An amendment to the 2009-2011 state budget bill passed 16-0 early Friday by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee contains welcome proposals to stimulate the state’s tech-based economy, Tech Council President Tom Still said Friday. Click here to read a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story.

“Members of the budget-writing committee deserve credit for looking beyond today’s tough economic news to a future driven by innovation, human capital and investment,” Still said. “Those are the basic ingredients of tomorrow’s jobs.”

An amendment sponsored by state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, includes seed money for companies seeking federal Small Business Innovation Research grants; matching dollars for a limited number of company “beta” projects designed to bring offshore jobs into rural Wisconsin – a process called “farm-shoring,” support for the Wisconsin Angel Network and money for a competitiveness study along the lines of those conducted in other states by Battelle, the world’s largest non-profit independent research and development organization.

The package also supports value-supply chain mapping in Wisconsin’s regional economies to identify competitiveness gaps, and provides administrative support to the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to accomplish the goals. The total cost over two years is $1.2 million; it must be approved by the full Legislature to become law.

More detail on the SBIR, farm-shoring, WAN and competitiveness study can be found in the Tech Council’s 2008-2009 white papers at

Here are statements by leaders of Wisconsin’s tech community on the committee action:

“Members of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee deserve credit for understanding that Wisconsin’s emerging economy is being driven by innovation, investment and global competitiveness. The ideas they have embraced will better position our state’s companies to compete. Thanks to Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and her colleagues for advancing this bipartisan package.” — John Neis, managing director, Venture Investors LLC, Madison

“One of the greatest obstacles in the creation of a technology based business is the tremendous investment in the intellectual property used in the business. Traditional lending institutions are limited in their ability to use intellectual property as collateral as they would equipment and inventory for other types of businesses. Access to capital in the form of SBIR grants, angel capital and other forms of private equity is vital to many start-up companies. In the case of US Trailmaps, our location in central Wisconsin is advantageous for our purpose of cost controls and finding talented engineers. However, we have little in the way of local resources for venture or sophisticated capital. The actions of the Joint Finance Committee, and the package put together by Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, will help improve that climate.” — Eric Antonson, vice president, US Trailmaps, Wausau

“Wisconsin is a great state in which to be an entrepreneur, and part of that encouraging climate is due to the work of policymakers who understand the connection between innovation, investment and business creation. The members of the Joint Finance Committee have embraced some important ideas that can continue to drive Wisconsin’s economy forward.” — Greg Meier, executive vice president, Physiogenix; CEO, Lansare Corp., Milwaukee

“As director of University Research Park, I understand the connection between innovation, tech transfer and company formation. Many, if not most, of the lessons we have learned over the past 25 years at URP can be translated to economic development efforts elsewhere in Wisconsin. I applaud the work of the Joint Finance Committee and Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, in advancing a package of ideas that will build upon the bipartisan foundation provided by the governor and others in the Legislature.” — Mark Bugher, director, University Research Park, Madison
“Western Wisconsin’s economy is becoming more diverse and innovation-driven. The actions of the Joint Finance Committee reflect bipartisan awareness that Wisconsin needs to embrace ideas to help all corners of our state compete. The support of State Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, to this proposal, is appreciated, as well as the leadership of Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, in crafting its provisions.” — Mike Flanagan, president, Functional Biosciences, La Crosse and Madison

“This is very good news.  Clearly, Wisconsin has untapped resources that given the proper environment, could help bring Wisconsin through this current economic slump and into a strong competitive position for years to come.  As president of the Wisconsin Security Research Consortium, I have been consistently impressed with the depth and breadth of great ideas and entrepreneurial spirit.  In particular, rural Wisconsin is an untapped treasure of workers for the new economy.  Wisconsin is renowned for its educational system.  Let’s stem the brain drain by making jobs and resources available to them at home.” — Robert Carlson, director, Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences Division, Marshfield; president, Wisconsin Security Research Consortium

The Tech Council is the bipartisan, non-profit science and technology adviser to the governor and the Legislature. Through its Wisconsin Innovation Network, it has membership chapters in Milwaukee, Madison, Northeast Wisconsin, Central Wisconsin, the Lake Superior region and Western Wisconsin.