Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wisconsin touts new economic development programs

By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press Writer
3:32 PM CDT, July 10, 2009

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin came up empty in the competition to land a new General Motors Corp. car plant, but tax breaks that were a part of the state's pitch may end up helping other businesses stay or expand.

"Coming in second or third on this GM plant may turn out to be a long-run blessing," said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which advises the governor and Legislature on economic development and other issues.

GM closed its production plant in Janesville in April, cutting about 1,200 jobs. The state lobbied the auto giant to reopen the plant to make a new line of small cars, but GM chose a Michigan plant instead.

Janesville residents who hoped the plant would reopen might find it hard to believe that losing might really be a win. But the incentives designed for the automaker may end up luring other, more attractive businesses to Wisconsin, Still said.

New tax breaks, some of which were included in the state's $195 million pitch to GM, were passed by the Legislature this year despite a $6.6 billion budget shortfall.

Republicans have criticized the Democratic-controlled Legislature as bad for business because it balanced the state budget in part with $3 billion in higher taxes and fees. But Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's administration says it has overhauled the state's economic development incentives to make Wisconsin a leader in keeping and retaining jobs.

The new tax breaks, which emphasize investment and research and development, give Wisconsin "one of the most powerful economic development tools in the country," said Zach Brandon, executive secretary of the state Commerce Department. More here.

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