Passing an early stage capital bill to spur company growth, building a better-trained workforce, improving broadband and high-speed computing networks, and focusing on sectors most likely to produce jobs are major themes of the Wisconsin Technology Council’s 2012-2013 “white papers” report.

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The Tech Council is the bipartisan, non-profit science and technology policy adviser to the governor and the Legislature, and a catalyst for tech-based development in Wisconsin. The Tech Council periodically issues “white papers” and special reports to assist those policymakers.

“The ideas offered in the Tech Council’s 2012-13 white papers are intended to set the table for a renewed public discussion about improving the state’s tech-based economy,” said Mark Bugher, chairman of the Tech Council. “As the state weighs its budget priorities for the next biennium, policymakers deserve to hear ideas our board can offer for transforming Wisconsin’s economy.”

Here are highlights of the 2012-13 report, “The future is now: Four strategies for Wisconsin’s high-growth economy.”

Increasing access to capital for Wisconsin entrepreneurs: The recommendations in the section fall under four categories.

1. Expand investment capital in Wisconsin for high-growth, early stage and mid-stage companies.
2. Sustain and improve angel investing in Wisconsin.
3. Create a prominent and lasting infrastructure to support capital formation across the full financing continuum.
4. Modernize Wisconsin tax and securities codes to better attract and retain capital.
Committee chair: Toni Sikes, general partner, Calumet Venture Fund, 608-575-2597

Improve technology development, delivery and transfer: Specific proposals in this category fall under four broad categories.

1. Build upon interdisciplinary clusters and “centers of excellence” first highlighted in Vision 2020: A Model Wisconsin Economy.
2. Support the creation of enhanced cyberstructure for Wisconsin, including but not limited to broadband development.
3. Work with the state’s congressional delegation to identify ways that Wisconsin companies and research institutions can help meet national science and technology priorities.
4. Work with partners, such as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., on building relationships between regional economic centers and emerging technology clusters.
Committee chair: Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, 608-263-9395

Build Wisconsin’s supply of human capital: Specific proposals in this category fall under three broad categories.

1. Improve access to higher education in order to place citizens of all ages on a path to earning certificates and degrees that will help them qualify for high-paying jobs, start their own businesses and become valuable members of the Wisconsin communities in which they live.
2. Increase Wisconsin’s K-12 investment in science, technology, engineering and math education.
3. Focus on the needs of business when it comes to filling critical workforce voids, and develop sustainable business relationships between higher education and industry.
Committee chair: Rolf Wegenke, president and CEO, Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, 608-256-7761 ext. 222

Enhance Wisconsin’s startup and business climate: Specific proposals in this category fall under three broad categories.

1. Focus on marketing Wisconsin’s increasingly sophisticated “knowledge” economy through partners, peer organizations and premiere events. This includes focusing on tech-based and service job sectors that are expected to grow nationally and statewide through 2018.
2. Reaffirm support for the Tech Council’s 2002/2009 policy statements on state-based research restrictions. Such restrictions could put the state at a competitive disadvantage.
3. Build an infrastructure that improves and creates the right pathways into the state, from safe roads and bridges to high-speed electronic commerce and telecommunications, to a cost-efficient and environmentally responsible energy portfolio.
Committee chair: Rochelle Klaskin, managing partner, Madison office, Godfrey & Kahn, 608-284-2607

“Our board is made up of people who understand Wisconsin’s tech economy from a variety of angles – as company founders and executives, researchers, investors, educators and service professionals who work with emerging companies every day,” said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council. “Their ideas, along with those contributed by our members across the state, form the foundation for this report.”

Still noted that past white papers have contributed to a number of executive and legislative branch actions, including:

• Passage of the Act 255 investor tax credits (2004) and revisions to the nationally recognized program (2009);
• Creation of the Wisconsin Angel Network, which has expanded from five networks and angel groups in early 2005 to two-dozen groups today;
• Expansion of the scope of allowable bonding projects for the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority;
• Repeal of the shareholder wage lien law, which discouraged investment in Wisconsin startup companies;
• Improvements in laws governing entrepreneurial activity by University of Wisconsin faculty;
• Improvements in processes and regulations vital to expanding broadband availability, especially in rural Wisconsin;
• Extension of the “single-sales factor” sales apportionment for corporate income to technology and service firms in Wisconsin;
• Enactment of an Education Tax Credit to assist employers in hiring and training workers;
• Support for the “Emerging Technology Centers” concept within the UW System, which was first envisioned as Centers of Excellence in the Tech Council’s Vision 2020 report;
• Support for an Interdisciplinary Research Center, also through Vision 2020, which was consistent with the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and Morgridge Institute for Research, which opened in December 2010;
• Broader recognition of the economic value of academic research and development in Wisconsin, which attract nearly $1.3 billion in sponsored research each year;
• Creation of the I-Q Corridor branding concept and support for multi-state relationships;
• Extension of funding for the WiSys Technology Foundation, which assists UW System campuses in transferring technology to the marketplace.

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