Under new legislation signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle Friday, Wisconsin's aerospace industry could soon be ready for takeoff.
The legislation, called Senate Bill 352, creates a new Wisconsin Aerospace Authority, a state board that plans to build a spaceport in Sheboygan within the next couple years.
According to bill authors Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, and Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, the new authority will benefit the city of Sheboygan as well as the state as a whole for years to come.
"This important legislation will open the door to new and exciting possibilities for our area and Wisconsin," Kestell said in a release. "I am glad to be a part of this initiative and look forward to what the future holds."
And the future, Leibham said in a release, holds great promise in terms of the spaceport's positive impact on economic development, job creation and tourism.
According to bill supporters, development of a spaceport will increase tourism to the Sheboygan area. The newly signed legislation reflects Sheboygan's recent citywide effort to build a space and science education center complete with a planetarium, theater, museum and restaurant. In addition, the spaceport will serve as a center for launching rockets into space.
These possible benefits, along with the future of Wisconsin's aerospace industry, will be considered by the new Wisconsin Aerospace Authority under direction by SB 352.
Leibham added the spaceport will help ensure Wisconsin is ready and able to participate in the aerospace industry and other "new economic frontiers as they continue to unfold."
"The amount of investments and the number of jobs being created in the aerospace industry across our nation are skyrocketing," he said.
While bill supporters continue to point to the spaceport's economic and educational advantages, Doyle also maintains his action to sign SB 352 into law will not place an undue burden on Wisconsin taxpayers.
"It won't cost taxpayers any money," Doyle's spokesman Dan Leistikow said. "It's simply to establish a board so they can look into the idea [of building a spaceport] some more."
The measure passed through both the Senate and Assembly last month in bipartisan votes, before being signed by the governor Friday.
"While this proposal may seem somewhat futuristic, the reality is that the future has arrived," Leibham said.