New Wisconsin Governor to Follow IEDC Model

A state wants to do away with its Department of Commerce and replace it with a public-private partnership. It wants the focus to be job creation. Citing Indiana as an example for its move six years ago, that is the current game plan from incoming Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Gov.-elect Scott Walker wants to eliminate the state Department of Commerce and replace it with a public-private entity focused solely on job creation.

Walker said he still wants the state to play "a direct role, a supporting role" in economic development, "but not necessarily doing that all through a state agency."

It’s not yet clear how the new partnership would operate, who would run it, or whether it would be subject to the state’s open meetings and records laws.

Walker mentioned the plan at a gathering of business leaders and interest groups at the Madison Club to promote a new report, "Be Bold — The Wisconsin Prosperity Strategy."

The report offers similar suggestions for replacing the Commerce Department, saying the agency is responsible for many duties that have "little to do with job creation, which should rank as its top priority." It pointed to other areas, like natural resources and the public university system, where the state has governor-appointed boards.

It suggested creating an independent board to oversee the state’s job creation strategies and putting a variety of "private sector job creators" on that board, as well as the university system president, technical college system president, a union leader and a labor economist. It also recommended that the board be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature, and be given oversight of the economic development bond fund and the power to review regulations affecting businesses.

Walker applauded the plan, but said he may go beyond some of its suggestions.

"It certainly is bold. And we want to be bold. In fact, we’ve told them repeatedly I want to be even bolder," Walker said. "And so, we may take this plan and build off it and be even more aggressive than what they’re presenting."