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— Proposals to shake up WEDC “could be counter-productive to the significant operational improvements” the agency has already made, an outside consultant report found.

Instead, the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness report lists as it top recommendation that stakeholders should recognize the state’s “best option is to help WEDC function effectively.”

“WEDC has made significant progress in addressing operational issues previously identified,” the report found. “Calls for another reorganization of the state economic development effort distract attention from the mission of helping Wisconsin businesses and communities prosper and could potentially re-create the very conditions that led to past mistakes.”

A draft of the report, presented to WEDC’s board of directors yesterday in Appleton, follows calls from Dems to scrap the agency. They have said the agency’s brand is “damaged beyond repair” and want to replace it with a hybrid agency focused on “family-supporting jobs.” Assembly GOP leaders have also hinted they’re open to looking at proposals that would change WEDC.

Mark Hogan, who started as WEDC’s CEO in October, said the CREC recommendations show the agency should continue under its current structure.

“My view is making change for the sake of change is rarely, if ever, productive,” Hogan said. “And in the case of WEDC, such a move would detract from the great many successes this organization has achieved in helping Wisconsin’s businesses grow and fulfill their goals of maintaining and creating family-supporting jobs.”

WEDC is paying less than $175,000 to CREC, which got the contract in June and interviewed WEDC management and staff members, key stakeholders in state government, the state’s business community and economic development officials in other states.

— The report also found WEDC needs to better articulate its mission and partner with other state agencies and stakeholders to accomplish its goals.

And it called for an increase in WEDC staff. The consultants noted WEDC’s 108 full-time employee positions are “substantially below” the 350 positions at the agency’s predecessor, the Department of Commerce.

WEDC also needs to improve its data collection and reporting processes, pay closer attention to outcomes for its largest award recipients and focus on developing industry clusters over individual solutions for companies, according to the report.

A key to the discussion, the report found, is convincing the public that there’s more to economic development than the “exclusive focus on job creation that has dominated past conversations,” especially as Wisconsin’s unemployment rate continues hitting new lows.

WEDC and the public also need to move away from looking at individual company news as signs of success or failure, the report suggested. Calling the Oscar Mayer layoffs “beyond the state’s control” and the expansion at Oshkosh Corporation “extraordinarily rare,” CREC suggested WEDC’s focus should be on helping communities “make the economic transition.”

Wisconsin has a $268 billion economy, and WEDC’s awards won’t be able to significantly impact that number, the report said.

“Truly effective economic development is a process, not a series of single events or project ‘wins.’ … Economic development today must focus less on solving the problems of specific businesses through individual transactions and more on creating opportunities for clusters of clients, companies, and communities to compete in the private marketplace,” the report said.

See the report:


— Wisconsin dropped to 37th in private sector job creation from June 2014 to June 2015, seeing job growth of 1.3 percent during that time, new federal data shows.

The quarterly data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which isn’t as timely as monthly data but is more complete, shows Wisconsin added 30,759 during the one-year period.

That compares to the 39,624 private sector jobs Wisconsin added from March 2014 to March 2015, according to the previous round of quarterly data from the BLS. That had amounted to a 1.72 percent increase at the time, which put the state at 30th nationwide.

But the state’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 4.2 percent in November, compared to 4.3 percent in October. The state’s Department of Workforce Development, which released the monthly BLS data, said November’s unemployment rate is the lowest in Wisconsin since 1992 and is below the national rate of 5 percent.

The state’s labor participation rate of 67.8 percent is also higher than the national labor participation rate of 62.5 percent, DWD said.

Wisconsin lost 3,800 private sector jobs in November, according to preliminary data, but the private sector jobs gain in October was revised from 1,500 to 16,600.

See the DWD release:


— The Water Council and UW-Milwaukee participated in a White House Roundtable on Water Innovation.

Yesterday’s effort showed the White House “ratcheting up its engagement on the issue,” said Water Council President and CEO Dean Amhaus, who spoke at the opening panel.

It’s not Amhaus’ first time at the White House. Amhaus, along with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other industry and university leaders, met with White House staff in July 2014 to update them on the Water Council’s work.

The Obama administration also announced a new Natural Resource Investment Center that aims to get private fundings to “help meet the country’s massive water infrastructure and conservation needs.”

See more:


— A fundraising campaign at UW-Madison helped the university’s surgery department triple its endowed chairs and professorships.

The department raised $17.5 million in the 2014-15 academic year, which will boost its endowed professorships and chairs from five to 16. The fundraising campaign, which was helped by the Morgridge family’s matching funds promise, will also lead to a pancreatic cancer tissue bank and innovative ways to train surgeons.

See more:



Wisconsin unemployment drops to 4.2%


State lost 3,800 private sector jobs in November


Regulators suspend WEC Energy unit’s $6.8 billion Chicago gas-main project for review


Third-party review cites more areas of improvement for WEDC


Alliant Energy reaches settlement with two utilities on new power plant plans


Actuant profits down, but EPS beats consensus


Lockheed Martin files suit over Army’s $6.75 billion contract with Oshkosh Corp.


MilwaukeeJobs.com to expand, add up to 100 employees


Milwaukee water experts add to national discussion on water innovation


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– More to Christmas trees than needles and bark



– Greenfield medical office building development dropped


– Neenah approves tower project


– Expo center moving at ‘fast pace’



– Excluding academic programs from budget cuts not possible, Mone says


– Grant will help researchers address achievement gaps in schools



– Marshfield Clinic enters Ministry lawsuit


– Dean Clinic and SSM Health’s hospitals added to Anthem networks


LABOR ^top^

– Jobless benefit fund still going strong


MEDIA ^top^

– Lee Enterprises plans leadership transition


– Marcus Corp. profits and sales fall in second quarter



– Dane County November home sales strong


– Marcus Theatres plans to open new theater at Southridge Mall


SPORTS ^top^

– Sports complex among ideas for Lambeau surplus



– Problems with massive state IT project cause payments delays



– Utilities to be partners in new natural gas plants to be built in Wisconsin



See these and other press releases:


– Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield: Welcomes Dean Clinic and SSM Health hospitals to Blue Preferred and Blue Access networks

– Carpet One: The six most feared stains of the holiday season and how to clean them

– CBS-Global: New owner for Zernicke Trucking

– Dept. of Public Instruction: Grant awarded to DPI and UW to address achievement gaps

– DWD: BLS data: Wisconsin unemployment rate declines to 4.2 percent

– Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce: Welcomes Jason’s Deli to Brookfield Square location

– Standard Process Inc.: Promotes four employees

– The Water Council, UW-Milwaukee: Participate in White House roundtable on water innovation

– UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health: Selects new leader for Native American Center for Health Professions

– UW-Madison: A compassionate approach leads to more help and less punishment

– UW-Madison: Surveys provide valuable data for graduate programs and prospective students

– UW-Stout: ROTC to commission three cadets at Dec. 19 ceremony

– Wisconsin Bankers Association: Statement on Federal Reserve raising rates

– Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty: Announces senior fellow on federalism, constitutional law