Economic/Workforce Development

Heart of the North – Economic/Workforce Development Committee

The HON Economic/Workforce Development Committee represents the economic development and workforce interests of both the private and public sectors through leadership on regional economic development initiatives. This is done in partnership with our region’s economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, business alliances, main street organizations, municipalities, tourism entities, education partners (K-12, WITC and UWEC-BC) and others. Our in-the-trenches expertise provides unique insights to challenges faced each day that allows us help develop, advance, and most importantly, implement legislative and regulatory solutions to our economic development and workforce challenges.

The HON Economic/Workforce Development Committee Legislative Agenda shown below is the framework for our efforts for 2019-20.

Issue #1 – State funding for County economic development entities.

The State provides no direct support to County economic development agencies. We request the State provide $60,000 in direct funding each year to county economic development entities. Metrics will be developed and reported back to the legislature each year on the preceding year’s use of funds. These monies can be used to fund programs that promote entrepreneurial activity to include:

a. Creation, implementation and follow-up of start-up business programs.

b. Creation and implementation of entrepreneurial awareness and training programs.

Issue #2 – Funding programs to assist existing WI business to grow.

Wisconsin needs to support a more balanced economic development portfolio by focusing on second stage businesses – those small and medium sized companies looking to grow. To complement state investments already made to big business incentive programs and startup accelerators this initiative will target the group of companies that support nearly 40% of the Wisconsin’s existing jobs.

In 2018 Second-stage Companies represented:

· 19% of our existing businesses

· 40% of our existing jobs

· 39% of statewide business revenue

UW System’s Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship manages a statewide network of specially trained business consulting teams targeting companies with 10-100 employees. These business consulting teams operate much like extended staff on loan to the company for a short time to provide critical decision-making information on competitors, markets and new opportunities.

Program Goals

· Provide scholarships for 75% of the program cost to companies selected by local economic developers.

· Engage 70 + companies per year utilizing a proven model now operating in several other states

· Coordinate the selection of companies with local economic developers targeting rural areas.

· Concentrate on external trade companies competing in markets outside of the state

· Utilize existing teams of trained private contractors from Wisconsin

· Use a proven technique and process for delivering these services virtually across the state


· Increase individual business performance for sales, profit margin and/or market share

· Track new markets entered and/or new products introduced

· Jobs added and/or enhanced


· $250,000, includes a 25% match by the participating business

Issue #3 – Workforce Housing.

The lack of available workforce is the largest issue faced by business in Wisconsin. Workforce housing, especially in rural Wisconsin, is at a premium with 0% availability in most areas. Barron County recently performed a comprehensive housing study that showed a need for an additional 450 rental units and 1200 owned units (single family/multi-family). The greatest need is low to moderate income earners which makes up the majority of the workforce.

The WHEDA 9% tax credit is not available for most of rural Wisconsin as a rating scale created for urban areas penalizes rural with most areas not being able to score.

We request WHEDA address the rural scoring issues by creating a scoring mechanism specifically for rural areas. In addition to that, we request that the rural set aside be increased 10%.

We request the legislature authorize the creation of a workforce housing Tax Increment District to assist municipalities and developers to create new workforce housing developments. The single largest cost to enable new housing developments is getting sewer, water, street, curb, gutter, sidewalk and power to the proposed developments. We believe a workforce house shorter term TID (Estimated time frame of 10-15 years) is all that is needed as opposed to the length of the current commercial TID’s.