WEDC Bulletin: An Update from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
As Wisconsin enters its seventh month battling the COVID-19 pandemic, WEDC continues to advance on multiple fronts to address the challenges it poses to our state’s economy.
WEDC’s integrated approach is proceeding along three major lines: immediate assistance to help those businesses hit hardest by the pandemic; strategic initiatives to create the conditions needed for longer-term recovery; and continued commitment to “traditional” economic development programs.
In terms of immediate assistance, WEDC has launched a second round of We’re All In Small Business Grants to distribute $50 million in federal CARES Act funds by the end of calendar year 2020. This follows the success of the first round of We’re All In grants, which distributed more than $62.5 million to more than 26,000 businesses over the summer.
The latest round will provide $5,000 grants to 10,000 businesses; priority will be given to businesses that have been most deeply impacted by the pandemic. The grants will be administered by the Department of Revenue in collaboration with WEDC.
The pandemic has forced many to rethink their business model, such as by moving sales online, offering curbside takeout and outdoor seating, or developing products that meet consumers’ unique needs during this time. To recognize and encourage that spirit of innovation, both in the current crisis and beyond, WEDC is sponsoring the We’re All Innovating Contest, which will provide $3 million to roughly 195 businesses. Judging will begin soon, with an eye toward naming the contest winners by year-end.
As WEDC noted in its Wisconsin Tomorrow – An Economy for All report, the pandemic has demonstrated that broadband is essential for business, education, and even health care. WEDC and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission have teamed up to establish the Broadband Connectors pilot program. Six communities – the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Ho-Chunk Nation, School District of Owen-Withee, Town of Cross, and St. Croix and Fond du Lac counties – will receive technical assistance in applying for existing public and private sector broadband expansion funds.
Ensuring Wisconsin’s rural communities have a vibrant future is one of the keys to our state’s longer-term recovery, and the Broadband Connectors pilot is a step toward that objective. Later this fall, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity will make its recommendations to Governor Evers to assist in shaping the next biennial budget.
Meanwhile, WEDC continues to invest in our communities and our economic development infrastructure. WEDC recently approved Key Strategic Partner funding for all nine Regional Economic Development Organizations (REDOs) and three minority chambers of commerce. The importance of these relationships has only heightened as we all work together to build a more diverse, inclusive, and resilient state economy.
Local projects are also moving forward. In recent weeks, WEDC has celebrated its support for UpStart Kitchen and the African American Chamber of Wisconsin, both in Milwaukee; the start of construction for HARIBO’s manufacturing facility in Pleasant Prairie; and community development projects in Lancaster, Holmen, and Oshkosh.
Despite the pandemic, Wisconsin’s central location, well-trained workforce, and outstanding infrastructure remains a draw for businesses looking to expand or relocate. WEDC will have more news to announce on these projects in the next few months so, as always, to keep up with the latest in Wisconsin economic development, check out our website at wedc.org and follow us on Twitter at @wedcnews.