Northwest Enterprise Center Network helps companies start off right

Success Stories | Grow North / Visions Northwest

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Merlyn Coy doesn’t mince words about the role the Northwest Enterprise Center Network played in helping his company, Dental Metrics Laboratory, get off the ground.

“Without them, my business wouldn’t exist,” Coy said of Dental Metrics Lab, which uses digital imaging, 3D printers and CNC manufacturing equipment to produce metal-free dental restoration products. “Not only did it provide me with a physical space for my business, but everyone has been so helpful, from helping me develop a business plan and flesh out ideas to just being able to walk out my door and talk to other entrepreneurs to see how they dealt with an issue.”

The Northwest Enterprise Center Network was  instrumental in launching Dental Metrics Laboratory.
The Northwest Enterprise Center Network was
instrumental in launching Dental Metrics Laboratory.

That was the goal the Northwest Regional Planning Commission had in mind when it created the Northwest Enterprise Center Network in partnership with other local, state and federal organizations. The first center opened in 1998.

“The network’s purpose is to provide the necessary resources to enhance technology-based business development. We’re focused on economic diversification and strength within the region, and one key to that is creating high-skill, high-wage jobs,” said Rick Roeser, the center’s program manager. “It’s one of the largest incubator programs in the country, and it’s right here in northwest Wisconsin.”

The network has 10 business incubators located in six communities across the region – Grantsburg, Iron River, Medford, Phillips, Siren and Spooner. The centers provide businesses with modern, flexible spaces that can be configured to meet their needs.

Beyond providing a physical space for businesses to get started, there are also resources in place to help businesses like Coy’s get started and grow, Roeser said.

To date, more than 40 companies have used the incubators, resulting in more than 370 jobs. Roeser said $42.2 million in private investments have also been made as a result.

“It’s not only providing that physical space, but also technical assistance – how do you do this or that when starting a business?” he said. “We also provide connections to funding resources – something all businesses need.”

The network can help by tapping into revolving loan funds and venture capital financing programs that also fall under the Northwest Regional Planning Commission’s umbrella of offerings.

“The enterprise centers are just one tool in the tool box,” Roeser said. “If you are going to help businesses grow and expand, you need the right pieces.”

Roeser and other staff members meet with entrepreneurs one-on-one to help them with their needs. That’s something that Coy definitely appreciated.

“Rick would drive up here (to Iron River) from Spooner after work to help me with my business plan,” he said. “It’s definitely been a whirlwind of getting help and assistance. I know I couldn’t do this on my own.”

While any type of business can apply to join an enterprise center, the focus tends to be on manufacturing companies, especially those in tool and die or plastic injecting.

“We believe we can grow our own successful businesses here,” Roeser said, “and that’s a great way to build and diversify the overall economy.”

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