Tuesday Trends sample: Exports rising, Marinette Marine mixed and venture capital falling

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Exports: The Walker administration announces that overall state exports increased by 11.4 percent in 2011 over previous year, amounting to a total of $22 billion. Industrial machinery exports, which account for 31 percent of all exports from the state, increased by 8.3 percent during that span, with the largest increases in construction and farm machinery and refrigerators and freezers. The state also saw export increases in electrical machinery, transportation equipment, and paper products, while Wisconsin’s agricultural exports set a record of $2.85 billion, an increase of 18 percent over 2010. Exports to Canada, the state’s top trade partner, increased 17 percent in 2011; Mexico, China, Germany and Australia were Wisconsin’s other top export markets.


Marinette Marine: The northeastern Wisconsin shipbuilder receives yet another military order, a deal for 40 U.S. Coast Guard boats worth nearly $90 million. The order, part of a multi-year contract signed in 2009, will be split between Marinette and a shipbuilder in Kent, Wash.; delivery of the boats is expected to start next year. But a previous military order for Marinette has generated some less-than-favorable headlines for the company. The USS Freedom, a Navy combat ship built by Marinette and commissioned in Milwaukee in 2008, begins leaking during an excursion in the Pacific and is forced to return to San Diego — the fourth issue the ship has faced since entering the fleet. Marinette officials say problems with new ships aren’t unusual, but that doesn’t stop U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., from seeking a review of the Navy’s littoral combat ship program — or from raising the possibility of rebidding the contract.


Venture capital: The rough state budget news could be the death knell for one of legislative Republicans’ top priorities: a measure designed to increase venture capital investment in the state. State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills and a major supporter of a venture capital bill, says disappointing tax revenue projections will make it impossible to pass what was expected to be an expensive proposal for the state. She says that while the work on a venture capital proposal will help in future efforts to increase financing for state start-ups, at this point business-friendly legislation will have to focus on removing impediments to startups in the state and avoiding any form of spending. Assembly Republicans say a new, smaller proposal from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation could still make progress this session, although they acknowledge a full-blown venture capital plan will have to be scrapped. The governor’s office says they’re committed to expanding venture capital despite the difficulty in enacting a proposal at this time. In a bit of positive news, however, Appleton-based NEW Capital Fund II says it’s raised $25 million toward a second venture capital fund, which will be geared toward as many as 15 early-stage companies.