May 7, 201912:27 PMInside Wisconsin
with Tom Still
Upper Midwest’s ‘I-Q Corridor’ offers options to coastal congestion
(page 1 of 2)
Aaron Kennedy is an entrepreneur with national credentials. He was founder and CEO for Noodles & Company, led Colorado’s successful branding and marketing campaign, managed product rollouts for major firms, and continues to advise emerging companies through some of the nation’s leading accelerators.
Now, perhaps somewhat to his surprise, UW–Madison graduate Kennedy is the “entrepreneur-in-residence” at UW–Green Bay.
The late April announcement that Kennedy will join the effort to put Green Bay on the map for startups and scaleups is the latest example of how the Upper Midwest is making a collective case for being a place where innovation is valued, talent is available, and companies with the ideas can grow.
Not that anyone is hanging “Vacancy” signs in tech hubs such as California’s Silicon Valley, Boston, or North Carolina’s Research Triangle, which continue to flourish, but there are reasons for investors, entrepreneurs, and others to tap the rise in activity across the Upper Midwest.
My name for the region that includes Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and spurs north and west is the “I-Q Corridor.” The “I” stands for the interstate highways that bind them, but also innovation, intellectual property, and investment. The “Q” suggests quality of workforce, research, education, and life in general, the latter being a quality more familiar tech hubs are sometimes lacking.
Green Bay is staking its spot on the “I-Q Corridor” thanks to an alliance that includes the Green Bay Packers, Microsoft, UW–Green Bay, and others that have combined to create “TitletownTech,” which aims to bring world-class digital innovation and expertise to the region.
It is headquartered in Titletown, the development west of Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, in a building that houses an innovation lab, venture studio, fund managers, and others who can help to build young companies.
Kennedy’s role over his four-year commitment to the UW–Green Bay is to work across academic and business lines to advise those companies, spot opportunities, and to generally “think big” about what Green Bay can offer to investors and entrepreneurs.
Unofficially, what he brings are connections and credibility, which can help draw attention to Green Bay and the larger region. That attention may come from people who wouldn’t automatically stop to think about what the Upper Midwest offers.
Those assets include reasonable deal valuations for angel and venture capitalists; well-trained talent through some of the nation’s best universities, colleges, and technical schools; lower business costs overall; federal laboratories; a central location for distribution; and a strong work ethic.
The I-Q Corridor also features a range of tech sectors in its portfolio, from software to life sciences, and from next-generation agriculture to advanced manufacturing. Investors have been increasingly drawn to that mix, based on recent deal data.