Secretary Risch Tours Local Ag Economy

Secretary Risch with WDLB's Mike Warren

DFI Secretary Discusses Local Ag Economy, Foxconn Effect

While the Department of Financial Institution for Wisconsin might not get much press, it’s crucial to the success of the team.

“If all the cabinet secretaries were a football team, I would be its long snapper,” explained Jay Risch, Secretary of the DFI. “We examine the state charter banks and state chartered credit unions. We also oversee securities industry in the state, and a division of corporate and consumer services.”

A new corporation, co-op, or LLC would register with the DFI. College savings program Wisconsin 529 and the Office of Financial Literacy are also part of the department. Overall, the DFI works behind the scenes to keep the Wisconsin economy healthy, and a large part of that is agriculture.

Risch visited Marshfield March 7-8 to learn more about the agricultural lending economy, and toured a local farm, Nasonville Dairy, Stainless-and-Repair, H&S manufacturing, and Nelson-Jameson. Risch came to MACCI on March 8 to provide a policy update and participate in a roundtable discussion with industry leaders and local financial institutions.

“It’s not just a local impact, these are folks that are doing business statewide, nationwide, and into other countries. The inter-connectedness of the economy is so interesting,” said Risch. “In dairy farming it’s not just the milk and cows. There’s so much that goes into that, and what happens to those products and how they get sent around.”

The local economy in Marshfield and Central Wisconsin was discussed during the roundtable meeting, and current challenges like finding workers with specialized skills to fill positions. Risch said that the economy is strong and that there are more people employed in the state than ever before, with unemployment at only 3%.

Financial institutions are hoping for deregulation at the federal level. “There was talk about some of the overregulation that has come from Washington over the last several years, but there’s good news on that. As we speak, the U.S. Senate is working on a package that has bipartisan support,” said Risch. The bill would rewrite part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act to provide relief to small to mid-size banks by easing regulations.

A current buzzword in the state economy is Foxconn, a $10 billion flat screen TV manufacturing plant coming to Mount Pleasant from Taiwan. Other agencies are more involved than DFI, Risch said, but he said it will be a “tremendous boon” for the state.

“How big this a cannot be overstated,” he said. “It’s going to take 10,000 jobs to build this campus…Another 13,000 people will be needed to make that factory work. It’s going to benefit the state in ways you wouldn’t immediately think.”

Some of those ways include a boost to the ginseng industry, popular in Asia. Ninety-five percent of the country’s exported ginseng is produced in Wisconsin, with most of that coming from Marathon County. Additionally, the state budget will see long-term benefit from the taxes the workers will be paying, Risch said.

Even with the economic benefits that Foxconn will bring, he said the state’s economy is already doing well.

“For several quarters now, lending at banks and credit unions has been going up. Past due loans number has been dropping at a consistent basis,” said Risch. “There is a little stress in the ag portfolio sometimes because commodities and prices have not been what folks would like for a little while now. There’s always going to be some stresses and areas of concern, but overall Wisconsin’s economy is in excellent shape. The financial institutions that serve the economy in Wisconsin, it’s a reflection of that. You can’t have health in one without the other.”

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