MADISON — The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Foundation’s economic blueprint for the state echoes a common concern, a crisis that threatens the Badger State economy: the workforce shortage.
The foundation, an affiliate of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, unveiled its Wisconsin 2035 report on Thursday at the annual Future Wisconsin Summit.
What will it take for Wisconsin to be economically successful over the next 15 years and beyond? Recruiting and retaining workers.
WMC Foundation staff interviewed more than 80 leaders from Wisconsin industry — from agriculture and manufacturing to healthcare and hospitality and more. The conversations “reinforced” that workforce is Wisconsin’s No. 1 stumbling block to success.
“More employers than ever before are having trouble finding workers, and Wisconsin’s demographic concerns will only intensify this economic problem,” said WMC President & CEO Kurt R. Bauer, who also serves as Chairman of the WMC Foundation Board.
Liberal government policies have made matters worse. A $300 weekly federal unemployment bonus disincentivized the return to work following the 2020 lockdowns that drove millions of employees out of the workforce. Gov. Tony Evers could have ended the payments long before they expired in September, but he opted not to. Industry leaders and employers say the subsidies forced companies to compete with the government for workers.
Wisconsin 2035 is broken into three policy areas: workforce, taxes and education. The report’s recommendations for these topics include:
- Talent Attraction: Fund a sustained talent attraction campaign to grow Wisconsin’s working age population.
- Talent Retention: Stop the exodus of born-and-raised Wisconsinites by educating them about and connecting them to economic opportunities in the state.
- Talent Expansion: Get people off the sidelines by reducing barriers to entry and bridging the skills gap.
- Tax Reform: Significantly reduce and reform the state’s tax burden to make Wisconsin more competitive.
- Education Reform: Target funding to better connect the K-12 system to local employers and available careers.
“Everything comes back to workforce. Wisconsin must attract, retain and expand our talent pool,” added Bauer. “The state can no longer afford to be the best kept secret in the Midwest. We must tell our story and, at the same time, make Wisconsin an even more attractive place to live, work and play.”