Gov. Walker Announces Investment in Tourism and Economic Development

As the date of Gov. Walker’s budget address draws nearer, the governor has been releasing some details about proposals that will be contained in it. At the Wisconsin Economic Development Association’s Governor’s Conference on Economic Development, he announced some economic development initiatives aimed at improving the business climate and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation as well as some details on investment in tourism.

“Continually improving our economic environment will foster small business growth and encourage the creation of new businesses,” said Governor Walker. “The majority of jobs created in Wisconsin will come from small businesses or employers who are just getting started. The initiatives contained in my budget proposal will support entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Among the economic development programs and initiatives funded in Governor Walker’s next budget are:

  • Seed Accelerator and Capital Catalyst Programs: Investing nearly $6 million in Seed Accelerator and Capital Catalyst Programs at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. These programs support high-potential entrepreneurs and businesses as they start and grow.
    • Seed Accelerator Program: Aimed at increasing the number of startups in the state by providing matching funds to communities and partners to establish business model programs to assist entrepreneurs in taking ideas to company formation. These local entrepreneurship programs will provide participants with tools and guidance to start new businesses, such as mentorship, business planning, and networking with key contacts and potential investors.
    • Capital Catalyst Program: Provides access to financing for entrepreneurs who have successfully completed an accelerator program. WEDC has already made investments with local partners through this program, including the Innovation Fund of Western Wisconsin in Eau Claire and the Whitewater Community Development Authority, which was announced earlier this week.
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Marketing Program: Providing $10.9 million over the biennium to support WEDC’s marketing program promoting Wisconsin as a great place to do business. WEDC marketing focuses on attracting businesses, promoting investment opportunities in Wisconsin, and changing the negative perceptions that may still exist about doing business in Wisconsin. By increasing resources to WEDC for marketing, Wisconsin’s investment in this program will make the state more competitive among the economic development marketing programs of our peers in the Midwest.
  • VETransfer Grant: Providing an additional $500,000 grant to VETransfer through the Department of Veterans Affairs’s Veterans Trust Fund. VETransfer is a business accelerator for U.S. Veterans looking to start their own businesses. VETransfer must use at least $300,000 to increase the amount of seed funding available to provide grants to Wisconsin veteran-owned start-ups; VETransfer may use up to $200,000 to support other activities directly supporting the nonprofit’s mission.
  • Economic Development Tax Credit: Providing an additional $75 million in available credits for the Economic Development Tax Credit program. This tax credit is aimed at encouraging businesses to make capital investments, expand and retain jobs, invest in job training, and locate or retain their corporate headquarters in Wisconsin.
  • Angel Investment Tax Credit: Lifting the cap on this tax credit program focused on encouraging private investment in start-up companies. The budget removes the maximum cap, which is currently set at $47.5 million, but retains the annual limit, effectively allowing this program to continue into the future.
  • Department of Tourism: In 2011, tourism in Wisconsin had a $16 billion impact, an increase of 8 percent from 2010. Over 95 million people visited the state supporting 181,000 jobs and approximately $1.3 billion in state and local revenue.
    • Tourism Marketing: Expanding the Department of Tourism’s effective marketing campaign by allowing the department to keep over $1 million in funds previously contained in a budget lapse.
    • International Tourism Marketing: Implement strategic marketing plan to grow international travel. The Department will use $100,000 each year to support efforts to attract international visitors to Wisconsin.
    • Grant Programs for National Meetings, Conventions, and Sporting Events: Allocating $75,000 per year for grants to programs aimed at attracting national meetings, conventions, and sporting events.

The initiatives announced today by Governor Walker span across numerous government entities including the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

Gov. Walker also said that he will be looking to make an investment in statewide broadband and increased internet.