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Investment capital means job growth for Wisconsin

May 23, 2013 | 0 comments

A commentary by State Reps. Mike Kuglitsch and Fred Clark.

Madison

It's no secret that Republicans and Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature have disagreed on more than a few issues in recent years. There comes a time, however, to put partisanship aside and to stand on common ground.

That time is now and the unifying issue is investing in Wisconsin's high-growth economy to create family sustaining jobs.

Together, we have sponsored legislation, which will create a $25-million, state-leveraged fund to invest in the companies and jobs of tomorrow. In the State Senate, the lead sponsors of this approach - Sens. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Tim Cullen, D-Janesville - have and will continue to provide the leadership on this critical jobs issue.

If passed by the full Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Walker, the fund created by this bill must attract twice the state's investment in private dollars. Those dollars will be invested over time in some of Wisconsin's most promising young companies.

Republicans and Democrats alike believe company and job creation is essential to Wisconsin's long-term success. Lawmakers in both parties also agree we need more family sustaining jobs. We also know that young companies - those five years old or younger - are statistically the source of virtually all net new jobs in Wisconsin and the United States.

We want to stop the exodus of ideas, innovation and intellectual property from Wisconsin, which is a national leader in creating new technologies but which lags in turning those ideas into companies that plant roots in our native soil. In fact, independent surveys have shown Wisconsin near the 50-state bottom in annual company creation.

If Wisconsin doesn't invest now in building new companies and jobs, we will lose valuable workers - mostly, young workers - to other states. With them will exit a piece of our future, as well as our hopes to keep our best and brightest sons and daughters close to home.

Modeled after similar funds in other states, the Wisconsin fund will spur company creation and job growth while building safeguards to protect taxpayers.

This legislation will help make sure good ideas stay in Wisconsin while protecting taxpayers through tried-and-true methods of accountability and transparency. The state would be treated just like all private partners in the "fund-of-funds," sharing the risks and the rewards.

It will take some time for the fund to show a return on investment in the traditional sense, simply because young companies can take several years to mature. However, another important return on investment - jobs and economic activity - will materialize shortly after investments are made in young companies.

Dollars invested by angels and venture capitalists are used to hire and retain competitive talent, buy equipment, build sales, rent space, complete research and generally conduct business. In short, dollars invested at home tend to stay in the local economy.

We want this process to begin as quickly as possible and to produce results as soon as possible. That's why the fund will be targeted at these broad sectors: agriculture, advanced manufacturing, engineered products, information technology, and medical devices and imaging.

These sectors align with many of Wisconsin's existing strengths and provide a shorter "runway" for company takeoff. The shorter the runway, the sooner companies, jobs and investment returns can be realized.

Wisconsin is competing for its fair share of the $50 billion invested each year nationally in angel and venture capital deals. Thirty other states were successfully engaged in that competition. In the last few months alone, similar funds in Colorado, Georgia, Arizona and Indiana have been proposed or launched.

Republicans and Democrats may find other issues that they disagree on, but we need come together around those ideas that stop "brain drain," keep companies at home and create family sustaining jobs. Our proposal for a state-leveraged investment fund meets that test.

Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, represents the 84th Assembly District, which includes parts of Waukesha and Milwaukee counties. Clark, D-Sauk City, represents the 81st Assembly District, which includes parts of Sauk, Iowa, Columbia and Dane counties.

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