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MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers announced his 2021-23 biennial budget would target more than $200 million in assisting small businesses. Further, investing more than $29 million in workforce development initiatives and a new $100 million venture capital program.

“Over the past year, our small businesses have seen the effects of this pandemic firsthand. I am proud of our small businesses and of the critical investments we made with our We’re All In grant program, but we know we have more work to do in making sure we can recover from this pandemic,” Evers said in a news release. “These investments will ensure our main street businesses, our workers, and our state bounce back and better than before by helping folks recover from this pandemic while investing in new innovation and startups.”

Evers will unveil his entire budget package at a virtual address at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Small Business Aid

The governor’s small business agenda, dubbed Badger Bounceback, will provide the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp (WEDC) with $200 million. The funds will assist the state’s small businesses to recover from the global pandemic, including assistance for job retention and rehiring.

The governor also proposes increasing WEDC’s annual block grant by $10 million in each year of the biennium. Therefore, the total investment is $51.5 million per year. The governor’s office also claims the appropriation will “ensure that the state’s economic investments are felt statewide and in an equitable manner”. The proposal includes:

  • A one-time $8 million investment for WEDC to award to organizations focused on local or regional economic development;
  • Promoting entrepreneurship in underserved communities, including minority and women-owned businesses, with $10 million in direct investment activity.
  • Supporting tribal economic development by providing $780,000 in tribal gaming revenue over the biennium. The funds will support businesses and communities among Wisconsin’s 11 federally recognized Native Nations.

Governor’s Workforce Initiatives

On the workforce development front, Gov. Evers is proposing to:

  • Provide $8 million over the biennium in funding for pandemic recovery grants to the local workforce development boards.
  • Invest $10 million in the Fast Forward program supporting training for individuals, businesses, and organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Providing an additional $1 million in the Fast Forward program for training specifically in green jobs throughout the state. Further, encouraging career paths in conservation and sustainability.
  • Transferring $250,000 from the Fast Forward program to provide greater resources for young adults with disabilities through Project SEARCH.
  • Providing $500,000 to expand youth apprenticeship opportunities to more school districts and youth throughout the state.
  • Creating a new “customer-centric” worker program within the Department of Workforce
  • Development with career coaches to help individuals overcome barriers to meaningful employment with a $9.7 million investment over the biennium.

Venture Capital Investment Proposal

In addition to short-term recovery initiatives, the governor recommends numerous proposals to enhance Wisconsin’s long-term economic growth prospects in the future. The largest of these proposals is creating a $100 million venture capital fund under the direction of the WEDC to jumpstart innovation and startup growth in Wisconsin.

The program will be a fund of funds investment program, and no investment made by the fund of funds in a recipient venture capital fund may exceed $25 million. Venture capital funds receiving investment from the fund of funds program must commit to investing that amount in Wisconsin. Further, that these investments must attain at least a one-to-one match with private sources, such that the program as a whole attains a required match rate of two private dollars for every state dollar invested.

The proposal includes a requirement that at least 20 percent of the total funds under management be invested in minority-owned or women-owned firms or in businesses that are located in underserved areas. WEDC will establish an oversight board with various enumerated responsibilities related to the program’s establishment and management. Both investments made by this new fund and investments will be reinvested in perpetuity.

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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...