One of the biggest challenges we face is the perception that Wisconsin isn’t a good place to do business. We have to overcome that. Gov. Scott Walker is out there as a cheerleader for Wisconsin, but he’s doing more than that – he’s trying to implement changes and change policies to make the state a better place to do business. We need to fix those negative rankings Wisconsin keeps showing up in.
The new Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will be an integral part of doing just that. We’re seeking to create a new public-private structure that will be more creative and more responsive to what businesses need to succeed. The details are being worked out, but the corp. will have a 12-member board of directors led by myself as a chief executive officer. The governor will serve as the board’s chairman. There are some other state organizations out there that this is based on, but a lot of it is new ground.
There’s been talk about how this will replace the current Commerce Department, but what we’re really doing is focusing the efforts on economic development and then taking other responsibilities such as those related to regulations and moving them to more appropriate areas.
It’s not an easy road ahead. Gov. Walker said during the election he would create 250,000 new jobs in Wisconsin during the next four years – that’s something that will fall on the department’s doorstep, but the new organization will allow us to be nimble and responsive to businesses. We will all work together and come up with measurements that we’re all striving for.
We have a lot of partners in Wisconsin that we’ll be working with – regional organizations, like New North, Inc., the Milwaukee 7, Thrive in the Madison area and so on, as well as our municipal officials who are also working hard on economic development issues. Economic development occurs because of the local leadership and we need to respect that and work with them at the state level and not against them. I have strong ties to Northeast Wisconsin and I am now working to build my relationships with other people and organizations across the state so we’re all working in the same direction.
Before joining Commerce, I was at the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce for seven years and before that was mayor of Green Bay. In both roles, I saw the assets that the different players bring as well as the frustrations they have. I’m sure those experiences – as well as my negotiating experience – is what helped land me this job. I see the assets the different players bring to the table along with the frustrations they have.
I was a labor negotiator before I became mayor of Green Bay. The skills I developed through that experience paid dividends in my career. The work I did moving the renovation of Lambeau Field ahead is a success that a lot of people point to, but it was really getting everyone around the table and focusing on what the key goal was.
Everyone’s heard the slogan Gov. Walker’s been using that “Wisconsin is open for business.” It’s more than just a slogan. It’s what we’re doing across the board – we’re making changes so businesses know that we’re serious.
Retention and growth are both a priority. We want to give growth to new businesses and build entrepreneurs here in Wisconsin. This is all about creating an organization that will be more flexible, creative and responsive to job opportunities.