It was nearly a year ago that Gov. Walker proclaimed - Wisconsin is open for business. In order to re-enforce that message, his administration successfully advanced a number of tax breaks to encourage businesses to hire and even relocate to the state. There was some bipartisan support for the incentives, although Democrats labeled them marginal and later blasted the governor and Republican lawmakers for slashing money from things such as education. Still, Walker maintains Wisconsin is in a much better place with a balanced budget and improved business climate. Is that the case? WUWM’s LaToya Dennis posed the question to Abdur Chowdhury. He’s chair of Marquette University’s Department of Economics.
We now continue “Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval.” All week, we’re examining the divisive year Wisconsin has experienced politically, with perhaps economic worries at the core. Last fall, for the first time in over a decade voters put Republicans in control of state government. New Gov. Scott Walker insisted he had the formula to erase the state’s massive deficit and create jobs.
From the beginning, Gov. Scott Walker said once he took office his focus would be on creating jobs. During the 2010 campaign, he vowed to create 250,000 private sector positions during his first term. To help, he converted the commerce department into a public-private entity called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and instructed it to focus exclusively on fostering business growth, rather than also regulating the private sector. Walker also instituted a number of tax breaks for companies that create jobs here. In this installment of Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval, WUWM’s LaToya Dennis explores the impact the changes are having on business growth. Things are bustling at Cree Ruud Lighting in Sturtevant. Until earlier this year, it had been just Ruud - a firm making commercial and energy efficient lighting. Then, Cree, a company based in North Carolina, specializing in LED lighting bought the Wisconsin operation for $525 million. Construction crews have since broken ground for a gigantic addition.
We try to figure out whether a seemingly unprecedented year in Wisconsin actually does have a historical precedent. Historian John Gurda is the author of nineteen books, including The Making of Milwaukee and Cream City Chronicles. He’s also a regular Lake Effect contributor, and he spoke with Stephanie Lecci as part of our Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval series.