Governor Scott Walker’s 2015-17 State Budget includes a proposal to create a new lead Wisconsin economic development agency called the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.
This new agency would be created by combining the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.
The merger of WEDC and WHEDA to create the FWDA will be completed within a year. The new organization will have a 12-member board to be appointed by the Governor. The chairman of the board will be chosen by the board members.
The CEO will be named by the Governor, subject to approval by the FWDA Board and confirmation by the Wisconsin Senate.
The Governor’s budget proposal also recommends regulatory reforms for the new entity that include limiting public records requirements, eliminating duplicative reporting requirements about position openings and investment strategies, and raising the threshold at which audited schedules of expenditures are required for awards to over $500,000.
As part of the reorganization, the Governor also recommends (page 224) the establishment of a regional revolving loan fund program overseen by the new Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.
This grant program will be allocated $55 million in FY 2017, and this funding will be provided to regional economic development organizations for creating revolving loan funds. Another $60 million will be pumped into this program over a three-year period by transferring funds that are currently allocated to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
This funding for the regional revolving loan fund program will be in addition to the FY 2017 budget allocation of more than $103 million for existing Wisconsin economic development programs that will be administered by the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.
The Governor also recommends an expansion of the Wisconsin Fast Forward grant program, with $3 million each for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The enhanced funding will enable the worker training funding program to extend grant eligibility to more training programs.
In his Budget Address, the Governor notes that these effective worker training programs are actually economic development efforts. “So many of our employers are looking for qualified workers. Increasing the ability to fill these positions will encourage employers to add more work – which obviously will lead to more jobs,” said Gov. Walker.
The budget also includes a proposal to provide a $500,000 Veterans Entrepreneur Development Grant to the Global Entrepreneurship Collective, Inc. This would enable the organization to increase the amount of seed funding, training and mentoring they provide to veterans who are starting their own business.