Here are the nine priorities that the Chippewa Valley Chamber Alliance Actions will present in Madison:
Recognize the importance of venture capital in job growth at small companies, pass legislation that increases venture capital funding from state sources and gives tax credits to angel investors who help start-up companies expand.
Job skills gaps
Support efforts that address skills gap recommendations so funds are directed toward training that meets area workforce demands. Though Wisconsin has thousands of open jobs, unemployed workers can lack the specific skills to fill them.
“That’s a big issue because obviously in order to do that, you have to have more funding for the educational institutions to train those people for those jobs,” said Bob McCoy, president and CEO of the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce.
Educational institutions also need the flexibility to respond more quickly to what’s needed and help close that gap, said Michelle Dingwall, CEO of the Greater Menomonie Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.
Frac sand mining
Continue Department of Natural Resources oversight but let local governments negotiate their own agreements with frac sand companies.
CVTC Energy Education Center
Increase the $1.5 million biennial limit on technical colleges for new construction within their budgets to $3 million so CVTC can complete the Energy Education Center and meet the demand for energy industry workers.
“They would like flexibility within their budget to have up to $3 million,” McCoy said. “They’re not asking the state to give them another million-and-a-half dollars, but they’re restricted right now. That would give CVTC the chance to have that money to build their new energy center.“
High-speed rail has been an issue for years. Funding has been pulled back.
“There’s still a group looking at that, and we still want them to realize that there is interest in high-speed rail in Wisconsin,” McCoy said. “Of course we still are having discussions with the Twin Cities … because one of the big issues is what happens to the interstate highway in the next eight years?
“As it gets more congested, you can’t drive the speed limit from here to the Twin Cities. That either needs to be a six-lane highway, which is on the DOT’s radar, or you need to put in some kind of other transportation — high-speed bus lanes or train transportation — to be able to move the growing population.”
The rally also will recommend maintaining sufficient passenger access to air travel choices that include the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Lake and river water quality
Curb runoff from various sources to protect the water quality of Lake Menomin and other lakes and rivers by encouraging farmers to retire adjacent cropland. Initiate a lower “conservation” tax level for retired cropland so it’s not taxed at the current higher “recreational” rate.
Lake Menomin’s green hue has inhibited tourism and lake use. It also raises public health concerns for nearby residents.
“Having incentives for farmers to retire some of that lake area would create a nice buffer and reduce runoff into the lake,” Dingwall said.
Provide income- and sales-tax incentives for private sector broadband providers so underserved areas can have higher access to meet commercial, educational, individual, and workforce needs.
University housing projects
UW-Stout will continue its 16-year residence hall upgrade plan with renovations on McCalmont Hall and North Hall; and another upper campus dorm and revamping of Garfield Avenue infrastructure on lower campus have been proposed at UW-Eau Claire. The UW System Board of Regents approved these projects in its 2013-15 capital budget.
The Confluence Project
The public/private project at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers in downtown Eau Claire would include a community arts center and retail/commercial space, public parking and university student housing. Funding would come from a combination of private and public sources.