Manufacturing Diversity Institute targets underserved communities

Earlier this month, the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Manufacturing Diversity Institute hosted an inaugural Innovation Café on Manufacturing Day that featured a presentation on “Accelerating American Diversity Manufacturing” by John Sibley Butler, the J. Marion West Chair in Constructive Capitalism from the University of Texas at Austin.

Now, MDI plans to follow that up by building a strategic plan focused on manufacturing based on the ideas Butler shared with attendees.

Phase 1 of the Innovation Café was the presentation Butler gave, and Phase 2 will involve working with at least two teams of five on a particular issue that would help MDI create an ecosystem that will help individuals from underserved communities be successful in manufacturing professional careers and as successful manufacturing innovators and entrepreneurs.

“An example would be a team of five people who are seriously interested in seeing the 40 African-American manufacturers in Wisconsin engage in exporting,” said Keenan Grenell, the executive director of MDI. “No group to my knowledge has developed a strategic document of any type to address that issue.”

The teams will be selected from Innovation Café attendees who submit a one-page idea proposal to MDI staff. Grenell plans to send out the call for proposal applications within the next two weeks, and the proposals will be due by Sunday, Nov. 30.

MDI is a University of Wisconsin-Extension Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development business services affiliate institute established to be a leader in creating a bold and pioneering research-driven diversity pipeline to increase the participation of individuals from underserved communities in the manufacturing industry as employees, innovators and entrepreneurs.

The Innovation Café is sponsored by MDI, Global Capital Group LLC, Mid-West Energy Research Consortium, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, Foley & Lardner LLP, Northwest Side Community Development Corporation and Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation.

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