• WisBusiness

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Remaking Commerce agency only part of the solution for the Wisconsin economy

By Tom Still
The Wisconsin Department of Commerce is the highly visible tip of a larger iceberg – the state’s myriad economic development programs. While proposals to reshape that tip may help Wisconsin’s economy move ahead, reformers shouldn’t ignore what lurks beneath the surface.

Four years ago, a report by the Legislative Audit Bureau noted that Wisconsin’s 152 economic development programs are spread among eight arms of state government – the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; the Department of Natural Resources; the Department of Tourism; the Department of Transportation; the University of Wisconsin System; the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority; the Wisconsin Technical College System and Commerce.

While Commerce is the largest single agency devoted to economic and business development, both in terms of its programs and its budget for grants, loans, bonding and tax credits, other agencies touch the economy in many ways. Even within Commerce, no more than a third of its employees are actually devoted to economic, business and community development; the rest are regulators in programs as diverse as building safety, petroleum tank inspection and amusement park rides.

As Gov.-elect Scott Walker and the Legislature consider how to get the most out of state economic development efforts, one emerging answer is to dismantle Commerce and rebuild it along the lines of a public-private partnership, a model followed in some states.

That approach may work, but it could leave programs in seven other state agencies essentially untouched. Another option may be to relieve Commerce of its regulatory functions and make it a central clearinghouse for programs now housed in other state agencies.

No matter where they’re administered, state economic development programs all offer one of these five categories of assistance:

* Direct services, which can be as simple as information and technical assistance;

* Grants and loans, which are generally state tax dollars intended to promote economic development;

* Tax credits, which offset the income tax liability of businesses that meet specific criteria;

* Loan guarantees, which are commitments by state agencies to repay the principal obtained from private lenders in the event borrowers default on their loans; and

* Bonding authorization, which represents the state’s approval for WHEDA or municipal governments to issue bonds on behalf of businesses seeking to finance economic growth projects.

The largest spending category of the five is bonding authority, followed by grants and loans, direct services, loan guarantees and tax credits. At present, however, no single agency is empowered to use all of those tools.

If policymakers are looking for efficiencies, it may make sense to designate Commerce as the “traffic cop” for economic development programs across agency lines. Many of those programs might remain exactly where they are today, but Commerce could become the hub for determining what’s duplicative or outdated, tracking performance data, setting statewide and regional goals, and determining what state-run efforts are best suited for privatization.

Most important, such an approach might be less confusing for start-up and emerging businesses within Wisconsin as well as businesses outside the state that are checking out relocation or expansion opportunities.

In one sense, economic development should be a goal that cuts across all of government. A state that is “open for business” should exemplify that attitude in its public agencies as well as within its private business community. Sooner or later, a positive mindset can be infectious, even among public employees whose jobs may have little or nothing to do with economic development. After all, the jobs of those same public employees ultimately depend on Wisconsin building a healthy economy.

Innovation is the recurring theme of “Be Bold: The Wisconsin Prosperity Strategy,” a joint report issued last week by scores of participants in the Wisconsin Economic Summit process. The report stresses specific innovative approaches in the economy, in education, in government and more. Achieving that kind of broad-based innovation won’t be as simple as dismantling the Commerce Department – or any single state program.

Walker has set a goal of creating 250,000 jobs in four years, and everyone who lives in Wisconsin should hope that goal is met. There’s a choice: Spend valuable time focusing on the sins, real or perceived, of a single state agency – or share the responsibility for growth, in deed and in attitude.

-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He was a co-author of “Be Bold: The Wisconsin Prosperity Strategy,” which is available by clicking on this link or at http://www.wiroundtable.org/summit


Comments: 4

At March 10, 2017 at 4:03 AM, Blogger Happy said...

Easter Sunday 2017 wishes
Easter Sunday Quotes

At March 21, 2017 at 5:05 AM, Blogger rchandra said...

The Winds Of Winter
Game Of Thrones Season 7 Quotes
Game Of Thrones Season 7 Images
Game Of Thrones Books PDF Free Download
The Winds Of Winter PDF

At April 5, 2017 at 7:57 AM, Blogger Suman Patel said...

good friday verses happy mothers day photos mother day inspirational sayings happy mothers day photos
good friday easter mother's day photo mothers day card sayings mother's day photo

At November 5, 2018 at 1:05 AM, Blogger Jenny merged said...

If ye prolong by way of remote places regarding chicken-livered wrists, arm moderation afterward carpal tunnel, purchase definitive concerning that Best Ergonomic Keyboards into final result prioritize remedy therefore typing.


Post a Comment

Back to BizOpinion main page

: See newer blog items : : See older blog items :

BizOpinion site feed

wisbusiness.com Social News

Follow Us

Site Sponsors


· January 2009
· February 2009
· March 2009
· April 2009
· May 2009
· June 2009
· July 2009
· August 2009
· September 2009
· October 2009
· November 2009
· December 2009
· January 2010
· February 2010
· March 2010
· April 2010
· May 2010
· June 2010
· July 2010
· August 2010
· September 2010
· October 2010
· November 2010
· December 2010
· January 2011
· February 2011
· March 2011
· April 2011
· May 2011
· June 2011
· July 2011
· August 2011
· September 2011
· October 2011
· November 2011
· December 2011
· January 2012
· February 2012
· March 2012
· April 2012
· May 2012
· June 2012
· July 2012
· August 2012
· September 2012
· October 2012
· November 2012
· December 2012
· January 2013
· February 2013
· March 2013
· April 2013
· May 2013
· June 2013
· July 2013
· August 2013
· September 2013
· October 2013
· November 2013
· December 2013
· January 2014
· February 2014
· March 2014
· April 2014
· May 2014
· June 2014
· July 2014
· August 2014
· September 2014
· October 2014
· November 2014
· December 2014
· January 2015
· February 2015
· March 2015
· April 2015
· May 2015
· June 2015
· July 2015
· August 2015
· September 2015
· October 2015
· November 2015
· December 2015
· January 2016
· February 2016
· March 2016
· April 2016
· May 2016
· July 2016
· August 2016
· October 2016
· December 2016
Copyright ©2013 WisBusiness.com All rights reserved. | WisOpinion.com | WisPolitics.com  |  Website development by wisnet.com LLC  | Website design by Makin’ Hey Communications