Tapping ideas, talent, and passion to grow business in Wisconsin

From raising capital for innovation to financing workforce training to expanding global markets, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) understands business needs and works with partners across the state to structure customized solutions to help businesses succeed in Wisconsin.

Supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem

National studies show that net job growth in the U.S. economy results primarily from the creation of new startup firms. It is this critical role that entrepreneurs and investors fill that helps the economy to expand and create jobs. WEDC’s Division of Entrepreneurship and Innovation is focused on helping these innovators, and those who support them, through financial and technical assistance, business model training, and valuable networking opportunities.

WEDC programs include Capital Catalyst, which provides capital to eligible, locally managed seed funds that finance early-stage and growth-oriented companies, and businesses commercializing ideas and technologies from Wisconsin university systems and colleges. Technology Development Loans support companies that provide high-tech or innovative solutions with national or global market potential. The Seed Accelerator Program, which is part of WEDC’s Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative, helps support business training throughout the state to ensure aspiring business owners can connect with the right resources to launch their companies.

Accelerating business growth

It’s not a secret that when businesses in Wisconsin start, grow, and thrive, we all win. WEDC provides financial and technical assistance to businesses and communities to help them achieve their full potential. WEDC’s Division of Economic and Community Development understands that the more productive Wisconsin companies are, the stronger our economy will be. In fiscal year 2014, WEDC provided direct assistance to 668 businesses and 119 communities, and worked with regional economic development organizations and other key partners to assist another 3,604 businesses in Wisconsin. 

Expanding global opportunities

Tapping markets abroad has become an imperative for any company seeking a competitive advantage in the 21st century. WEDC’s Division of International Business Development employs a team of experts as well as representatives in 54 countries around the world who serve companies interested in global growth. These experts provide vital strategy and training along with relevant foreign market insights to build or enrich a company’s exporting plan. In addition, WEDC can provide financial assistance to help businesses navigate the global marketplace more efficiently. Because there is no better way to build the relationships necessary for increased global sales than to meet with potential buyers, WEDC organizes and hosts trade ventures and missions to high-potential markets each year.

Attracting new business

One of the notable distinctions of Wisconsin’s economic development network is the collaboration between organizations at the local, county, and state levels — including the multiple state agencies that are often drawn into a major business attraction project. The business attraction team within the Economic and Community Development Division works with all other WEDC divisions to make a compelling case to companies outside Wisconsin to relocate or expand operations here. WEDC’s strategy is twofold: 1) be optimally responsive to requests for information from relocating companies and site selection consultants, and 2) actively identify and pursue business attraction opportunities.

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Advancing industry development

WEDC’s Division of Business and Industry Development places a special emphasis on the state’s “driver industries.” Public-private collaboration helps Wisconsin strengthen its growth potential and global competitiveness, which is why WEDC forms strong working relationships with trade groups and industry cluster organizations. 

Examples of WEDC’s collaborative efforts include the Global Water Center, which opened its doors in September 2013, and The Energy Innovation Center, announced in August 2014. Both entities house research facilities for universities and existing companies and accelerator space for new, emerging companies.

Developing thriving communities

Revitalizing downtown business districts is the key goal of WEDC’s Wisconsin Main Street Program and its complementary Connect Communities Program. Since its inception in 1987, the Main Street Program has resulted in the creation of more than 4,500 new businesses and 17,000 new jobs in Wisconsin. The Connect Communities Program allows a broader swath of communities to benefit from similar resources and has expanded to include 40 participating Wisconsin communities in addition to the 36 Wisconsin Main Street communities.

WEDC offers several programs to create and sustain vibrant communities to assist the Wisconsin economy. Chief among these are the Idle Industrial Sites Redevelopment Program, whose grants cover the cost of readying an idle site for development; the Community Development Investment Grant Program, which supports urban, small city, and rural community redevelopment efforts; and the Certified in Wisconsin Program, which markets shovel-ready vacant industrial sites to businesses looking for space to expand or relocate.

Reed Hall is the CEO and secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

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