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WEDC Corner September 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016   (0 Comments)
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WEDC Launches Grant Program to Advance Entrepreneurship Statewide

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is accepting applications for a new grant program designed to advance the climate for entrepreneurship throughout the state. 

The Entrepreneurship Support program is open to nonprofit organizations and communities for activities and projects that promote entrepreneurship and deliver key services and resources to Wisconsin entrepreneurs. 

While WEDC has a variety of programs to support the formation, development, growth and financing of technology-based and growth-oriented startup and early-stage businesses, the new initiative provides funding to organizations and communities whose efforts may not meet the eligibility criteria for existing programs. 

“There are numerous organizations across the state that support the overall mission of identifying, educating, servicing and funding Wisconsin entrepreneurs,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for WEDC. “These grants will help leverage those assets and further increase the availability of high-impact resources supporting new, innovative approaches to serving the entrepreneurial community.” 

To achieve that goal, the new pilot program will provide grants of between $10,000 and $100,000 for activities such as the promotion of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial education, mentorship and training, and business development and financial services. 

“The successful launch of new business ventures is vitally important to our economic future,” explained Tricia Braun, deputy secretary and chief operating officer of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “The Entrepreneurship Support grant will assist local and regional efforts to inspire, engage and support aspiring and active entrepreneurs. 

“We believe this program will result in creative approaches to helping entrepreneurs,” Braun added. “Some of the best new ideas originate from local organizations because they are the ones who truly understand the unique needs of their communities.” 

Hagar said the program is expected to help fill a gap that may exist in rural and midsize communities throughout the state and that it should foster more collaboration between organizations with similar goals.  

“The program is intended to bring new services to regions where there are still gaps, and to increase the impact of services where they are available,” Hagar said. “One common theme across research on this topic is that the strongest entrepreneurial communities are the ones that maximize connectivity among both entrepreneurs and service providers. We’re looking for projects that reflect that spirit of collaboration.” 

Bon Wikenheiser, state director of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center, part of the UW Extension, said she expects the program to result in the development of innovative plans that will bolster the many services already provided to entrepreneurs. 

“No small business succeeds alone, and no one program can provide everything necessary for entrepreneurs to thrive,” Wikenheiser said. “This new program encourages public and private organizations to focus on specific needs identified in the projects, and to execute solutions together.” 

The program is the latest addition to WEDC’s suite of entrepreneurship resources, which includes support for startup accelerators, seed capital funds, investment tax credits and technology loans. In addition, WEDC supports and engages an existing statewide network of partners that offers business training, mentorship and financing to aspiring entrepreneurs. 

“Wisconsin rates high nationally in the survival rate of new businesses in part because of the state’s strong support system for young companies,” Hagar said. “This program will support strategic efforts by organizations to encourage entrepreneurship, encourage those thinking about starting a new business to take that step, and offer the support needed to help them succeed.” 

The $500,000 competitive program will provide grants that must be matched by the applicant. Funding can be used for personnel, professional services and materials directly related to the project and may not be used for land, facility costs or equipment. Projects supported by the program must take place in 2017. 

Applications are due by Oct. 31 and will be evaluated on criteria including applicant capability, project alignment and feasibility, project and financial need, collaboration and potential impact. Application details and additional program information can be found at


Idle Sites Redevelopment Program to Provide Grants for Abandoned or Underutilized Properties
Grant applications now available for program that helps communities throughout Wisconsin develop idle industrial and commercial sites

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is now accepting applications for a grant program to assist Wisconsin communities looking to revitalize and develop industrial and commercial sites that have been abandoned or require extensive improvements.

The Idle Sites Redevelopment Program, created in 2013, will offer Wisconsin communities grants of up to $500,000 for implementation of redevelopment plans for large industrial or commercial sites that have been idle, abandoned or underutilized for at least five years. Up to $2.3 million in funds are available through the program this year.

“The Idle Sites Redevelopment Program is an extremely effective vehicle for cultivating communities for those who live and work in them,” said Barb LaMue, vice president of business and community development for WEDC. “This program is structured to advance the marketability of industrial sites that have been vacant, with preference given to sites that are located in high-density urban areas or in central business districts.”

To date, WEDC has awarded more than $10.8 million in Idle Sites grants to 15 projects throughout the state that are projected to draw an additional $300 million in private investment. These redevelopment sites are projected to generate $466 million in additional property value and support more than 5,600 direct jobs, as well as up to 9,000 construction and supporting jobs.

This year, the program will have a single grant competition in which applications are due Nov. 1. Cities, villages, towns, redevelopment authorities, community development authorities or other government entities with idle industrial sites of 5 acres or more or commercial properties of 10 acres are eligible for the program.

Award funds are limited to 30 percent of project costs, including demolition, environmental remediation, infrastructure or site-specific improvements defined in a redevelopment plan to advance the site to shovel-ready status or enhance the site’s market attractiveness.

Applications are now available. To begin the application process, click here.

If you are interested in applying for or have questions about the Idle Sites Redevelopment Program, please contact a WEDC regional economic development director.


State Receives $3.1 Million Federal Grant to Continue Diversification of Regional Economy in East Central Wisconsin
Grant to Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to support Initiative 41 — a collaborative effort to strengthen and diversify economy in region

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) announced it has received a $3.1 million federal grant and will use the funds to work with the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (ECWRPC) and more than 20 partners on an initiative to help create greater economic diversity in the region.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Defense will be used to support a new effort called Initiative 41, which focuses on how businesses, governments, universities and technical colleges can collaborate to spur economic development, entrepreneurship and industry diversification along the Interstate 41 corridor in Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac, Brown and Calumet counties.

The initiative is a continuation of efforts headed by ECWRPC and others to diversify the economy along the I-41 Corridor so that companies in the region are less susceptible to declines in defense spending.

Projects to be launched as part of Initiative 41 include:

  • The implementation of the “aerospace cluster” strategy that is expected to include a private-public fund to invest in aviation companies that want to expand or relocate to the region.
  • A comprehensive outreach/branding strategy to promote the assets of the I-41 Corridor that will focus on businesses wanting to expand or invest in the region.
  •  A regional entrepreneurship development system that will provide assistance and resources to companies that want to diversify from the defense industry into other sectors. This will provide a one-stop system of seamless resources for innovators and entrepreneurs.
  • A nine-week program in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (UWO) that will provide entrepreneurs with support in developing products and securing angel investors.
  •  A “Growth Management Academy,” also in conjunction with UWO, that will provide training and mentoring to second-stage businesses ready to take their business to the next level.
  • A program to assist family-owned businesses in developing succession planning to help those small companies survive the impact of decreases in defense contracts.

“The state of Wisconsin and the WEDC are appreciative of the Department of Defense grant, and we look forward to working with our partners on an initiative that has the potential to transform the economy in east-central Wisconsin,” said Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who took part in an Initiative 41 kickoff event at Fox Valley Technical College on Tuesday. “What we’re doing here—focusing on economic development in a specific corridor not limited by municipal or county boundaries—is something that can be successfully replicated around the state.”

“I am grateful to the WEDC and its initiative partners for working tirelessly to secure this DOD grant, providing new resources and economic opportunities for the manufacturers, business owners and entrepreneurs in the east-central region who currently depend solely on the defense industry to pay their bills and support their families,” said Congressman Glenn Grothman, who announced the grant Tuesday. “While I’m proud of Wisconsin’s strong defense manufacturing sector, this grant allows for common-sense diversification of economic opportunities to help maintain healthy economies in these communities regardless of changes in defense spending.”

The initiative was formed as a result of layoffs by Oshkosh Corp. in 2012-13 that came as a result of defense spending cuts and not only affected that company, but also hundreds of area businesses that provide products and support services to the company.

“It wasn’t just a matter of one company facing a budget cut,” explained Eric Fowle, executive director of ECWRPC, who also attended the event. “The entire region was impacted, and it was clear that there needed to be an effort to encourage economic diversification so that if something similar happened in the future, the impact would be significantly less. We hope to encourage that through Initiative 41.”

“We’re trying to get entities to realize there’s a need to think differently when it comes to developing, attracting and retaining business,” Fowle added. “Our economy doesn’t start and stop at a community or county border. To be successful, we have to look at collaboration across borders and acknowledge that what is a win for one community is a win for all of our communities.”

Initiative 41 project partners include: Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission; Brown County; Calumet County; City of Oshkosh; ECWRPC; Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation; Fox Cities Regional Partnership; Fox Valley Technical College; Fox Valley Workforce Development Board; Greater Green Bay Chamber; Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation; Moraine Park Technical College; New North, Inc.; Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance; Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce; Outagamie County; University of Wisconsin Oshkosh; Waupaca County Economic Development Corporation; Winnebago County; Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development; WEDC; and Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

For more information about Initiative 41 and how to get involved, contact Eric Fowle or Sarah Van Buren of ECWRPC at (920) 751-4770 or visit

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