The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh today announced a new $1.2 million statewide initiative aimed at boosting state exports and increasing foreign investment in Wisconsin.
The initiative, which also is being supported by two regional economic development organizations – New North and Milwaukee 7 – and The Water Council, marks the first statewide effort to drive export participation and encourage foreign direct investment in the state.
“This marks the largest coordinated deployment of resources ever to get more Wisconsin companies to export and to encourage foreign companies to invest here,” said Governor Scott Walker. “This initiative will provide new localized resources to Wisconsin companies. It will not only focus on existing companies that export, but will reach targeted companies that have the ability to export but aren’t doing so right now.”
Under the new program, UW-Oshkosh will facilitate the grant funds, which will be made available to nonprofit organizations providing foreign direct investment support either for a geographic region or for an industry sector. Groups that could receive grant funding include regional economic development organizations or industry organizations in Wisconsin’s targeted industry clusters, including water technology, manufacturing, bioscience, aviation/aeronautics, and food and beverage processing.
Recipients can use the grant funds to hire international trade consultants who will work to attract foreign companies in Wisconsin's driver industries and/or help existing Wisconsin companies accelerate their exporting efforts.
The consultants will focus on areas such as providing exporting referrals and advice to businesses; connecting companies to financial assistance to support exporting; connecting companies to global trade programs provided through the Wisconsin extended export partners; working with WEDC to support and identify expansion opportunities for existing foreign companies residing in the state; and engaging with foreign companies that are not located in Wisconsin but would be a fit for the state’s target industry clusters.
“What’s key to this new initiative is that it aligns perfectly with the many existing programs offered by WEDC and our partners to increase exports and encourage foreign investment,” said Katy Sinnott, WEDC’s vice president of international business development. “From training program like ExporTech to our international trade missions, this effort complements and enhances the many resources that already exist.”
“UW-Oshkosh is located in the heart of the New North, an area focused on supporting international trade and foreign direct investment, and is well positioned to assist business in this region and statewide,” said Colleen S. Merrill, director at UW-Oshkosh’s Small Business Development Center. “We are excited to be a key player in this initiative, utilizing our Small Business Development Center and expertise on campus to connect resources throughout the region.”
“We appreciate the funding and partnership behind this unique opportunity to grow exporters and export volume in the New North region,” said Jerry Murphy, executive director of New North. “Exports are an important piece of our market diversification strategy for the region. Having this initiative in place helps to mitigate some of the barriers for companies to participate in exporting, particularly in terms of providing one-on-one technical advice and direction to companies new to exporting or looking to expand into new offshore markets.”
“With established partnerships in France, the Netherlands, and Germany, The Water Council is experiencing a steady flow of European water technology companies that are looking to build roots in the U.S. and, more importantly, in Wisconsin,” said Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council. “In the last month we successfully recruited one Irish company, and through this grant we can now work with a European consultant who can quickly represent our interests on that continent."
To fund the initiative, WEDC has awarded UW-Oshkosh a $650,000 grant, which will be matched by The Water Council, New North and M7.