State legislators turn to entrepreneurs for new business ideas

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Staff | October 7, 2013

JANESVILLE – A handful of state legislators thought they'd get an idea of how to grow new businesses by talking to business owners themselves last week.

State Reps. Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson)—whose district includes part of Walworth County--Deb Kolste (D-Janesville) and Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville), and Wisconsin Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) held an economic development forum Oct. 3 at the Job Center in Janesville. Rock County business owners and entrepreneurs shared concerns over government regulations and ideas on how the Legislature might cultivate new industries.

“Wisconsin is falling behind its Midwestern neighbors, currently ranked at 37th in the nation in job creation and 34th in the nation in wage growth – and folks in Rock County know that all too well,” said Kolste. “We have a lot of work to do to strengthen the state's economy, and I'm so grateful that so many of our friends in the business community are willing to partner with us.”

“Some lawmakers turn to special interest groups or political parties for legislative ideas, but that kind of approach – clearly – isn't working for Wisconsin,” said Rep. Jorgensen. “Some of 'my' best economic proposals have come directly from listening to business owners and entrepreneurs.”

Jorgensen notes his Marketing Manufacturing and Keeping Employees legislative package, aimed at promoting products made by Wisconsin companies, was inspired by a visit to Aztalan Engineering in Lake Mills. Those bills were approved with broad bipartisan support in the Assembly earlier this year.

Assembly Democrats are currently pushing for Republican consideration of the Made in America Act, which requires the state to buy American-made building materials, the Small Business Credit Now bill, which will help entrepreneurs take advantage of existing tax credits for business investment by offering them up as a grant, the Refundable Angel and Early Stage Seed Investment Credits bill, which incentivizes the investment in high-tech start-up companies.

“As a former small business owner, I learned firsthand what works and what doesn't. Local business owners are our job creation experts, working on the frontlines every day. We need to listen to them,” Ringhand said.

The lawmakers note that Senator Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) and State Representative Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) were also invited to the forum, but unable to attend.

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