07 Feb Grow Milwaukee includes millions for tech funding
Milwaukee, Wis. – As is the case with most spending proposals, the devil is in the details and in how wisely the money is spent, but Gov. Jim Doyle’s new Grow Milwaukee package contains several initiatives long coveted by the state’s technology and biotechnology industries.
The package, which Doyle alluded to in last week’s “State of the State” address, is a mix of economic development, healthcare, and education proposals designed to build on Milwaukee’s assets, including the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
But at least one Milwaukee-area lawmaker is worried about the plan’s impact on the $1.6 billion state budget deficit and on taxes as Doyle prepares to deliver his 2007-09 budget to lawmakers. The governor is scheduled to deliver both his budget address and the budget document on Feb. 13.
State’s fortunes linked to Milwaukee
Traditionally, spending for Milwaukee is a tough sell with upstate legislators in both parties, but in announcing his plan, Doyle asserted that the state’s prospects are tied to its largest metropolitan area.
“Whether you live in Milwaukee or Marinette, the future of our state’s largest metropolitan area affects you,” he said. “For Wisconsin to thrive, we need a strong and growing Milwaukee.”
From a technology standpoint, the big winners appear to be academic institutions. Several pieces of Grow Milwaukee would address longstanding biotechnology and medical research needs, including an $8 million allocation for UWM’s Research Growth Initiative. The RGI, an effort to have more research transferred from the state’s second largest university to the commercial sector in metropolitan Milwaukee, is the centerpiece of UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago’s strategic agenda.
The governor also called for an additional $2.5 million to help the Medical College and Children’s Hospital develop a translational research facility, and he would provide another $2.5 million to the Biomedical Technology Alliance, an organization that is trying to strengthen collaboration between colleges and universities and industry in southeastern Wisconsin. Additional state funding for the biomedical alliance has been held up because some lawmakers believe it will promote embryonic stem cell research.
Also part of the Grow Milwaukee proposal, but having potential impact statewide, are the creation of a $2.4 million Wisconsin Venture Center for the purpose of attracting new venture capital investment, and a commitment to increase angel and venture tax credits to $23 million.
Milwaukee 7 and more
An additional $500,000 would be allocated to the Milwaukee 7, a group that has developed a cooperative model to accelerate economic development in the southeastern Wisconsin region.
The governor also would establish an entrepreneurial network to provide business information and assistance to Milwaukee-area entrepreneurs, and create an outreach specialist in Milwaukee to provide assistance to minority entrepreneurs and small business owners.
On the workforce development front, Doyle would double the funding, to $2.2 million, for the Youth Apprenticeship Program, and quadruple an investment in job training, from $2 million to $8 million, to help the state’s technical colleges train an additional 36,000 workers.
Increased transportation spending also is part of the package. The governor pledged to commit $1 million for a local commuter rail plan, and a pledged to seek federal funding to expand Amtrak service from Chicago and Milwaukee to Madison.
Spending “like crazy”
Although he has supported several parts of the package, State Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, expressed alarm at the rate in which Doyle plans to spend money. He said the state must work to expand the private economy in Milwaukee by lowering taxes and reforming education, which may not be possible with a governor who is “spending like crazy.”
“What I saw in the proposal is government, government, government,” Kanavas said. “Where is the private sector?”
Nevertheless, Kanavas endorsed some of the Grow Milwaukee concepts, but said he is awaiting Doyle’s budget document, where he will have to go into more detail.
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