From wisopinion.com: “A vision for 21st century tech colleges” — By Rebecca Kleefisch – We should celebrate our sons and daughters who become nursing assistants and machinists just as much as those who become lawyers and doctors. That was my message this weekend at Waukesha County Technical College’s commencement ceremony, when hundreds of students walked across the stage and stepped into new careers and new opportunities.

Governor Walker said the same thing this past January in his State of the State address. He and I know that the twin drivers of our state’s economy are manufacturing and agriculture. Both of those industries rely heavily on technical colleges for expertise and employees. A strong Wisconsin economy needs strong tech colleges in every part of the state, staffed by top-notch teachers and filled with cutting-edge technology. Our tech colleges are a good investment for students, a good partner for employers, and a good value for taxpayers.

The students graduating from WCTC are entering into careers offering the promise of prosperity. An associate’s degree graduate in Aircraft Electronics can get jobs with a starting salary of $47,000. A one-year technical diploma in brick-laying and masonry leads to jobs with a median starting salary of almost $43,000. A dental hygiene grad starts with a salary just shy of $50,000. In fact, for the past 15 years, the tech colleges have placed at least 86 percent of their graduates into jobs within six months of graduation. In other words, tech colleges are equipping our workers with the skills they need to get the high-paying jobs they want and the economy offers.

One reason these jobs pay so well is because our Wisconsin employers are actively searching for employees with the skills and experience to fill jobs across our economy, especially in our agriculture, health care, and manufacturing sectors. It’s vitally important that technical colleges gear their services to the jobs available in their communities today and in the future. That’s why I was so impressed by the Fab Lab at Gateway Tech, for instance, which offers itself as a resource to students, faculty, and local manufacturers to try new ideas and products.

Tech colleges need to stay connected to both the community and to the state as a whole. The Governor’s Blueprint for Prosperity, which invested the state’s $911 million surplus, included $406 million in property tax relief through the tech colleges. At Madison Area Technical College, for instance, state funding jumped from 10 percent to nearly half of MATC’s budget. With the property tax caps in place, that will drop MATC’s local tax levy by almost half, saving the owner of an average Madison home about $200.

We need to continue investing in our technical colleges because of the crucial role they play in our communities and our economy. For instance, given all the technical advances discovered by our tech college staff and students, I’d like to see new programs that help commercialize these innovations as new products and processes for use in business.

My address at WCTC on Saturday was my 37th stop at a technical college since taking office. All those visits reflect the high priority that Governor Walker and I place on our tech colleges. Commencement provides each of us, as friends, family, and neighbors of the graduates, an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and to appreciate their new careers building a stronger Wisconsin.

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From newrichmond-news.com: “Lt. Gov. Kleenfisch visits NR businesses” — Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch spent the day in New Richmond last Wednesday keeping company with local business people at a breakfast meeting and during tours of WITC and three local manufacturers.

On the lieutenant governor’s itinerary were a Business Breakfast at WITC with 50 area business owners, a tour of WITC and visits with Wisconsin Lighting, Antlers by Klaus and Phillips-Medisize.

At the Business Breakfast, which was sponsored by WITC, the City of New Richmond and the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, Kleefisch talked about tax reform and Gov. Scott Walker’s “Blueprint to Prosperity” he unveiled during his State of the State Address earlier this year.

“Everyone in Wisconsin who pays taxes is going to see tremendous tax relief based on that,” Kleefisch said. “If you add it all up, between the $58 for the income tax relief, the $101 of property tax relief, the $57.90 per month people are going to get from withholding changes, that’s about $681 for the average Wisconsin family when you add it all up in April. That’s a big deal.”

Kleefisch’s New Richmond visit was part of a tour to spread the word about the tax relief Walker has brought to Wisconsinites, and how much more can be done.

“After the blueprint is signed into law, the governor will have signed about $2 billion of tax relief into law,” Kleefisch said. “It’s extraordinary and people are thankful for it, but we want to do more, because we know taxpayers know what to do with their money better than government ever could.”

Part of the tour was also meant to solicit ideas from business people around the state, Kleefisch said. And the Business Breakfast was a good opportunity for her to hear directly from those business owners. She said she is urging people to come to tax reform roundtable sessions and also to visit taxreform.wi.gov.

After the Business Breakfast, Kleefisch took a tour of the WITC campus with WITC Senior Director Larry Gee and Campus Administrator Joe Huftel.

Next, Kleefisch and her entourage — including New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne, City Administrator Mike Darrow and Community Development Director Beth Thompson — toured a couple of businesses in the city’s former WeTEC building.

Todd Loehr, owner of Wisconsin Lighting, told the lieutenant governor about the history of his company and showed her the ins and outs of his custom lampshade manufacturing process that takes online orders from around the country.

Loehr also took Kleefisch to another business in the building that not too many people know about: Antlers by Klaus.

Antlers by Klaus touts itself as the largest antler replicating company in the nation with more than 250 replicas. The company meticulously creates each replica to appear just as the original set of antlers and each set is painted by hand in a space inside the former WeTEC building.

Owner Klaus Lebrecht told Kleefisch his company’s story from how he got his start to how he got his work into some of the biggest sporting goods chain stores in the United States.

Before leaving town, Kleefisch reminisced about one of her earliest trips to western Wisconsin.

“I love New Richmond,” Kleefisch said. “St. Croix County was one of the first counties I ever campaigned in during my very first week on the trail back in 2010. So, I have very fond memories of being here, but I think the memories I’m building today are even fonder still, because we are talking about the growth potential of a community that is really on the cusp of something special.”

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