20 Jun Statewide IT association will address IT issues and priorities
Madison, Wis. — Information technology professionals in Wisconsin announced on Monday the formation of the Information Technology Association of Wisconsin, a forum for information exchange and issue advocacy by a sector that generates more than $14B in revenue and hires more than 55,000 employees, according to its founders.
The association has 30 founding members, of which approximately a third are IT companies. The rest are a mix of law, investment, utility and financial services firms.
Coordination of ITAW will proceed with the goal of being fully operational in the fourth quarter. It received a $40,000 startup grant from the Helen C. Bader Foundation. Additionally, the group has applied to the state Department of Commerce for support, though funding has not yet been finalized.
ITAW will deliver resources, programs, and forums addressing CxO level issues and priorities. Services offered by ITAW will include IT-specific workforce development initiatives, executive level peer group forums tackling critical business and technology trends, and IT company formation workshops and mentoring assistance.
A major issue facing the IT sector is unification. Whereas there have been regional and technology-specific groups within Wisconsin that have dealt with IT-specific issues, ITAW is the first statewide effort to bring together IT professionals from the around the state to cooperate in understanding the overall business conditions and to promote their interests.
Berbee Information Network’s CEO, Paul Shain said previous attempts to form such an association were insufficient but he is more optimistic this time around. We are hoping that the new format allows for greater interaction between IT providers and users, and will have a more unified, statewide view on key IT-related issues.”
A key function will be to lobby the state government on issues important to the tech sector through a separate entity, according to Marc Blazich, vice president and managing director of Greenbrier and Russell. One example of such an issue is the Menasha Corp. case, in which the Neenah-based company is fighting for a sales tax refund on the modification of an ERP installation.
• Read more about Menasha case
Whereas modified software is not subject to sales tax, ERP installations are classified as off-the-shelf even though they require extensive customization. How that distinction will be adjudicated is worth an estimated $500,000 to Menasha and could cost the state an estimated $250 million or more.
Andrew Schlidt of Whyte, Hirschboeck and Dudek, S.C., a Milwaukee-based law firm that maintains a technology law practice group, though they have not directly worked on the Menasha case specifically, explained why the case is so important to Wisconsin businesses, saying the maintenance of sales taxes in these instances would create a disincentive to do business in Wisconsin as opposed to other states that do not interpret tax laws in such a fashion, not only for software vendors but for businesses that have to spend large amounts of money on software.
Blazich said the association could serve a similar purpose as IT groups in other states such as Utah have, where Blazich credited their association with securing positive results on 23 out of 26 IT-related issues before the state government in recent years.
The future of the IT community in Wisconsin will also be a key issue, according to Blazich, listed.
“Workforce development is a big one, ranging from making sure that there’s alignment between what the needs are of the IT buy-side—in other words, corporate organizations that have a large IT contingent or department within their organizations—there needs to be alignment between them and the higher-education institutions here in the state,” Blazich explained. “What do these large organizations need in terms of college graduates?”