The Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has pushed its construction timeline back, but has pulled in more funding and is moving forward with the design process.
The project was initiated by a $10 million donation from Lubar & Co. founder Sheldon Lubar and his wife, Marianne, announced in July 2015. Since that initial gift, the UW System has contributed $10 million from its fund balances to cover construction costs. In turn, the Lubars’ gift will be used to fund the endowment for the facility’s operations.
Another $2 million was donated by Fiduciary Management Inc. founder Ted Kellner and his wife Mary’s family foundation, the Kelben Foundation, in May and serial entrepreneur Jerry Jendusa kicked in $1 million in July. But fundraisers don’t plan to stop at $23 million, said Brian Thompson, director of the Lubar Center, who doesn’t have a specific financial target.
“We’re certainly not done fundraising,” Thompson said. “It’s part of a large and significant project. The more of that funding we have, the more we can support a broader array of programming.”
Still, the Lubar Center project is progressing. Milwaukee-based Continuum Architects + Planners S.C. was chosen in mid-2015 to design the center, which will be located at the corner of Kenwood Boulevard and Maryland Avenue on the UWM campus. Continuum designed the School of Freshwater Sciences at UWM’s Harbor Campus and has also designed renovations and expansions for several campus buildings.
Continuum has been working through the programming and design process with the state and stakeholders in the project. Through that process, UWM has decided to co-locate the campus Welcome Center in the Lubar Center to showcase its capabilities to visitors and prospective students, said Robert Barr, principal at Continuum.
The group also has established a construction budget of $7.8 million, Barr said. The building will be open-concept, with a two-story innovation commons with public space, surrounded by a set of functional spaces including computer labs, maker spaces, meeting rooms and team-building rooms. The rooms will be largely enclosed in glass to encourage an active, collaborative atmosphere, he said.
“(The innovation commons) sort of is the living room for the building,” Barr said. “There will be classes held (at the Lubar Center), classes that the different schools at UWM are all pulling together, entrepreneurship-based courses that will be taught in that building.”
The Welcome Center will include a large lobby for groups to gather and a theater for video presentations to kick off tours.
With firmer designs in place, the construction timeline has been pushed back, with a groundbreaking targeted for the fourth quarter of 2017 and a completion goal of late 2018, Thompson said. Initially, UWM planned to open the Lubar Center in late 2017 or early 2018.
The size of the center also has been reduced, from 28,000 to 24,000 square feet. It will be comparable in size to the university’s innovation accelerator at its Innovation Campus in Wauwatosa.
The Lubar Center will act as a hub for UWM’s entrepreneurial programs, classes and initiatives for undergraduate and graduate students and also will cater to startup companies in southeastern Wisconsin. While its brick-and-mortar home isn’t yet constructed, the entity is already integrating its programs on campus.
The Lubar Center will serve as an umbrella for several existing programs, such as the UWM Student Startup Challenge, a revamped version of which begins this month, and the Fresh Ideas campaign, which aims to increase awareness of entrepreneurial programming throughout the campus community.
Fresh Ideas targets freshmen and sophomores, offering modules in their seminars to engage them earlier in their college careers, Thompson said. The fall 2015 campaign generated more than 100 submissions for products, service improvements and visions for UWM in 2025.
Innovation Corps, another program to be housed in the Lubar Center, helps faculty and student teams analyze markets for new technologies, he said. The four-week workshop, held in partnership with four other Milwaukee universities, aims to help participants apply for grants or learn customer discovery methodology. It was launched last year.
“We’re developing an array of programming and the programming is designed to target students in many disciplines, as well as at many levels,” Thompson said. “We’re developing things that cut across many academic units.”
Jendusa, a UWM alumnus and founder of New Berlin-based aviation company Emteq Inc., said he was attracted to UWM’s plan to integrate an entrepreneurial mindset into the process and culture across disciplines at the university, rather than just helping students launch businesses. He also wanted to help create jobs in the region.
“The biggest thing is southeast Wisconsin and growing the region. UWM, being an urban school, being a (university) where most of the kids stay in the state to work,” Jendusa said.
Jendusa, who sold Emteq in 2014, is now running consulting firm Stuck LLC to assist entrepreneurs in solving business obstacles, and is investing money and acquiring businesses through the venture with Stuck Fund I. He said he hopes to be involved in directly working with students at the Lubar Center.