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Legislature expected to consider boost to venture capital funds

State lawmakers are expected to consider legislation this fall that could give start-up companies a financial shot in the arm. "Venture capital" is seen as a way to drive innovation and create jobs. But some say Wisconsin is falling behind.

State lawmakers are expected to consider legislation this fall that could give start-up companies a financial shot in the arm. "Venture capital" is seen as a way to drive innovation and create jobs. But some say Wisconsin is falling behind.

Dozens of investment experts and executives have come up with a report they're delivering around the Capitol. The group was organized by the Wisconsin Technology Council. Its president is Tom Still.

He says Wisconsin should create a multi-year $350-million fund in the form of "contingent tax credits."

"The tax credits are only really used in the case that the investments fail," he said. "And with a fund this size and with the range of investments it would stand an excellent chance of returning the investment and a whole lot more."

The council came up with the $350 million figure by comparing what Wisconsin's proportional share of venture capital investments should be, using national figures. As it stands now, Still says the state gets only one-half-of-one-percent of that figure, or about $71 million a year. He says similar states are way ahead.

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No matter how good a concept, a company can't get going -- or hire workers -- if it doesn't have money. Still says 11 percent of the nation's privately employed people can trace their jobs back to venture investments.

"In Wisconsin because we haven't received as much venture capital over time we haven't created as many jobs that are venture backed," Still said. "Although there are 60,000 in Wisconsin that can be traced back to VC. But if we received our proportional share of venture capital that'd be 259,000 jobs."

Besides a number of existing venture capital funds located in Wisconsin, Still says at least six more are starting up.

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