Governor Scott Walker delivered opening remarks at the Governor's Northern Wisconsin Economic Development Summit this morning. The Summit highlights the economic growth in Northern Wisconsin; but more importantly connects business leaders with resources in state government, including discussions with Cabinet Secretaries, to further explore areas for growth and development.
"This region is an integral part of the state's economy," Governor Walker said. "From tourism to forestry, to manufacturing, the northern part of the state has so much to offer, and so much to build on. This Summit is an opportunity for area leaders and job creators to meet face to face with Cabinet Secretaries and talk directly about the issues that affect them."
Tourism and the state's broadband expansion are of particular importance in northern Wisconsin. Tourism sustained 184,000 jobs in 2012, and resulted in $16.8 billion in sales. Our tourism and hospitality sectors serve as the first introduction to our state, and that impression has long-term effects. In 2012, 96.6 million people visited the state, and the natural beauty of the outdoors continues to attract tourists and hunters alike. We have increased the Department of Tourism's funding to boost efforts to promote Wisconsin as the ideal location for state-of-the-art conferences and sporting venues.
The 2013-2015 Biennial Budget included funding for the new Wisconsin Broadband Expansion Grant program. Grants are administered by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and are intended to further expand broadband access statewide. Reliable broadband is necessary to connect consumers and businesses with state, national, and international markets. Our rural communities need access to affordable, high speed internet service in order to fully participate in the global economy.
Cabinet Secretaries and leaders from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, Wisconsin Technical College System, and the University of Wisconsin System also participated in the two-day Summit.
Discussion topics included Governor Walker's $100 million investment to develop Wisconsin's workforce, small business assistance, regulatory reform, UW-Flexible Option, Wisconsin Fast Forward, the In Force Network, and education's impact on economic development.
Also today, Governor Walker stops at the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation meeting in Eagle River, where he will meet with local leaders and job creators, and speak about what the state is doing to encourage start-ups in the area to boost economic development and job creation.