Jadin tells Forward Janesville job creation, retention remain top priorities

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Friday, November 18, 2011
— Paul Jadin did more than preach to the choir Thursday in a discussion with Forward Janesville’s board of directors.

Wisconsin’s secretary of commerce sang along as well, agreeing with board member concerns about the state’s level of economic development competitiveness, inadequate workforce training and woeful marketing.

Still, Jadin left the board with the message that Wisconsin is improving on all fronts.

Gov. Scott Walker tapped Jadin as commerce secretary to head a department that changed drastically in July when the state’s licensing and permitting authorities were shifted to other agencies and the department, along with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., was tasked with business retention and attraction.

Jadin, a former Green Bay mayor and longtime president of its chamber, said his department is reorganizing itself to focus primarily on business development, entrepreneurship, international relations and marketing.

By January, his staff will be about 95 people—a shell of the former Commerce Department and its 390 workers.

‘This will enable us to be much more efficient within our divisions,” he said. “We want to be as bold as possible, be more proactive on the entrepreneurial side yet still deal effectively with our largest corporations and create a much better footprint around the world.”

Jadin said Wisconsin is not creating jobs as fast as he or Walker would like.

The state added 39,000 jobs in the first five months of the year, but hiring slowed as “partisan nonsense created the sense that Washington is dysfunctional,” he said. “We’ve got to get around that.

“We’re still creating jobs at a faster rate than the rest of the country, but it’s not fast enough,” he added. “We talk to businesses all around the state that say they’re doing very well, but they’re still waiting to hire more people or take out that next loan.”

Jadin said the state will work closely with major economic development groups such as Thrive and Rock County 5.0, both of which are public/private partnerships that serve the Janesville area.

“We need you to do your retention visits,” he said. “We need to know what’s going on with your major employers so we’re not surprised by anything.

“Retention and growth is number one, followed by attraction.”

Jadin said Walker is highly engaged in economic development and often makes calls outside the state’s borders on Jadin’s behalf.

“We have picked up a few businesses that way,” Jadin said. “When I need the aura of his office, I get it, and then he stays out of the way.”

Jadin said Wisconsin still has a difficult time competing with other midwestern states when it comes to attracting new business. Once at rock bottom, he said the state moved up to the “below average” level of competitiveness with the passage of Walker’s budget.

Still, he said, the state has a ways to go before it becomes a major player in recruitment battles.

Jadin acknowledged board concerns that workforce training is inadequate.

“That’s still a huge problem,” he said. “When you’ve got a state website with 39,000 job postings and we still have an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, there’s a clear disconnect.

“Manufacturing is still thought of in this state as dirty, dumb and dangerous, and we have to dispel that notion all the way down to the kindergarten level.

“We’ve got to open classes based on the needs of employers instead of the demands of students. People may want culinary arts programs, but there isn’t a great demand for chefs.”

Last updated: 6:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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