July 13, 2018

WEDA submits comments on proposed CDBG-CLOSE program

The public comment period on the WI Department of Administration’s proposed CDBG-CLOSE program to close-out all Revolving Loan Funds (RLF) has recently ended, but not before WEDA submitted official comments to express our members’ thoughts, concerns and recommendations regarding the proposal.

Under the proposed CDBG-CLOSE program, local communities will be required to return all locally held Economic Development Revolving Loan Funds as well as current ED-RLF accounts receivable to the state. Those funds will then be held for communities for non-competitive grants for economic development projects.

According to DOA, the CLOSE program is “designed to provide the necessary regulatory and financial flexibility for communities to address local needs while simultaneously addressing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) concerns regarding Revolving Loan Funds.”

In our comments to DOA, WEDA expressed appreciation for the thoughtful design of the proposed CLOSE program to address concerns raised by HUD and to provide an avenue for communities to recapture returned RLF funds to advance local economic development projects. However, our comments also expressed concern about the abrupt shift in policy under CDBG-CLOSE and what the long-term impact will be on economic development in Wisconsin.

Ultimately, the heart of WEDA’s comments was to ask DOA to consider providing local communities with greater flexibility in closing out their RLFs. More specifically, WEDA recommended a modification to the draft CDBG-CLOSE program to allow local governments to consolidate their RLFs into a regional RLF managed by an approved and certified non-profit organization. This consolidation process, which is authorized under 105(a)(15) of the Housing and Community Development Act, would “defederalize” a community’s Revolving Loan Funds and ensure greater use of the funds to meet the needs of Wisconsin businesses.

WEDA will continue to work with DOA and monitor further development of the CDBG-CLOSE draft plan before it’s finalized and submitted to HUD for approval. In fact, DOA is currently considering several changes to the draft plan, including two important provisions that could: 1.) Allow some communities to keep and defederalize their RLFs; and 2.) Allow communities who are able to repay their RLF accounts receivable balance to recapture additional funding in non-competitive grants.

For additional information on the proposed CLOSE program, or if you have any questions on the draft plan or the potential changes to the plan being considered by DOA, please contact the WEDA office at weda@weda.org.


CDBG-CLOSE Overview:

Under the CDBG-CLOSE program, which requires HUD approval, the state will:

  • Establish a start date for the CDBG-CLOSE program. The target start date is October 1, 2018.
  • At that time, local RLFs will be required to discontinue making new ED loans.
  • The cash on hand balance as well as the loan receivables balance for any outstanding RLF loans will be paid back to the state within two years.
  • Communities that cannot repay outstanding loan balances in the two-year window will assign the loan back to the state.
  • Funds returned to the state will be held specifically for that community for a period of up to two years in the form of non-competitive grants for eligible CDBG projects, such as public infrastructure projects; housing projects; planning projects; public service projects; or economic development grants.


CDBG-CLOSE Resources:

Please keep in mind that DOA is open to working with communities to answer any questions about the proposed CDBG-CLOSE program. They have also scheduled one-hour conference calls through the end of July to answer any questions related to the CLOSE program. Please see below the remaining conference call dates and times:

  • Friday, July 20 at 10 AM – Call in number: 608-282-3511
  • Wednesday, July 25 at 9 AM – Call in number: 608-282-3511

In addition to the above-referenced conference calls, DOA is also planning to schedule regional meetings across the state in August. WEDA will share information on those regional meeting as we learn more details.


Freshly minted senator appointed to WEDC Board

New state Senator Caleb Frostman (D-Sturgeon Bay) has been appointed to the WEDC Board of Directors by Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). Frostman replaced Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) on the board.

Frostman, a political newcomer, was elected to the senate in a June 12 special election to fill the vacant 1st Senate District seat. He is the first Democrat to hold the seat since Gerald Ford was in the Whitehouse.

Before running for the senate, Frostman served as executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation. He is also a former WEDA member.

The seat includes Door and Kewaunee Counties, as well as parts of Brown, Calumet, Manitowoc and Outagamie counties.

Frostman’s victory in June reduced GOP control of the state Senate, with Republicans now holding an 18-15 majority heading into the fall elections. Frostman is up for reelection in November.


Hearings scheduled for two key legislative study committees

During the summer and fall of every even-numbered year following the end of each legislative session, the Legislature selects a number of topics to be studied by special study committees comprised of lawmakers and citizens with expertise in a committee’s given subject matter. The topics examined by these special Legislative Council study committees often focus on issues that were difficult to resolve during the proceeding legislative session. The committees are charged with making legislative recommendations to be considered by the Legislature in the next session.

This year, the following two study committees were created that are of great interest to WEDA and our members:

  • Study Committee on Property Tax Assessment Practices (better know as the Dark Store study committee)
    • Committee Scope: The Study Committee is directed to review current property tax assessment practices, including the review of statutory, administrative, and judicial directives on assessment practices and the consistency of assessment practices throughout the state. Following its review, the committee shall recommend legislation to revise and clarify property tax assessment practices, including recommendations regarding the role of comparable sales and market segments in assessments and the assessment of leased property.
    • WEDA Interest: WEDA supports legislation the close Wisconsin’s Dark Store property tax loophole.
    • Public Hearing: The first hearing of the committee, which is expected to meet once a month through the end of the year, is scheduled for August 7, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. in the State Capitol.
  • Study Committee on the Investment and Use of the School Trust Funds
    • Committee Scope: The Study Committee is directed to review the statutes governing the investment of the trust funds administered by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL), including the loan programs administered by BCPL. The Study Committee shall assess whether current statutes adequately ensure the effective investment and appropriate use of the proceeds of the funds, and recommend legislation for necessary changes.
    • WEDA Interest: WEDA opposes any effort to eliminate the State Trust Fund Loan Program, which is funded by Wisconsin’s school trust funds, and has helped finance more than $1 billion in infrastructure and economic development projects over the last decade.
    • Public Hearing: The first hearing of the committee, which is expected to meet once a month through the end of the year, is scheduled for August 16, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. in the State Capitol.

WEDA will continue to monitor and attend all hearings held by both committees. We are also working with lawmakers to secure an opportunity to testify before each committee on economic development matters related to each issue area.


Second round of Foxconn informational sessions announced

The second round of information sessions for Foxconn construction work will take place at the end of July and early August. Five sessions have been scheduled in Green Bay, Eau Claire, Madison and Racine County, where two will take place. The sessions will help connect construction-related businesses and workers across the state with potential opportunities to work on the Foxconn project.

The sessions, which are jointly hosted by WEDC, Gilbane Building Company, and M+W Group, will provide an update on the construction schedule over the next 12 months, share a detailed timeline on the next anticipated round of bidding, and explain how the project is being broken down into smaller segments to allow smaller companies opportunities to participate as part of the “Wisconsin First” approach.

All business are welcome to attend, though the sessions are aimed at companies providing goods and services in construction logistics, roadways, site utilities, foundations, structure, enclosure, mechanical, electrical, plumbing systems, materials, and equipment.

Scheduled Sessions:

  • Green Bay
    • July 25, 2018 – 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
    • Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
  • Eau Claire
    • July 26, 2018 – 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
    • Chippewa Valley Technical College
  • Racine County (morning session)
    • August 1, 2018 – 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
    • Gateway Technical College
  • Racine County (afternoon session)
    • August 1, 2018 – 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • Gateway Technical College
  • Madison
    • August 2, 2018 – 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
    • MGE Innovation Center

The information sessions are free, but advanced registration is required. Click here to register.


WEDA’s “Champion of Economic Development” Award recognizes legislators for support of pro-growth policies

Over the past two months, WEDA has been to nearly every corner of Wisconisn presenting the “Champion of Economic Development” Award to state legislators who exemplified WEDA’s mission of promoting economic development and were supportive of pro-growth policies during the 2017-18 legislative session.

The award is presented after each legislative session to lawmakers that exhibit a strong commitment to making Wisconsin a better place to live, work and do business through policies that advance economic growth. This year, WEDA presented the award to 20 legislators. Award winners were selected based on several factors, including voting record, sponsorship of legislation and responsiveness to critical economic development issues during the legislative session.

The awards were presented to legislators in their home districts at events hosted by local WEDA members and partners.

“The legislators recognized by WEDA as “Champions of Economic Development” were exceptional advocates for legislation to help foster economic prosperity and create new opportunities for growth in Wisconsin,” said Michael Welsh, WEDA Legislative Affairs Director. “WEDA was thrilled to acknowledge their commitment to economic development issues at the State Capitol.”

For more information on WEDA’s “Champion of Economic Development” Award, including criteria, recipients, press releases and photos, please visit the WEDA website.


Become a Telecommuter Forward! Community

Legislation was passed into law earlier this year to establish a process by which Wisconisn communities can become certified by the state as a Telecommuter Forward! Community. The legislation was supported by WEDA, as it provides rural communities across the state with an avenue to promote themselves as telecommuter friendly.

The Public Service Commission recently finalized a model resolution and process for communities to become a Telecommuter Forward! Certified Community.

To become certified under the new law, Wisconsin cities, villages, towns or counties must adopt a resolution that includes a statement of support and commitment to promote telecommuting. The resolution must also designate a single point of contact for coordinating telecommuting opportunities.

“Since 2014, Wisconsin has awarded $13.1 million in grants to fund 101 projects across Wisconsin, with the goal of bringing broadband access to every corner of our state,” said PSC Chairman Lon Roberts. “The Telecommuter Forward! Community Certification builds upon these efforts to retain and attract families and businesses in rural Wisconsin by allowing communities to market themselves in a way that showcases broadband access and telecommuting options.”

For more information on the Telecommuter Forward! process, click here to visit the Public Service Commission’s website.