Wisconsin is the nation’s leader in economic development and investment to support businesses | Wisconsin



Hill Valley Dairy, 510 Broad St., Lake Geneva

The Hill Valley Dairy cheese store, which opened in February at 510 Broad St. in Lake Geneva, received $10,000 in grants from the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program, which has served more than 4,500 small businesses and nonprofit organizations in all 72 Wisconsin counties .


Eric Johnson



Wisconsin is a leader among US states in economic development and business support investments following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Tony Evers on Nov. 16 lifted a recent analysis of state allocations of federal aid under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) by the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan research and policy institute , established in 1981 with focus on a variety of areas including federal fiscal policy, state fiscal policy and responding to economic crises, including the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CBPP analysis showed Wisconsin to be the top state in the country for general economic development assistance and the top state in the country for business support in terms of the proportion of federal assistance received by states and directed by Evers.

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Investments led by Evers in support of Wisconsin’s businesses and economic development include those funded under the state’s Main Street Bounceback Grant Program (https://wedc.org/programs-and-resources/mainstreet-bounceback-grants/ ) created by Evers Administration to support Wisconsin’s economic recovery and help fill empty storefronts in all 72 counties of Wisconsin.

Evers announced on Nov. 16 that nearly 7,200 small businesses and nonprofits have received $10,000 in grants to fill empty storefronts under the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program.

“We’ve worked to make smart investments to get more support into the hands of Wisconsin families, farmers, industries and small businesses that have been the lifeblood of our economic recovery by hiring locally, shopping locally and our give back to communities. ‘ Evers said. “With new high street stores opening in every county in Wisconsin, unemployment at historic lows, and our state in the best fiscal position in state history, it’s clear that our investments have paid off. I’m damn proud that we’re leading the nation in our focus on supporting small businesses and long-term investments to build an economy that works for everyone.”

Recipients of local grants include 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 previously 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 shop during the window that included that [COVID-19] Pandemic,” said Hill Valley Dairy artisan cheesemaker Ron Henningfeld, who co-owns the business with his wife Josie. “We were able to apply for a scholarship and received funding that has helped us tremendously as a small business. It helped us pay rent, hire staff and pay wages when we opened this shop on one of the main streets here on Lake Geneva.”

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Since 2020, Evers has invested more than $1 billion of Wisconsin’s federal coronavirus relief funds in economic resilience and small business support, including through the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program, which provides $10,000 in grants , to help small businesses and nonprofits relocate into previously vacant commercial space, according to the state.

First announced in April 2021, on May 10, 2022 Evers announced an additional investment of $25 million to support the program due to higher-than-expected demand, and in September the governor again announced an additional investment of Pledged $25 million to the program, bringing his total investment to $100 million to serve a total of 10,000 small businesses and nonprofits.

The program is administered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis through December 31, 2022.

“Communities across the state continue to show excitement and optimism as new businesses open their doors,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “Every corner of the state feels like Wisconsin offers small business owners a chance to make their dreams come true. These investments are good for the whole community because when a new store opens, it’s a chance for other local businesses to benefit from the increased footfall and supply chain relationships. It really is a win for everyone.”

Demand for Main Street bounceback grants is just one indication of the strength of Wisconsin’s economy. The state’s unemployment rate remains below the national average, while Wisconsin’s employment rate — the proportion of working-age adults currently employed — is one of the highest in the country for any age group of workers.

The state has also seen rapid growth in business start-ups. Based on records provided to WisBusiness.com by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, the number of new business formations in Wisconsin increased 42% from more than 50,000 to over 71,000 between 2019 and 2021. In comparison, annual increases since 2011-2012 ranged from 3.2% to 8.4%.

Funding for the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program is provided by ARPA, and WEDC works with nine regional economic development organizations to quickly disburse grants to eligible businesses and nonprofits.

For more information about the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program and how to apply, visit the WEDC website at https://wedc.org/programs-and-resources/mainstreet-bounceback-grants/.

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