Jorgensen’s Journal: State Must Partner With Business to Jumpstart Economy
I’ve always said, I don’t have all the answers. But, I do know where to find answers and I don’t hold back on asking questions of the experts.
Right now, the State of Wisconsin faces a huge question – how can we get our economy back on track? We’ve tried to stop the bleeding with tax credits and job training programs. Our efforts have met with some success. But, with unemployment still fluctuating between 7% and 8%, and with so many storefronts still empty, it’s clear we have more work to do to reach a full economic recovery.
With that pressing need in mind, I have always reached out and continue to reach out to the experts – Wisconsin workers and Wisconsin business leaders, to try to pinpoint the moves the Legislature can make to foster growth.
So, you can bet that late last year, when Aztalan Engineering President and CEO Jim Brey invited me to tour his Lake Mills business, I jumped at the opportunity. Brey, a Korean War veteran, opened Aztalan Engineering in the ‘70’s, operating out of his two-car garage. In following his dream, Jim has since made a lot of dreams come true for his employees. Today, the company has 62 workers – and a beautiful, brand-new facility.
At the end of the tour that day, I turned to Jim Brey and asked – what can I do to help you? What can the state do to spur this same kind of success, across the state?
I’ve found in the past, if you ask the right person the right question – you tend to get a great answer. And, that’s what happened with Jim.
He and his sales and marketing director, Kirk Kussman, told me they noticed Michigan and Indiana representing small and mid-sized manufacturers at trade shows where critical connections are made and contracts signed. And, they said – Wisconsin was missing the boat (not to mention revenue), in not following suit. They said – if companies like theirs had help in securing contracts with more major manufacturers, they could grow and create more jobs.
So together, we set out to draft a bill to address that issue. This past week, I’m proud to report, I stood side-by-side with Jim and Kirk to introduce the Marketing Manufacturers and Keeping Employees, or MMAKE, legislation. The two-part MMAKE plan includes a measure that would create a five-year, $2.6 million marketing plan for smaller manufacturers and fund a marketing office and staff to execute that plan by establishing and maintaining a website, constructing and transporting a display booth for trade shows, and creating and producing advertising materials. The other component of the MMAKE plan requires the Department of Commerce to allocate $100,000 to hold regional trade and marketing forums in Wisconsin to help develop relationships between major manufacturers and Wisconsin-based suppliers, many of which cannot currently afford staff to promote their products widely.
Already, more than 25 of my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly are on board, and the legislation has been referred to the Committee on Jobs, Economy and Small Business for a public hearing. I’m hopeful that the bills will have bipartisan support - - they’re not ideas from a Republican or a Democrat, they’re ideas from a business owner, a job creator.
And, I believe we must start using those ideas – those answers from the experts - if we are to stabilize and strengthen Wisconsin’s economy, creating opportunities for business owners and workers alike.