Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm
Several public and private forces are teaming up to promote Wisconsin as fertile ground for attracting new small technology-based businesses.
The most far-reaching pitch to date for the region came April 23, when trade representatives from 16 nations toured Milwaukee County.
The tour was presented by Spirit of Milwaukee Inc., a nonprofit corporation devoted to educate the public about the city’s cultural, educational, historical and scientific institutions.
With the help of the state, the city, the county, the Medical College of Wisconsin and others, Spirit of Milwaukee managed to attract the foreign trade consulates to see how technology-based companies are thriving in southeastern Wisconsin.
"We are tired of being the best-kept secret," Dean Amhaus, president of the Spirit of Milwaukee, told the delegation. "It’s our time to shine in the light."
The trade delegates, all of whom are members of the International Trade Commissioner Association of Chicago, visited the offices of Prodesse Inc. in Waukesha and TeraMedica Inc. in Milwaukee.
Prodesse helps health care professionals improve the treatment of infectious diseases while reducing the total burden on the health care system.
TeraMedica is developing a new generation of enterprise software that manages the storage and distribution of digital medical images across healthcare or hospital systems.
The trade delegates, who also toured the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa, were impressed with what they saw in Milwaukee, according to David Kouidri, trade commissioner for the Consulate General of Switzerland, who is president of the Chicago contingent.
"Everybody has their own individual agenda, but I’m impressed with the bio(medical) and agri(cultural) areas here," Kouidri said. "My intent here is to generate a network. I’m trying to create a network we can facilitate. We find the entrepreneurs, we find the small businesses, we find the scientists, and we hook them up with the Swiss guys."
Wisconsin businesses must evolve in their approach to understand that their potential market is larger than the customer down the street or merely in their own city, Kouidri said.
Wisconsin small-business owners should use the resources available to them to explore opportunities in the global economy, he said.
"The small and medium-sized guys in the U.S. can definitely benefit outside the United States, and I don’t think they realize that," Kouidri said. "There’s such another market out there. It’s global."
Kouidri and the other members of the delegation in Chicago are looking for opportunities for companies in their nations to join with U.S. firms in joint ventures, partnerships and research collaborations, he said.
Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, told the delegation he currently is working with a Norwegian company that is trying to develop a cancer vaccine. The company is considering opening a laboratory in Wisconsin with 20 employees, Still said.
Another company from Grand Forks, N.D., is considering opening a mass data storage business in Wisconsin, Still said.
Wisconsin is home to more than 250 life science-based companies, most of which have less than 50 employees, Still said. The bulk of those small businesses are located between Milwaukee and Madison, he said.
"This corridor has got a lot of what you want to look at," Still told the international trade delegation. "At its core, Wisconsin is really transforming to a knowledge-based economy."
Still said Wisconsin needs to do a better job promoting its relative assets, which include its superb educational system, its educated workforce, its strong infrastructure, its quality of life and its low costs of living and doing business.
Those assets were echoed by Wauwatosa Mayor Theresa Estness, a member of the Spirit of Milwaukee’s board, who took a regional approach in appealing to the Chicago delegation.
"I can tell you that Milwaukee is the best-kept secret. It has all the amenities of Chicago, without all the hassles. It’s a wonderful place to invest," said Estness, who also touted GE Healthcare’s Information Technologies division’s decision to build a new plant that will create hundreds of new technology jobs in Wauwatosa.
Mary Regel, director of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce’s Bureau of International Affairs, told the trade delegation that the state and Gov. Jim Doyle will do all they can to help them bring business to Wisconsin.
"This is the most trade commissioners we have ever had here at any one time," Regel noted.
April 30, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee