By Samantha Hernandez
ASHLAND — Cost effectiveness is key to bringing technology investments to Wisconsin, Department of Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel said today at the Lake Superior Technology Conference.
“Wisconsin is no longer a flyover zone” and more technology-based businesses are coming to the state, Leinenkugel told those gathered at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.
He cited cost effectiveness as the reason companies and investors are looking to Wisconsin for research partners and investment opportunities, rather than going with more costly coastal options. The state’s challenge now is to stay competitive, Leinenkugel said.
Leinenkugel said the new state budget encourages the state’s businesses to invest, particularly because of a new jobs tax credit that rewards companies that build and retain jobs in the state.
He said the new budget also allows more industries the opportunity to invest in Qualified New Business Ventures or QNBVs. To date there have been more than 100 QNBVs certified, Leinenkugel said. According to the Wisconsin Department of Commerce Web site, a business can qualify as a QNBV by developing a “new product or business process” or “manufacturing, agriculture or processing or assembly products and conducting research and development.”
Leinenkugel acknowledged that tech leaders see Wisconsin facing a tough economy, but he also pointed out that the recent WisBusiness.com Tech Leaders Survey found 45 percent of the 277 tech leaders who responded were optimistic that the economy would begin to improve in the next year.
Leinenkugel peppered his speech with references to those with entrepreneurial spirits and said that while new businesses are not immune to a bad economy, there are incentives out there for those who are willing to start one.
“Entrepreneurs take prudent, not rash, risks,” Leinenkugel said.
Leinenkugel called the Chequamegon Bay area manufacturing alliance a “model of collaboration” because it provides more area jobs and “better value” for customers.
The alliance is made up of four businesses: Ashland Industries Inc. in Ashland, Washburn Iron Works in Washburn, Eagle Forge in Ashland and World Class Precision Products in Bayfield. He said that the companies are working with the state’s Green Tier program on sustainable practices and environmentally friendly technology.
“This area, I think, is absolutely poised to grow and be a big part of Wisconsin’s economy,” Leinenkugel said of region.
After Leinenkugel’s speech, the conference continued throughout the day with more than 20 speakers holding workshops throughout the day addressing four broad Lake Superior asset areas: lake, forest, food and health.
Mayors Ed Monroe of Ashland and Larry MacDonald of Bayfield attended the event. According to event coordinators about 110 people will attend the workshops. The conference, which is in its fourth year, is promoting growth of tech-based businesses in northwest Wisconsin.