WisBusiness: Federal contracts offer a way to boost Wisconsin economy

By Brian E. Clark

The federal government sent $338 billion in 2005 to the states to fund research, buy products and pay for services. Wisconsin got $3.3 billion of that money, up 40 percent from 2004.

But the Badger State could do much better, the new head of the Wisconsin Security Research Consortium (WSRC) told a Wisconsin Innovation Network luncheon Tuesday at University Research Park in Madison.

Jack Heinemann, WSRC’s director, told more than 60 people who attended the talk that federal defense, Homeland Security and other federal agencies offer an excellent opportunity to boost the Wisconsin economy.

He said it is especially important for the state to look to security related spending because after growing in the 1990s, grants from the National Institutes for Health and the National Science Foundation are flat or declining. Those agencies have funded billions of dollars worth of research at UW-Madison and other universities.

He said the WSRC was launched in 2005 partially in response to the NIH and NSF numbers. Heinemann said most of the federal money sent to Wisconsin in 2005 went to one company, Oshkosh Truck, which earned $1.3 billion from the defense department for building heavy vehicles primarily for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“But we must develop other avenues for getting those federal dollars,” said Heinemann, who is married to Laurie Keating-Heinemann, who heads the state Department of Financial Institutions.

“We also need to enhance Wisconsin’s position to do sensitive and classified academic research and related projects. To do that, we will be marketing the state to the Department of Defense and other agencies,” said Heinemann, who has worked for Oshkosh Truck, Briggs & Stratton and holds a classified security clearance from the federal government.