Momentum West holds legislative forum
Nearly 70 of western Wisconsin's business, education and government leaders met with their newly-elected state legislators at Momentum West's Legislative Forum held Dec. 6 in Menomonie.
The legislative forum provided an opportunity for the 16 legislators representing the Momentum West region to "get acquainted" and build partnerships with Momentum West and its stakeholders. Momentum West, the 10-county economic development organization, represents Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Rusk and St. Croix counties. President Noel Eggebraaten addressed the legislators about the goals of Momentum West: to market the 10-county region; to attract, expand and retain businesses; to identify and advocate regional initiatives; and to impact job creation.
The legislators in attendance included State Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-10th Senate District), State Sen.-Elect Terry Moulton (R- 23rd Senate District), Rep. John Murtha (29th Assembly District), Rep.-Elect Erik Severson (R -28th Assembly District), Rep.-Elect Dean Knudson (R-30th Assembly District), Rep.-Elect Tom Larson (R-67th Assembly District), Rep.-Elect Roger Rivard (R-75th Assembly District) and Rep.-Elect Warren Petryk (R-93rd Assembly District). Marjorie Bunce, the district representative from Senator Herb Kohl's office, also attended and discussed the importance of working together on issues that involve the federal legislators.
Sen. Harsdorf reminded attendees of the importance of creating an environment to grow businesses. "The governor and elected officials have to make sure that businesses know that they are welcome," she said. The legislators reiterated the comments made by Governor-elect Scott Walker that "Wisconsin is open for business once again."
Two companies provided reflections on the business climate in Wisconsin. Jackie Anderson, President of Key Medical Supply, which is located in Minnesota, discussed the difficulty for her company to do business in Wisconsin. There is a no bid process for the home health care system in Wisconsin and there is a single source for Medicaid recipients. Jackie reflected her concern about the lack of "free trade" in her experience and subsequently she is unable to grow her business which would create 40 to 50 jobs in western Wisconsin.
Kris Anderson, of Kraemer Mining and Materials, Inc. of Plain described how their company is positioned to open an operation in western Wisconsin which would bring about 20 well paid jobs with benefits. The challenge of balancing the concerns of "not in my backyard" thinking against job creation is sometimes a tough choice for communities. To date, there are still no Kraemer jobs in western Wisconsin, but there is still a desire to create those new opportunities.
A presentation on the "Be Bold Wisconsin" Competiveness Study was given by Charlie Walker of Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Brian Doudna of the Eau Claire Area EDC. The Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA), the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) and Competitive Wisconsin, Inc. commissioned Deloitte Consulting and Newmark Knight Frank to assess Wisconsin's economic development competitiveness. Nine recommendations to improve economic development strategies and structures to promote state growth were outlined. More information about the study can be found at www.weda.org.
Skip Gjolberg, Momentum West's legislative committee chair, outlined the future steps in growing Momentum West's relationships with state legislators including individual legislative meet-and-greets, development of 2011-2012 legislative issues and a legislative day in Madison on Feb. 23.
Noel Eggebraaten closed the forum reinforcing the need for building partnerships across the region and challenged the leaders to partner with Momentum West to find creative solutions to create jobs.