February 7, 2016

Lawmakers unveil new venture capital plan

New businesses in Wisconsin could soon have more access to the funding they need to grow and expand, under a bill introduced Wednesday at the Capitol. The proposal from a bipartisan group of lawmakers would combine $25 million in state funds with at least $50 million from the private sector to help create a state-backed investment fund.

State Representative Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), the Assembly sponsor of the bill, says money from the fund would be invested in start-up companies, which offer the strongest potential for creating new jobs in Wisconsin. He says one of the biggest obstacles those young companies face is access to capital.

Kuglitsch says the fund will focus on key areas for business growth, such as agriculture, information technology, engineered products, advanced manufacturing, and medical imaging devices. He says it will improve job growth, while also helping to keep the “best and brightest minds in the state of Wisconsin.”

AUDIO: Rep. Kuglitsch (:13)

The fund would be overseen by an outside manager, who will be selected by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Backers of the proposal say that will ensure transparency and accountability for how the fund is managed, and help ensure the state is an equal partner in any returns realized by the investment.

While the bill has some Democratic support, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) argues it does not go far enough. Barca and Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) worry the $25 million investment is too small to provide the money companies need and could make it difficult to attract the large investors that are needed to keep the fund viable in the long term. They hope to offer an alternative bill in the coming weeks, but say the plan introduced Wednesday is a “good starting point.”

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