Wisconsin is leading the way among U.S. states in economic development and business relief investments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Nov. 16, Governor Tony Evers highlighted a recent analysis of federal aid allocations by states under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). , a nonpartisan research and policy institute. founded in 1981 with focus areas in a variety of areas, including federal fiscal policy, state fiscal policy, and response to economic crises, including the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the COVID-19 pandemic.
CBPP’s analysis showed that, as a share of federal aid received by states and led by Evers, Wisconsin is the top state in the nation for overall economic development aid and the top state in the nation. for aid to help businesses.
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Among the Evers-led investments to support Wisconsin’s businesses and economic development are those made through the state’s Main Street Bounceback grant program, created by the Evers administration to support Wisconsin’s economic recovery. and help fill empty storefronts in Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
Evers announced Nov. 16 that nearly 7,200 small businesses and nonprofits have received approvals for $10,000 grants to fill empty storefronts through the Main Street Bounceback grant program.
“We have worked to make smart investments to get more support into the hands of Wisconsin families, farmers, industries and small businesses who have been the cornerstone of our economic recovery by hiring locally, buying locally and giving back to our communities,” Evers said. “With new businesses opening on main streets in every Wisconsin county, a record low unemployment rate and our state in the best financial position in state history, it is clear that our investments have borne their fruits. I am very proud that we are a national leader in our goal of supporting small businesses and long-term investments to build an economy that works for everyone.
Among the local grant recipients is the Hill Valley Dairy retail store at 510 Broad St. in Lake Geneva, which received $10,000 in grants from the Main Street Bounceback grant program. Evers visited the store on June 2 to promote June Dairy Month and the Main Street Bounceback grant program.
“We were eligible for the Main Street Bounceback Grant because we opened the cheese factory during the time that included the pandemic (COVID-19),” said Hill Valley Dairy artisan cheesemaker Ron Henningfeld, co-owner of the business with his wife Josie. “We were able to apply for a grant and received funds which helped us tremendously as a small business. It helped us pay rent, hire staff and pay salaries when we opened this store on one of the main streets of Lake Geneva. »
Since 2020, Evers has invested more than $1 billion of Wisconsin’s federal coronavirus relief funds in economic resilience and support for small businesses, including through the Main Street Bounceback grant program, which provides grants $10,000 to help small businesses and nonprofits move into previously vacant commercial space. the state.
First announced in April 2021, Evers announced on May 10, 2022 an additional investment of $25 million to support the program due to higher than expected demand, and in September the Governor again announced a $25 million additional investment in the program, bringing its total investment to $100 million to help a total of 10,000 small businesses and nonprofits.“Communities across the state continue to show a sense of excitement and optimism as new businesses open their doors,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “In every corner of the state, there is a feeling that Wisconsin offers small business owners a chance to make their dreams a reality. These investments are good for the whole community because when a new business opens, it’s a chance for other local businesses to benefit from increased foot traffic and chain relationships. supply. It really is a win for everyone.
The demand for Main Street Bounceback grants is just one indication of the strength of Wisconsin’s economy. The state’s unemployment rate continues to remain below the national average, while Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate — the share of working-age adults currently employed — is one of the highest in the nation for all the ages of the workers.The state has also seen rapid growth in business start-ups. According to data provided by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions to WisBusiness.com, the number of new business start-ups in Wisconsin increased by 42% between 2019 and 2021, from over 50,000 to over 71. 000. In comparison, year-over-year increases going back to 2011-2012 ranged from 3.2% to 8.4%.
Funds for the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program are provided by ARPA, and WEDC works with nine regional economic development organizations to quickly disburse grants to eligible businesses and nonprofits.
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