WEDC offers advice for the road forward

Posted on Jul 1, 2020 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive
Posted by of Insight Publications

A report from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. assesses the complex ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wisconsin and identifies priorities for the state’s recovery efforts.

The 150-page report, “Wisconsin Tomorrow — An Economy for All” was submitted to lawmakers and Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday. The state’s COVID-19 relief legislation, 2019 Act 185, directed WEDC to submit a plan by June 30 “for providing support to the major industries in this state that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency, including tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, forest products, construction, retail and services.”

WEDC offered the following observations:

  • Tourism, retail and service businesses are still closed, are open in voluntary limited capacity or are struggling for customers. Most have seen substantial declines in their business and are unsure of their long-term prospects.
  • Agriculture and food and beverage, which have been identified as essential businesses, are seeking to anticipate the markets and manage disruptions to the supply chain.
  • Manufacturing and construction saw less immediate disruption but anticipate the long-term economic impact with slower consumer spending and overall activity as well as declining capital investment.
  • Forest products have had perhaps the starkest divide, with consumer paper goods at record highs while the decline in printed advertising has seriously impacted the catalog and magazine industry.
  • Education and health care — both huge economic engines in their own right — have also been disrupted or nearly brought to a halt by the pandemic.

In light of the evolving nature of the pandemic and its still-unfolding impact on the state’s economy, the report calls for the state to focus on three priorities:

Get everyone back to work: The report notes that COVID-19 has transformed Wisconsin’s workforce. Many service-sector jobs, particularly in retail and restaurants, have been eliminated and are not likely to return. It will be crucial to reskill and train people who lost their jobs. The pandemic has reinforced access to high-quality child care, early childhood education and health care as essential to the economy.

Fix broadband: The pandemic has highlighted the digital divide in our state. Education, e-commerce, remote working and even contact with government depend on access to computers and high-speed internet.

Support innovation: Innovation fuels job growth, as well as flexibility and resiliency in our businesses. In a time of constrained resources and risk aversion, Wisconsin has the chance to use its innovative, entrepreneurial spirit to launch its recovery.