On April 20, 2010, the Wisconsin State Senate, on a vote of 18-15, approved final modifications to the Connecting Opportunity, Research and Entrepreneurship legislation, otherwise referred to as the Wisconsin C.O.R.E. Jobs Act (SB 409). The Act makes changes to state law related to economic development by expanding angel investment and early stage seed investment tax credits, and creating a post-secondary education tax credit for businesses. In addition, the Act creates or expands various grant and loan programs administered by the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Technical College System, and the Department of Commerce (Commerce). The legislation now awaits the signature of Governor Jim Doyle.
This Michael Best alert serves as a follow-up to the Michael Best alert distributed on January 18, 2010, which outlined the details of the legislation as passed by the Joint Committee on Finance (Wisconsin Jobs – Stimulus Legislation Moving Forward). The three principal goals of the Act which include creating new jobs and businesses, retaining and building existing Wisconsin businesses and educating and training Wisconsin’s workforce remain in tact.
The Act includes the following specific provisions:
Creating New Jobs and Businesses
- Expands the Accelerate Wisconsin Program by increasing the 2010 limit on angel investment tax credits for investors in early-stage companies from $5.5 million to $6.5 million, with credits increasing to $20 million a year starting in 2011;
- Any unused angel or early stage seed investment tax credits may be reallocated only to the Jobs Tax Credit Program;
- Includes $2 million for WiSys Small Business Assistance program to facilitate research commercialization partnerships between businesses and state academic research institutions, as well as intellectual property management services to UW-extension schools;
- Creates business plan competition programs at university and college campuses to enable entrepreneurial services to students and foster entrepreneurism, funded at $125,000 annually;
- Starts a $500,000 micro-loan program to provide loans ranging from $1,000 to $25,000 to new small business start-ups in areas with high unemployment;
- Includes $75,000 to establish a Regulatory Ombudsman Center in the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to speed business start-ups, and expansions by providing one-stop shopping for permitting and regulatory needs; and
- Establishes an Emerging Technology Center at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse funded with $400,000 to facilitate research commercialization and new company start-ups.
Retaining and Building Businesses
- Provides $100,000 to fund a position at the Wisconsin Technology Council for Small Business Innovation Research (“SBIR”) grant writer to help companies compete for federal SBIR grants, and provides $100,000 to create the Wisconsin Business Intelligence System (WISBIS) to provide economic modeling data for regional economic development entities;
- Provides additional $1 million for the Wisconsin Development Fund used to attract and retain businesses;
- Increases the appropriation to the Wisconsin Development Fund (WDF) by $2 million for the 2009-2011 fiscal biennium and provides incentives to companies for converting existing manufacturing facilities to the production of renewable energy or the manufacturing of equipment used in the production of renewable energy. Any remaining funds may be used to provide funding for loans to manufacturing businesses for implementing energy efficiency measures in their facilities, or for creating jobs or retaining workers; and
- Includes grants to encourage companies to locate operational centers in rural areas that would otherwise go overseas.
Education and Training
- Increases funding by $1 million for Advanced Manufacturing Skills Training Grants; and
- Creates a tax credit for businesses that pay university or technical college tuition for their low-income employees.
Governor Doyle has expressed support for the proposal, and the Act is expected to become law.