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DNR Adds New Resource: Office of Business Support and Sustainability

Office of Business Support aims to provide DNR assistance to businesses in Wisconsin

Weekly News article published: October 30, 2012 by the Central Office

MADISON – Businesses and industries looking to build or expand in Wisconsin now have a new resource intended to provide enhanced and proactive business support to navigate through Department of Natural Resources rules, regulations and permitting, with the official launch of the DNR Office of Business Support and Sustainability.

“We created this office to provide a focal point within the department to enhance job creation and economic vitality while maintaining environmental standards under the DNR's environmental and conservation mission,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

“The Office of Business Support and Sustainability will strengthen working relationships with key designated business sectors by supporting streamlining, economic development and innovation that yields both environmental and economic results,” added OBSS Director Al Shea.

Shea said the new office will also focus and coordinate the department’s resources needed to enable economic development and support job creation, working primarily on businesses seeking to start or relocate in Wisconsin, and on existing businesses seeking to expand and key business retention opportunities. Routine permitting will be handled through the existing DNR regulatory programs.

To emphasize the importance of the office, Shea reports directly to Secretary Stepp. The office was created by drawing together staff from the department’s Energy and Environmental Analysis and Cooperative Environmental Assistance programs. Initially DNR will focus on ten sectors in which to build relationships. Specialists have been appointed to work on: agribusiness; development, construction and building; energy; forest and wood products; green manufacturing; manufacturing; paper; printing; sustainable communities; and transportation.

“Sector development specialists will not only work directly with the sector, but also with a team of individuals from various DNR programs to enable prompt DNR response to business and community needs,” said Shea. He noted the specialists and their teams are tasked with developing specialized knowledge about sector needs, and working collaboratively with these sectors to create effective growth and environmental performance strategies.

Partners from other organizations and agencies will play a key role as the Office of Business Support and Sustainability works to align sector work with initiatives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Regional Economic Development Organizations and academic institutions to name a few.

In addition, under Executive Order 69, the office will also grow the Green Tier Program, and OBSS staff will coordinate the work of DNR programs to meet that challenge. Many Wisconsin businesses and communities have embraced sustainability as a strategy for the future and the new office will work to support those initiatives. Staff will pursue flexibility for sustainable businesses in order to make Wisconsin businesses more profitable and get environmental performance that goes well beyond regulatory minimums. “We expect to learn from our business and community partners who have embraced sustainability, and make sure they get the support that they need from DNR,” said Shea.

To view the various DNR tools to support businesses in Wisconsin, go to the DNR website and type in key words “sector" to get find business sectors and partnerships or “business" to find other resources for businesses.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Al Shea, 608-266-5896; Bill Cosh, 608-267-2773


New office strengthens DNR's role with businesses


By Cathy Stepp, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources


Wisconsin is taking bold actions in order to out-compete states across the country in the pursuit of economic development, job creation and attraction of new businesses. These efforts will not sacrifice environmental protection, but by working together up-front we should see better environmental outcomes.

What will ultimately differentiate Wisconsin from other states, and differentiate Wisconsin businesses from other competitors, will be the partnership between our private and public sectors, the time sensitive coordination with state government and the extent of innovative programs that can adapt to very diverse business needs. In my first 21 months as DNR Secretary, I have come to realize even more how critical a role the department plays in creating a stable, sustainable business climate.

What started with Governor Walker's creation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is being strengthened by creation of the Office of Business Support and Sustainability (OBSS) within the DNR. This new office will focus on ten of our most important business sectors, where working relationships between DNR and the sector can build value - both for the environment and the economy.

For each sector we will designate one key staff person as a point of contact within DNR. Sector teams within DNR will be charged to provide specialized support for their respective sectors - to walk in the shoes of those businesses, listen to business needs and understand sector trends. I expect these teams to produce business value and environmental results. I will be listening closely to citizens and businesses alike to hear if we are meeting this goal.

Among the United States, Wisconsin has the most potent set of regulator innovation tools for building profitability and competitive advantage. Our Office of Business Support and Sustainability has been created to capitalize on those tools, and has been positioned to work even more effectively with partners.

Through Wisconsin's Green Tier Law, companies have gained access to new markets, strengthened relationships with customers, expedited permitting processes, accessed cost saving technologies and reduced material costs. Executive Order 69 from Governor Walker set the stage for OBSS to work with businesses and amongst all DNR programs to get more participation and value from this nationally recognized program. Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council are also key partners with this new office. We are not aware of any other state that has the same level of regulatory flexibility, skill development, peer recognition and level of coordination between those partners as does Wisconsin.

This new office will provide a framework within DNR to ensure the right resources are allocated to do our part for business development. We will make sure that the needs of new and growing businesses are addressed and that broad needs for the business sectors are met. Lastly, we will share sustainable practices and work with partners to assure that the competitive advantages from sustainability are accessible and achievable.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is poised to do its part in Wisconsin's economic recovery. We want to prove that economic vitality and environmental protection can occur hand-in-hand in this great state.


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