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Friday, November 9, 2012

Cathy Stepp: New office strengthens DNR's role with businesses


By Cathy Stepp
Wisconsin is taking bold actions in order to out-compete states across the country in the pursuit of economic development, job creation and attraction of new businesses. These efforts will not sacrifice environmental protection, but by working together up-front we should see better environmental outcomes.

What will ultimately differentiate Wisconsin from other states, and differentiate Wisconsin businesses from other competitors, will be the partnership between our private and public sectors, the time sensitive coordination with state government and the extent of innovative programs that can adapt to very diverse business needs. In my first 21 months as DNR Secretary, I have come to realize even more how critical a role the department plays in creating a stable, sustainable business climate.

What started with Governor Walker's creation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is being strengthened by creation of the Office of Business Support and Sustainability (OBSS) within the DNR. This new office will focus on ten of our most important business sectors, where working relationships between DNR and the sector can build value - both for the environment and the economy.

For each sector we will designate one key staff person as a point of contact within DNR. Sector teams within DNR will be charged to provide specialized support for their respective sectors - to walk in the shoes of those businesses, listen to business needs and understand sector trends. I expect these teams to produce business value and environmental results. I will be listening closely to citizens and businesses alike to hear if we are meeting this goal.

Among the United States, Wisconsin has the most potent set of regulator innovation tools for building profitability and competitive advantage. Our Office of Business Support and Sustainability has been created to capitalize on those tools, and has been positioned to work even more effectively with partners.

Through Wisconsin's Green Tier Law, companies have gained access to new markets, strengthened relationships with customers, expedited permitting processes, accessed cost saving technologies and reduced material costs. Executive Order 69 from Governor Walker set the stage for OBSS to work with businesses and amongst all DNR programs to get more participation and value from this nationally recognized program. Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council are also key partners with this new office. We are not aware of any other state that has the same level of regulatory flexibility, skill development, peer recognition and level of coordination between those partners as does Wisconsin.

This new office will provide a framework within DNR to ensure the right resources are allocated to do our part for business development. We will make sure that the needs of new and growing businesses are addressed and that broad needs for the business sectors are met. Lastly, we will share sustainable practices and work with partners to assure that the competitive advantages from sustainability are accessible and achievable.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is poised to do its part in Wisconsin's economic recovery. We want to prove that economic vitality and environmental protection can occur hand-in-hand in this great state.

-- Stepp is secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.

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