WisBusiness: Fischer says Wisconsin can weather economic downturn

By Brian E. Clark

MADISON – Wisconsin’s economy is facing “challenging times,” but should be able to weather a potential national recession better than many other parts of the country, Commerce Secretary Jack Fischer said Monday.

Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by WisBusiness.com, Madison Magazine and the Madison Club, Fischer said Wisconsin does not have either the “high hills” or the “deep valleys” of some coastal states.

“What we have is consistency,” he said. “We also have the strength of our exports and our entrepreneurship. We have a strong base here in Wisconsin.”

Even if there is a recession, he predicted some Badger State companies will thrive and grow.

He cited Oshkosh-based Marvel Manufacturing, which makes metal cutting machine tools, and cannot keep up with demand for its products. He said Marvel has increased its sales from $11 million to $30 million in the past three years and received a state grant of $250,000 to install new equipment, a move that could create 48 jobs in the next few years.

And he cited the state’s surging biomedical industry, which has created 25,000 jobs in Wisconsin over the past decade and now has revenues of $8 billion annually.

In response to a question, however, Fischer acknowledged that the state’s paper industry is struggling, with recent plant closings announced in Port Edwards and several other communities that will cost hundreds of workers their jobs.

Fischer said the paper industry is undergoing a global transformation and the number of major companies is shrinking. He pledged that the Doyle administration would work with unemployed to retrain them and try to find new companies for the affected communities.

The secretary, an architect with more than 30 years of experience as a developer, laid out the efforts by Gov. Jim Doyle to boost agriculture and manufacturing in the state and to increase companies investment in research and development.