State economic development arm lays out recovery, says combating coronavirus spread still fastest way there

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is expecting jobs recovery in the state and the country to take two years.

The agency briefed lawmakers on the economic outlook on Tuesday, following through on a provision in the state’s coronavirus relief legislation that requested the report.

“When the legislature asked for this report back in the middle of April, I don’t think anybody knew that we were still going to be in the depths of this crisis that we are,” said Sec. Missy Hughes, the CEO of the WEDC. “And so we’re still learning about the impacts and still experiencing them.”

Hughes sees now as good of a time as any to start planning for recovery. Her agency’s report details in about 150 pages the impact of the coronavirus on the state’s economy and what steps can be taken to get it back on track.

The report estimates it will take at least two years to recover economically, but Hughes said that timeline requires planning and action, starting with the cause of the problems.

“All of us acting together, social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks is what’s going to make this economy recover the fastest,” she said.

From there she lays out priorities, like getting broadband across the whole state to support schools this fall, supporting innovation and getting everyone back to work.

For sectors especially hurt – like the service industry – not all jobs are expected to come back. For that, Hughes said the state should train workers to take over where they’re needed.

“Our manufacturers are still looking for employees,” she said. “Back in the beginning of March, we had 3% unemployment, and the industry was crying for people. Now we’ve got people. Let’s get them the right skills, then they can move into those slots.”

There will be limited resources for the state to use with decreased tax revenue to fund state spending, but Hughes said that’s why there needs to be a discussion on where to go from here.

She hopes the report will help fuel that.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Assembly Republicans will discuss options.

“I appreciate the Secretary and her team putting together the report as required by the Coronavirus Response bill. We will be discussing the report as a caucus to see if there are opportunities to move forward.”