Gov. Scott Walker delivered opening remarks at the Governor’s Northern Wisconsin Economic Development Summit Monday morning and then traveled to Eagle River that same day to deliver some of the same remarks to the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation (VCEDC).
In Pembine, at the economic development summit, and in Vilas County, at the VCEDC luncheon at the Eagle Waters Resort, Walker emphasized that tourism and the state’s broadband expansion are of particular interest to northern Wisconsin.
“This region is an integral part of the state’s economy,” Gov. Walker said. “From tourism to forestry, to manufacturing, the northern part of the state has so much to offer, and so much to build on.”
Walker stressed that he is proud of a number of accomplishments that have occurred since he took office in 2009, but he is especially proud in the reduction in the state’s unemployment rate and the fact that state now has a budget surplus instead of a deficit.
“Because of what we’ve been able to accomplish on the state level and our working together, you’ve been able to create more jobs and put more people to work,” Walker told the large audience.
Walker said that as of Friday, 13,000 net new businesses have been created in the state since he took office and a good percentage of them have been in northern Wisconsin.
“That’s a good indicator where the business climate is at,” Walker said. “People are not afraid to make an investment now to try to create a new business or expand an existing business to create new jobs. That shows just how much the business climate in this state has changed to the positive.”
Walker said that according to a poll taken about four years ago and then recently, the state’s business climate has dramatically improved.
“A poll of business people taken four years ago showed that only 4 percent were willing to invest and expand or create a new business,” Walker said. “Today that poll indicates 94 percent of those same people are willing to invest and take a risk on creating a new business or new jobs.”
Walker stressed that because so many of the new jobs being created are due to small business, that indicates northern Wisconsin is playing an important role in the state’s economic future.
“We’re creating the environment to help create jobs,” Walker said. “Many of the tourism jobs are in northern Wisconsin and are created by small businesses. That’s why we’ve worked to not decrease what is spent on tourism promotion here in Wisconsin, but increase it.”
The Summit, and Walker’s Eagle River area visit, highlighted the economic growth in northern Wisconsin; but also stressed the importance of connecting business leaders with resources in state government, including discussions with cabinet secretaries, to further explore areas for growth and development.
Walker repeated how important tourism and the state’s broadband expansion are in northern Wisconsin.
According to Walker, tourism sustained 184,000 jobs in 2012, and resulted in $16.8 billion in sales.
“Our tourism and hospitality sectors serve as the first introduction to our state, and that impression has long-term effects,” Walker said. “In 2012, 96.6 million people visited the state, and the natural beauty of the outdoors continues to attract tourists and hunters alike. We have increased the Department of Tourism’s funding to boost efforts to promote Wisconsin as the ideal location for state-of-the-art conferences and sporting venues.”
According to Walker, the 2013-15 Biennial Budget included funding for the new Wisconsin Broadband Expansion Grant program.
“Grants are administered by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and are intended to further expand broadband access statewide,” Walker said. “Reliable broadband is necessary to connect consumers and businesses with state, national, and international markets. Our rural communities need access to affordable, high speed Internet service in order to fully participate in the global economy.”
Walker also discussed the state’s $100 million investment to develop Wisconsin’s workforce, small business assistance, regulatory reform, UW-Flexible Option, Wisconsin Fast Forward, the In Force Network, and education’s impact on economic development.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.