By Gov. Tony Evers
After the pandemic hit, I knew we had to do the right thing and help small businesses maintain their workforce, prevent layoffs and create new jobs. That’s why I launched small business grant programs and directed almost a billion dollars in grants and economic relief to tens of thousands of small businesses and over 20,000 family farms.
In communities across the state, small businesses ranging from flower shops to local bars and restaurants are benefiting from my Main Street small business grant program — you’ll likely know many of them in your community.
So far, more 3,400 small businesses in all 72 counties have received up to $10,000 grants to build out new locations and pay costs associated with starting a new storefront, such as paying rent or operating costs.
While you may not have heard about it, Wisconsin now has historically low unemployment and one of the highest labor participation rates in the nation.
These numbers are good, but I know that we must continue to improve.
When I visit Main Streets across Wisconsin, I’m incredibly proud to see vibrant small businesses benefiting from these crucial grants. In Washburn, the city’s 15 vacant commercial spaces have been whittled down to only four, and in downtown Racine, more than 30 small businesses have opened.
And this month in Madison and Milwaukee, I announced more than $86 million to help grow small businesses in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and that have historically had difficulty accessing credit and capital.
The Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce is among 24 chambers to receive a portion of the funding, which will help them offer coaching, mentoring, and technical assistance for new small business owners. The chamber’s goal is to create 3,000 new Black-owned businesses in the state by 2024.
From La Crosse to Milwaukee, Washburn to Waukesha, and in downtown communities in every corner of the state, our small business programs are powering a small business renaissance.
But not only am I focused on delivering for small business owners, I’m also committed to doing the right thing and building opportunities for workers and helping fill job openings across the state. That’s why I’ve worked to create jobs, apprenticeships and training programs that are helping workers switch careers, learn new skills, and thrive in our state’s innovative economy.
Our state has long struggled with workforce shortages, and the pandemic sure hasn’t helped. But as governor, it’s my responsibility to solve issues with common sense solutions.
We can’t kick the can down the road anymore, we must fill empty jobs by empowering workers and investing in small businesses.
In 2021, I led Wisconsin through one of the most innovative jobs creation periods in state history — and we did it by focusing locally. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating jobs and each community is facing unique challenges. That’s why, as governor, I’ve been listening to community leaders and investing funds directly into local areas.
One innovative program that I’m especially proud of is our Worker Advancement Initiative, which will create skills training and job opportunities for more than 2,300 Wisconsinites across the state. This cutting-edge program is teaching skills and providing opportunities to people who have lost their previous job.
In Appleton, I had the privilege of sitting down with small business leaders to hear directly from them on what’s working and what needs fixing. I was proud to hear how Wisconsin is a strong place to do business, but I also know that we still have a lot of work to do to help businesses and fill jobs.
Growing up in Plymouth, I learned to be a common sense problem solver and never back away from challenges — no matter how hard they may seem. Creating jobs, opening businesses, and filling openings isn’t easy work, but as governor, I’m going to keep doing what’s right for small businesses and workers — that’s a promise.