Guest Editorial: Jobs must be legislative priorityAs the state legislature nears the start of the fall session, economic development must be our No. 1 priority.
By: Sen. Jennifer Shilling, Superior Telegram
As the state legislature nears the start of the fall session, economic development must be our No. 1 priority.
Most indicators continue to rank Wisconsin poorly when it comes to job creation, access to capital and 21st Century infrastructure.
These are key areas where we can improve, and a number of solutions already have been proposed.
Recently, the state’s Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program was reauthorized after two years of deep cuts. This highly successful program helped more than 1,200 Wisconsin producers generate $2.7 million in new local food sales and $600,000 in new investment in just two years. In western Wisconsin, these grants helped create the Fifth Season Cooperative in Viroqua, which is now a multi-stakeholder cooperative made up of local producers, producer groups, food processors and distributors.
Expanding access to growing markets and better connecting local farmers to regional businesses are just two of the reasons I supported this program, but we must also recognize growing global economic challenges.
As a co-author of the Made in America Act, I believe that we can stop job outsourcing and boost local businesses by giving American companies the first shot at state building projects. This proposal, Senate Bill 88, was introduced by Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay and Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Fort Atkinson, over four months ago and is waiting to be passed out of committee.
Similarly, legislation I co-authored with Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore,. to encourage investments in Community Development Financial Institutions is still waiting to be passed out of committee. We continue to hear that one of the biggest roadblocks to business growth is the lack of access to loans and startup funding. The Community Development Financial Institutions Bill, Senate Bill 43, would help boost investments in local small businesses, particularly in areas underserved by conventional loans, and provide financial support to help create new jobs.
Lastly, improving our transportation infrastructure and investing in broadband expansion projects will help immediately create jobs and encourage business growth. It is no secret many new and expanding businesses in our region depend on a strong and reliable transportation infrastructure to get goods to market. We joke about having two seasons in Wisconsin — construction and winter — those orange barrels represent thousands of good-paying jobs and a necessary commitment to our regional economy.
I was pleased we had bipartisan consensus on the transportation budget to fund critical road and bridge projects, but we must also look to the future and invest in our state’s broadband internet infrastructure. Many areas lack sufficient bandwidth to meet growing demands, and some areas have no broadband access at all. Encouraging public-private partnerships to better serve urban and rural areas will immediately create jobs, improve efficiency and lower consumer costs.
These ideas have already been proposed, but now we need to act on them. I hope that in the coming months, these and many other proposals for economic growth, will be considered and rapidly implemented as we work to immediately create jobs, invest in our communities and encourage small business growth.
Democrat Jennifer Shilling represents the 32nd Senate District, which covers La Crosse, Vernon, Crawford and parts of Monroe counties.