The new head of Wisconsin's economic development office says he accepts a decision by the state's pension fund managers not to invest in his agency... but it means he'll have to look elsewhere for venture capital funds.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation CEO Reed Hall asked the State of Wisconsin Investment Board in November to invest $200 million for a venture capital fund in the agency known as WEDC. The Investment Board said "No," less than a month later, saying the investment did not meet the Board's standards.
Hall told reporters WEDC would move on. "That was a long shot, that they would invest $200 million in this type of operation. They have to prove to themselves that that's a good return for the risk that they take. And I understand that, as a fiduciary, that was their decision."
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Hall said he did not think the decision was a result of a lack of legitimacy in WEDC, though he conceded the agency lost credibility when it lost track of more than $50 million in state loans. Hall said he might ask the Investment Board for money again once he knows more about their philosophy.
For now, he says he'll wait to see if Governor Walker includes money for a venture capital fund in the budget he delivers this month. "It'd be nice to have $100 million. If we had $50 million, I think we could do some great things. And if there's less than that, at least it's a start. We won't be greedy on this."
Hall says if Walker does not budget the money, Hall will work with the legislature to craft a venture capital bill. Hall made his comments after a State Senate hearing where lawmakers voted unanimously to confirm him as WEDC CEO.