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Madison tech incubators: Forbes Magazine recently included University Research Park & MGE Innovation Center at the University of Wisconsin on their list of “10 Technology Incubators Changing the World.” The Madison tech incubator was recognized for hosting over 100 companies and employing 3,500 people. Then this week the planned Midwest BioLink Commercialization and Business Center in Madison received a $4.5 million federal grant. The incubator aims to develop and encourage the growth and use of agricultural technologies in Wisconsin by providing resources, lending and assistance to start-up "bio-ag" entities. Construction is expected to create 50 jobs, with an estimated 100 more positions coming within the first three to five years.
Agriculture: With late-season snowfall and typically unpredictable spring weather, the current status of crops in the state is mixed, depending on the crop. Apple growers in the southwest were able to rest calm with the recent frosty weekend, as most trees had already bloomed weeks ahead of schedule. Strawberry growers kept close eye on their precious plants, ready to engage irrigation systems to coat (and save) the blossoms of the plants in the event of a frost. Thanks to an ideal April, half of the state's corn crop is in the soil and growing, compared to just 15 percent at this time last year. The crop to take the biggest hit from the weather -- in particular, last weekend's snow -- could be ginseng in Marathon County. The internationally highly regarded root grows only in shade and many Marathon County shade barriers collapsed under the weight of the heavy, wet snow, exposing the plant to light and ice and likely killing a large percentage of the crop. Gov. Jim Doyle has asked for federal disaster declaration from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to help farmers get emergency loans and crop insurance payments. Doyle also signs into law three bills to boost the state's agriculture industry. One bill extends tax credits through 2012 to help dairy farmers modernize their operations and a second bill gives tax credits to food processing and distribution businesses. The third bill, called the Farm to School bill, will help more Wisconsin schools have easier access to locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Tourism spending: State Department of Tourism numbers indicate that the industry statewide took in $12.1 billion in 2009, or $1 billion less than 2008. Although strained by the recession and the consequential drop in discretionary spending, tourism in the state nevertheless remains a key element of Wisconsin's economy, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs. Those in the tourism business have taken an optimistic tone, noting that with the eventual economic recovery, the numbers should rebound in the coming years.