Need for ‘fund of funds’ in Wisconsin remains in wake of state budget committee’s decision

Need for ‘fund of funds’ in Wisconsin remains in wake of state budget committee’s decision

MADISON, Wis. – Although the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee declined to include a $100-million proposal in the state’s 2021-23 budget bill, the president of the Wisconsin Technology Council is hopeful that creation of a “fund of funds” will be considered later.

Tom Still, Tech Council president

Gov. Tony Evers had proposed a one-time state investment in such a fund, with a 2-to-1 private match, in his budget bill introduced in February. The idea was carefully considered by many state lawmakers, including members of the Legislature’s bipartisan Tech Caucus. However, the panel did not include the plan in its version of the $90-billion budget bill passed Thursday.

“We don’t believe questions about the ‘fund of funds’ stemmed from reluctance to help angel- and venture-capital backed companies in Wisconsin. Rather, it appears reservations were linked to perceptions of governance,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.

The Tech Council and members of the Wisconsin Fund Coalition were among supporters of the idea, which would have launched a fund along the lines of what exists in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and other states. Michigan is now the fastest-growing venture capital state.

“The Tech Council and the coalition will continue to engage with lawmakers who have shown great interest in what such a fund would mean to Wisconsin’s innovation economy,” Still said. “Wisconsin continues to lag most Midwest neighbors in venture capital formation, which makes it harder to build, attract and retain young companies.

“The time to invest in Wisconsin’s economic future is now, when the state’s revenue position is solid, versus waiting for the next crisis to begin,” Still added.

Co-chairs of the Wisconsin Fund Coalition are former Commerce Secretary Cory Nettles of Generation Growth Capital and former Administration Secretary Mark Bugher, who is also the retired director of University Research Park. Eight former Commerce or Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. secretaries, Republican and Democrat, support a “fund of funds” proposal.

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