31 Dec For Wisconsin’s recovery, let’s resolve to apply the lessons of 2020
Guest column by WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes
In conversations with business owners over the past year, after stories of hardships upon hardships, many, although certainly not all, have ended with, “But we’re going to be OK.”
This proof of the creativity, determination, and grit of Wisconsin’s small business owners is the charge for our state as we begin to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to apply the lessons of 2020 to ensure that not only does Wisconsin recover, but that we create a Wisconsin stronger than ever.
Like the businesses we partner with, WEDC had to adapt quickly to the changes the pandemic wrought. On March 18, just days into the health emergency, WEDC announced its first program to provide $5 million in reallocated emergency funds to targeted small businesses. As we close this year, Governor Evers has distributed a total of more than $220 million to over 50,000 Wisconsin businesses, partnering with WEDC to assure the dollars went to those most impacted.
Our team also created new ways to communicate directly with small businesses, starting first with health and safety best practices and now offering practical information about navigating employee issues and even the difficult mental health challenges we all face.
Throughout the year, WEDC has continued its traditional focus on finding ways for new businesses to start and existing ones to expand, and for communities to grow. We helped Molson Coors bring 377 new jobs to Milwaukee, celebrated the groundbreaking of the HARIBO plant in Pleasant Prairie, and invested in community projects like a new after-school center in Holcomb and renovated retail space in downtown Sturgeon Bay. WEDC provided Governor Evers with a road map for rural renewal in our report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity. And amid this summer’s unrest, WEDC provided $4 million in no-interest loans to help rebuild Kenosha.
Together, all these efforts by WEDC reinforce a lesson of the past year: our citizens’ economic future depends on balancing many interrelated issues at once.