Walker signs bill creating $25M venture capital fund

MILWAUKEE — Saying that it will “help dramatically spur economic development” in the state, Gov. Scott Walker signed the venture capital bill into law during a ceremony at a Milwaukee manufacturing startup.

The bill creates a $25 million fund that will invest with multiple private venture capital funds that invest in Wisconsin businesses.

Walker said the size of the fund, for which money was allocated in the state budget, was “just right” as it was small enough to not make it an attractive target during the budget process for cuts or reallocation, and large enough to be effective.

Walker said he hopes that more could be allocated to the fund in the next budget.

Walker said the venture capital bill and an earlier bipartisan bill that provided $20 million for workforce development will improve the state’s jobs picture.

“Those are the things that are truly drivers of economic development,” Walker said. “In the end, it’s these sorts of efforts that will ultimately put more people to work in this state.”

The bill requires the state Department of Administration to appoint a five-person committee to select a fund manager, which must submit regular reports and invest $300,000 of its own money along with $5 million from other sources.

Walker told reporters afterward that these conditions will help ensure the money goes into sound investments.

Walker made the announcement at MCT Inc., located in a rehabbed tannery building on Milwaukee’s near south side.

The company makes cutting machines for use in the printing industry. The company handles sales out of the Milwaukee office and intends to move its manufacturing to the city within the next year, according to John Torinus, general partner with the Wisconsin Super Angel Fund, which invested in MCT.

Torinus said the WSAF has about $6.5 million in capital and will likely apply for matching capital from the state to bring its fund up to about $10 million. This, he said, will be enough to invest into 20 startups.

Walker also addressed WEDC chief Reed Hall’s 50 percent raise, telling reporters it was necessary to put compensation for the role more in line with what others in similar positions make.

The raise, which pushed Hall’s salary to $185,000, was approved by WEDC’s compensation committee during their national search process for a CEO in order to help attract high-quality economic development leaders, Walker said.

He noted that former WEDC CEO Paul Jadin, who left to head the Madison region’s economic development agency, is making “much more” than what Hall is making now.

Hall said during a Milwaukee Press Club luncheon yesterday that an outside consultant recommended the salary and that it would “allow a reasonable range” beneath that with which to hire a qualified chief financial officer and to recruit his successor.

While it is less than what he made as head of the Marshfield Clinic, he said he would have been comfortable with keeping the $120,000 he was originally being paid.

“It’s a very substantial salary,” Hall said. “But I came into this job for public service, not necessarily the salary compensation.”

* Listen to audio from the signing ceremony:


* Listen to the Q&A with reporters: