Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) announced this week a $1 million investment that will go toward supporting the state’s rural entrepreneurs. A new initiative, which will be led by UW-Madison’s Division of Extension and WEDC, will provide training, technical assistance, and legal and financial advice to entrepreneurs either to start their own business or bolster an existing one. “We know that in Wisconsin great ideas can come from anywhere,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “Yet rural entrepreneurs often lack the access to capital and network of knowledge of other entrepreneurs. Our aim is to make sure everyone in our state has the chance to turn their great ideas into reality.” A report released this spring by the Wisconsin Startup Coalition, the University of Wisconsin College of Agricultural & Life Sciences and Alliant Energy found that the number of startups created in rural Wisconsin since 1978 has seen a 50% drop. Issues highlighted in the report included the difficulty of getting through the patenting process and low employment levels in industries categorized as research and development. Access to financial capital was also one of the biggest barriers for rural entrepreneurs. “We know that rural communities and economies can thrive when local ideas get the opportunity to grow into established businesses,” said Karl Martin, UW-Madison Extension dean and director. “We are working with entrepreneurs and industries right in their own communities to leverage the knowledge and talent all around them. This is an exciting opportunity to focus on the kinds of businesses that can benefit from training and guidance to bring innovation and action to rural areas.” As part of this newly announced initiative, five rural Wisconsin communities have received help in jumpstarting their economic development plans. There is also new programming being developed by UW-Madison Extension, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension, using funding from two farm credit associations: Compeer Financial and AgCountry Farm Credit Services.
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