By The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)
The Badger State is home to iconic businesses such as Harley-Davidson, Kohl’s, Molson-Coors, Johnson Controls, Milwaukee Tool, Kohler and Manpower Group to name a few. With a population of almost 5.5 million and lower costs of living and operation than other Midwest states, Wisconsin is an obvious choice for both U.S. and international entrepreneurs and businesses.
Wisconsin’s ideal business climate is the result of many forces: a prime location; a balanced state budget and fully funded public pension fund; strategic investments in education and worker training; a strong work ethic and a culture of research and constant innovation.
Wisconsin’s central location and robust infrastructure give companies operating in the state one-day access to many major markets throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Wisconsin’s roads, railways and ports provide seamless, convenient access to the world’s busiest multimodal transportation hub, located just 55 miles south of the state’s border.
Key sectors that drive top growth in the state include:
- Manufacturing (Wisconsin has the second-highest manufacturing concentration of any state in the nation).
- Energy, power and controls.
- Aerospace and aviation.
- Water technology.
- Food and beverage.
- Forest products.
- Information technology.
Leader in Use of Recovery Funds
Wisconsin leads the nation in investing federal recovery funds to ensure the long-term economic progress, ranking first among states in the share of funds allocated to businesses, and second in the percentage spent on economic development. Of the $1.1 billion Wisconsin allocated toward the economy, $363.3 million was spent on general economic development, $130 million for workforce development and $641.7 million for assistance to businesses.
Innovator in Workforce Development
Drawing on Wisconsin’s longstanding reputation for innovative policy solutions, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Department of Workforce Development are teaming up with local business, education, and community leaders to develop grassroots-driven, long-term solutions to the state’s most pressing workforce needs. Through the $128 million Workforce Innovation Grants (WIG), 27 regional pilot projects will enable businesses to find workers and empower those workers to successfully prepare for and connect to the family-supporting careers in their regions.
“These grants have created powerful coalitions of businesses, nonprofits, state and local governments to address the workforce challenges that could hold our state back,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “Wisconsin realizes that economic development is about more than profits – it’s about making smart investments in things like education, housing, childcare and more that empower us all to move forward in our careers and lives.”
WIG projects will address:
- Barriers to entry
- Health services
- Career pathways
- Revitalizing Communities
As one of the many efforts to help rejuvenate downtowns, WEDC established the Main Street Bounceback Grant program, with $100 million in grants to support up to 10,000 businesses and nonprofits moving into vacant commercial spaces. To date, more than 9,000 new businesses have opened with help from these grants in all 72 Wisconsin counties.
“We hear from community leaders everywhere that the Main Street Bounceback grants are transforming their downtowns,” said Hughes. “It’s not just the businesses that receive the grants that are benefiting, but their neighbors tell us they see an increase in foot traffic and feel a sense of excitement as their downtowns grow.”
Growth in 2022
In 2022, Wisconsin experienced growth with new and existing businesses. Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals, a leading genetic medicine company, decided to expand their operations into Wisconsin by building a $220 million expansion in Verona that will create more than 230 high-paying jobs. WEDC is assisting Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals with $2.5 million in performance-based business development tax credits, which the company will receive if it meets or exceeds job creation and capital investment goals by the end of 2026.
“WEDC is pleased to partner with Arrowhead because they have the potential to transform health care—and all of our lives—through innovation, persistence, and collaboration,” said Hughes. “Arrowhead joins a growing list of biopharmaceutical companies that have chosen to locate in Wisconsin because of the strategic investments our state has made in worker education and training, infrastructure, and strong communities in recent years.”
Wisconsin also welcomed Ghana-based Niche Cocoa to Wisconsin in 2022. The company chose Milwaukee to build its first North American manufacturing facility. The project is the largest food and beverage investment by an Africa-based company in U.S. history and the largest Ghana foreign direct investment ever in Wisconsin. The company’s North American expansion pioneers a change in the direction of African investment and showcases the rapid growth in African businesses, specifically in Ghana. “Taking into account proximity to customers, logistics, high-quality human capital and a business-friendly environment, Wisconsin was a great choice,” said Edmund Poku, Niche founder. “We know how to build factories so we could do that anywhere but the partnership between what we know how to do and what Wisconsin can offer Niche to succeed in our next chapter is what has brought us to the state.”
Additionally, Milwaukee Tool invested $206 million and created over 1,000 new jobs in Wisconsin to support the expansion of its existing research and development facilities, infrastructure needs and equipment at its nine locations across the state. “Milwaukee Tool is a Wisconsin success story and an economic powerhouse for the Milwaukee region and the entire state,” said Hughes. “We are pleased to be able to assist the company as it continues to grow in Wisconsin by leaps and bounds.”
Another large-scale expansion came from leading global designer and manufacturer of energy technology solutions, Generac. Generac is investing an additional $53 million in its facilities across the state and creating more than 700 new jobs. The company’s additional $53 million investment includes the recent expansion of its corporate operations into the Village of Pewaukee with the purchase of a new building, plus the creation of 700 new manufacturing and office jobs throughout the state by the end of 2024.
“Generac is experiencing phenomenal demand and growth as the combination of an aging grid and extreme weather are resulting in more frequent and longer-lasting power outages,” said President and CEO of Generac Aaron Jagdfeld. “We are proud to continue to expand our presence in Wisconsin as we work to meet the incredible market demand. This new facility and our new agreement will allow us to continue to grow Generac to best serve our customers, partners and our people.”
Wisconsin Means Business
WEDC and its partners across the state offer access to programs and resources to help start, relocate or expand business in Wisconsin. Through collaboration with local and regional economic development organizations, academia and industry associations, businesses are connected to growth-oriented solutions to help maximize their potential.
Let us help you look forward to a brighter future in Wisconsin. Visit us online at wedc.org.