This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.
In many ways, Michigan looks a lot like Wisconsin. It shares hundreds of miles of the same Great Lakes shoreline, and usually votes “blue” in presidential elections and “red” when it comes to choosing governors and members of its state Legislature. It also boasts major research universities that rank among the nation’s best.
Unlike Wisconsin, however, Michigan began investing in its emerging economy years ago – even as the state’s automobile manufacturing base was teetering on the edge of collapse.
The success story of how Michigan has surged on to the national radar when it comes to venture capital investments in tech-based, “knowledge economy” companies should be instructive to Wisconsin policymakers as they prepare to vote on creating a state-leveraged fund.
The Wisconsin Assembly is poised to vote June 6 on a bill that would create a state “fund of funds” seeded with $25 million in state money and built to attract twice that amount in private capital. It would invest in startups and emerging companies over time after a private manager is selected. Senate approval would also be need before Gov. Scott Walker, who earmarked the $25 million in his budget bill, could sign Assembly Bill 181 into law.
Michigan offers a prime example of how such a program can – over time – revitalize entire sectors of a state’s economy.