Wisconsin ED May Go Public-Private

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who took office this week, wants to abolish the state Department of Commerce and replace it with a public-private economic development agency, according to a report in the Superior Telegram.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would be run by a 12-person board  chaired by Walker and filled with his appointees.

“Think about this corporation kind of like being the local Chamber of Commerce,” Walker told the Superior Telegram. “We need to have an entity that’s about promoting Wisconsin, promoting jobs, telling the world and everybody here in the state that we’re open for business and what we can do to help make that possible.”

Wisconsin formed a similar partnership in the early 1980s called Forward Wisconsin, but the initiative was phased out a few years ago due to lack of donations from the private sector and a focus on other economic development tools.

Gov. Walker’s proposal would either eliminate regulatory functions now held by the state Department of Commerce or move these functions to other agencies. The governor also wants to require employees currently working in Commerce to reapply for their jobs.

Gov. Walker’s proposal is modeled after a similar public-private partnership in Indiana. Officials there say using private money has given them more freedom to travel abroad and host receptions to recruit potential employers.