Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
While I applaud this fantastic news, I want to provide some perspective. The Steele Solutions story is a blip on the Wisconsin business radar. The sad fact is, Wisconsin’s business climate is horrible.
According to the October edition of the Capital Region Business Journal, (CRBJ), a publication put out by the Wisconsin Stare Journal:
“Wisconsin had the fifth-lowest job growth among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for the 12-month period that ended in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state gained 17,700 jobs, according to the bureau, a growth rate of 0.6 percent.”
The publication reports that under Governor Doyle, the focus has been on growing businesses that are already here. While we haven’t totally given up on trying to attract more businesses to re-locate or start-up here, that idea is not a high priority, to say the least. That could explain why Wisconsin’s business climate is the 38th best (or 12th worst) in the country.
CRBJ also reports:
“Pepi Randolph, the former head of Forward Wisconsin, said focusing on in-state companies makes the most sense for the state. But he added Wisconsin needs to do a better job of marketing itself to make it easier to land firms that aren't already familiar with its assets.
Randolph said as he tried to sell the state to business through Forward Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization funded jointly by the state and businesses to promote economic development, he often ran into the perception that the state was just beer, cheese and the Green Bay Packers.”
Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council and former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal agrees.
Still writes in the latest edition of the CRBJ:
“Unless you subscribe to glamorous magazines such as Expansion Management or wait impatiently for weekly reports from the State Science and Technology Institute, you probably don't know that Wisconsin does a poor job of marketing itself as a business location.
Oh, sure, the Green Bay Packers show up on the occasional Monday Night Football game and there's no end of on-air comments about cheese, beer and frozen tundra. As a result, most Americans know everything about Brett Favre -- and next to nothing about what Wisconsin has to offer beyond cheese, beer and frozen tundra.
The full story gets told from time to time on the news side of the national press, but you'll never see an ad touting Wisconsin in Business Week or a national TV spot urging CEOs to think of us the next time they add jobs or facilities. Why? It's not because Wisconsin can't compete with other states, but that we choose not to.
So-called "business attraction" dollars in the state budget have historically been little more than a rounding error. The state Department of Commerce spends a grand total of $30,000 on business attraction, which is shorthand for marketing, and the nonprofit Forward Wisconsin gets about $320,000 a year from the state to serve as its marketing arm. Your hometown grocery store or car dealer may have a bigger marketing budget.”
Still says he doesn’t want to be misunderstood.
“This is not a suggestion that Wisconsin try to spend toe-to-toe with neighbors such as Michigan ($8 million a year), Iowa ($5.7 million) or Ohio ($5.2 million). But we should at least match Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana, which spend $500,000 to $1 million each per year.”Still’s suggested plan of attack to market Wisconsin in order to attract more business:
“The state should target sectors of industry that are a right fit for Wisconsin, either because we have existing "clusters" of similar companies, a reliable work force, a strong infrastructure and a dynamic research base.” I find it fascinating that a monthly Wisconsin business publication would come out and confess that Wisconsin doesn’t even put up a good fight to lure out-of-state businesses here. There are probably lots of reasons why, with Wisconsin’s outrageous tax climate right at the top.
We also tend to over-regulate, a topic I’ve written about in the past.Another reason could be the "Franklin factor."
Here’s how it works.
You say you want to open up a business here.
Your plan has to go before the Planning Commission, over and over and over and over and over and over again.
It has to LOOK just right. It has to look the way I SAY IT SHOULD LOOK.
It better have the right amount of plants and not too much asphalt or places for shoppers to park. We want them to walk or bike their way in.
After you’ve kissed our rings and jumped through hoops and satisfied every elitist environmental snob in the city, we might still have a problem.
Now, because we can’t see beyond our up-in-the-air noses, we can’t comprehend that other out-of-town businesses are paying attention and saying, “The hell with this noise. We’ll go somewhere else.”
And then, you know what, folks?
Wisconsin had the fifth-lowest job growth among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for the 12-month period that ended in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state gained 17,700 jobs, according to the bureau, a growth rate of 0.6 percent.
Gee. I wonder how that happened.
Economic development. Business and job growth. We are our own worst enemy.