and implement talent attraction initiatives in Wisconsin.
The bill adds $6.8 million GPR to the WEDC budget for 2017-18 for the purposes of talent attraction and retention initiatives and instructs WEDC to collaborate with state agencies to attract and retain talent in Wisconsin, including leveraging existing programs within state agencies.
At the hearing, the bill’s authors told committee members their bill, a product of ongoing discussions and Gov. Scott Walker’s talent attraction plan announced in November, would help fix Wisconsin’s workforce shortage and attract new employees to Wisconsin.
Following the authors, several agencies gave broad outlines of their plans to use the funding provided by the bill. WEDC said the bill builds on Wisconsin’s already solid business climate that has been attracting new businesses to the state. WEDC would use the funds from the bill to expand on marketing campaigns they are currently working on and presented several mock-ups of advertisements they would place in other states to attract out-of-state workers.
The Department of Workforce Development said they would use funds to expand on their online jobs center and to create a mobile app with job opportunities and information in Wisconsin.
The Department of Tourism highlighted the major role tourism plays in the Wisconsin economy. The Department said they would use funds to expand on usage of the Travel Wisconsin website and would employ regional tourism specialists to Convention and Visitors Bureaus and other tourism stakeholders across the state to give them tools to leverage state marketing programs.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said they would use funds to connect with veteran transition centers, participate in military base job recruitment fairs, and create a national campaign to attract veterans to Wisconsin.
Democratic committee members asked the authors and agencies whether the agencies’ marketing plans would target minorities and communities in Wisconsin that are currently suffering higher unemployment numbers. Some Democrats suggested the funds in the bill should be used to focus on Wisconsin citizens and could be better used for other projects such as infrastructure or job training programs.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle had concerns about the current incoherency of messages among the agencies’ marketing logos and taglines and wanted to ensure the funds would go to a unified message.
In addition to the authors and agencies, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Wisconsin Ready Mixed Concrete Association, and Wisconsin Economic Development Association testified in favor of the bill. Several other groups registered in favor.
Both Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) have also stated support for the proposal.