The morning of the announcement that Nexus Pharmaceuticals, a privately held firm in Illinois, would build a manufacturing facility and invest $250 million over 10 years in Pleasant Prairie, CNBC’s 2019 America’s Top States for Business report arrived in the newsroom.
The announcement was the latest economic boost for Kenosha County, and it drew Gov. Tony Evers and local and regional leaders together.
“This is one of the most significant pharmaceutical investments in Wisconsin in years,” Evers said. “Southeast Wisconsin is increasingly becoming a destination of choice for high-value manufacturing jobs that require a skilled and educated workforce.”
By contrast, the CNBC report, which arrived quietly without the headlines, compares states on 60 measures of competitiveness in 10 broad categories to come up with the rankings for business climate.
It was a bit surprising that Wisconsin only ranked 15th.
Virginia led the list followed by Texas, North Carolina, Utah and Washington. Of interest in the Midwest, Minnesota ranked seventh and Indiana 11th.
A close look showed the categories that stood out — that pushed Wisconsin perhaps out of the top 10 — will surprise nobody who drives in this state.
Indiana ranked first in infrastructure, two years off a broad agreement that provides self-sustaining funding for road projects. Wisconsin ranked 24th in infrastructure, still seeking a self-sustaining road funding agreement, and 26th in quality of life which is partly related.
Of interest, Wisconsin scored its highest ranking in education, ranking fifth. It placed 20th in both workforce and cost of doing business, but both of those rankings were higher than Indiana and only behind Minnesota in the Midwest.
Another survey arrived last week, by AutoInsurance.org. It analyzed data from the Federal Highway Administration on each state’s bridges and roads and reported Wisconsin’s highways rank eighth worst in the nation. That ranking should surprise nobody either.
Evers and legislative leaders recently debated road funding plans but could not arrive at an agreement on anything long term. As it turns out the legislature approved $100 million in additional local road funding in the new two-year budget and gave a boost to the Amtrak Hiawatha service from Milwaukee to Chicago.
But Evers rejected Republican provisions that would have allowed the Department of Transportation to spend up to $2.5 million on a study on tolling and mileage-based fees. The governor said he objects to spending money on another study that will only show the most effective way to pay for roadwork is to raise the gas tax.
There are ideas on both sides, and we would like to see Wisconsin leaders meet and meet again and come up with a timetable to arrive at an agreement on long-term, self-sustaining road funding in the coming months. It’s past time for that to happen, and when it has potential to drag down the business expansion that is so great here the need stands out.
CEO Mariam Darsot said Nexus Pharmaceuticals chose Wisconsin and Pleasant Prairie because they provided space to expand the company and because of the efforts of a “Dream Team” of economic development and government officials. We applaud the great work.
The Pleasant Prairie Village Board will consider formal approval of the land purchase and sale agreement for $3.2 million on Monday. The agreement is for 16 acres of property. Nexus will join German candy producer Haribo and healthcare provider Advocate Aurora as the initial occupants of the corporate park just west of Interstate 04.
A “Dream Team” came together for this, and it will require a “Dream Team” effort to lead Wisconsin for a long-term road funding agreement. It should be on the radar in the business community statewide.