Wisconsin Institute/Wisconsin Procurement Institute: Trade Mission Aims to Connect Wisconsin Businesses with Federal Contract Needs

Contact: David Niles
Milwaukee 414-617-6597

Wisconsin business owners and representatives will get a rare opportunity to meet with the state’s entire congressional delegation and with key decision-makers of government agencies during an upcoming trade mission intended to spawn federal contracts with state companies.

The April 25-27 trip to Washington, D.C. is being organized by the Wisconsin Institute/Wisconsin Procurement Institute (WPI) and will be hosted by the state’s congressional delegation.

Wisconsin in Washington 2006 comes as on the heels of a new report documenting Milwaukee’s low ranking in federal spending. The Regional Report of the Public Policy Forum in Milwaukee placed the five-country metropolitan area 36th in competitive federal funding for 2003, the latest figures available.

The report said southeastern Wisconsin’s failure to capture federal contract dollars “places our regional innovation economy at a competitive disadvantage to our peers.”

Other reports have noted similar disadvantages for the entire state.

Organizers of the Wisconsin in Washington mission hope to change that by connecting state businesses with federal agencies that need their products and services.

“WPI is committed to helping Wisconsin companies bring federal dollars to the state, because those dollars have a significant impact on our state’s economy,” said John Rogers, WPI chair and president of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek Government Affairs LLC and a government relations principal the White Hirschboeck Dudek law office in Milwaukee.

Rogers said the Department of Defense “credits WPI with creating or retaining more than 10,000 Wisconsin jobs during the last fiscal year.” That’s helped increase Wisconsin’s standing in federal defense spending, even while other federal spending has lagged, as the Public Policy Forum report notes.

“We need to do a better job bringing federal dollars into other areas, augmenting those dollars that are coming in for defense spending,” Rogers said. “This Wisconsin to Washington mission is a focal point of that activity.”

Previous Wisconsin in Washington attendees say the mission offers invaluable opportunities, both in the connections it fosters with federal decision-makers and in the knowledge businesses can gain about procurement practices and policies.

“Those who know the ropes are the ones who secure the contracts,” said Kim Olson, government affairs manager of Spectrum Brands, Inc. (formerly Rayovac). “The Wisconsin In Washington trip provides the venue to learn the process and secure the necessary relationships so essential in selling to the federal government. Simply put, it is a great opportunity for business development.”
Dane Deutsch, owner of DCS Netlink in Rice Lake, agreed, saying, “If you want do to business with the government, you need to remember that government is made up of people. Thus, it’s important to build relationships with those people.”

Elliott Erickson, president of Heale Manufacturing in Waukesha, lauded the direct information the trip provides. “Wisconsin in Washington is helpful because you get information that is valuable, unvarnished and direct from those individuals that manage the processes in various departments,” he said.

Deutsch, who has attended several Wisconsin in Washington missions, also appreciates the knowledge he gains from the trips.

“This is really a mentoring and educational process,” Deutsch said. “Sure, there is networking. But it’s not a matter of just getting to know people; it’s one of learning from them, and sharing your insights with others.”

One of the event hosts, Sen. Herb Kohl, lauded the event’s efforts to educate Wisconsin businesses about the federal contracting process.

“The Wisconsin Procurement Institute provides a valuable service in guiding Wisconsin companies through the often complex process of doing business with the government,” Kohl said. “Their expertise and experience is helpful in ensuring that Wisconsin businesses, who are often the best at what they do, get their fair share of federal contracts.”

Aina Vilumsons, executive director of the Wisconsin Institute, called the trade mission “a must-attend event” for those who want to do business with the federal. “Whether you own, run or manage your business, whether your company is small, mid-size or large, Wisconsin in Washington is an incredible opportunity to learn more about the federal procurement process and to get connected with the people and agencies that contract for products and services,” she said.

This year’s Wisconsin in Washington mission includes:
— Meetings with each member of the state’s congressional delegation and their staffs
— A matchmaking session with federal agencies
— A session offering insights into legislative operations and how to impact federal policy
— Briefings on current legislation, policy, budget plans and business opportunities
— Receptions and a Governor’s Dinner

Various sessions of the mission will take place at the Library of Congress, the Capitol, Union Station, the Hall of States and the Sewell Belmont Museum overlooking the Supreme Court building.

More information on Wisconsin in Washington 2006 can be found at http://wiw06.wispro.org, or by calling Vilumsons at 414-270-3601.