University partnerships: a wealth of resources for Wisconsin companies

    Collaboration was key in helping Wisconsin emerge from The Great Recession, and continues to be a driving force in today’s market.

    The power of collaboration is evident with the state’s Small Business Development Network and the Wisconsin Center for Commercialization Resources.

    Both organizations utilize expansive networks of expertise and resources to support Wisconsin entrepreneurs and business owners in unique and powerful ways, mostly at no cost to their clients.

    SBDC teaches business expertise

    In 2013, the Small Business Development Center Network served more than 2,400 clients with one-on-one consulting; they worked with companies that created more than 200 jobs, and helped infuse more than $100 million in capital into Wisconsin.

    “Our network is really focused on providing entrepreneurs and business owners across the state no-cost, confidential services and support,” said Jim Mishefske, state director of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center Network.

    According to Mishefske, the Small Business Development Center provides clients with planning and startup assistance, management training, financial and capital access assistance, marketing and sales advice and other core services.

    “Each center offers all of these services and much more for the communities where they are located,” Mishefske said. “Most specialize, depending on the professional experience of the directors in that location.”

    The SBDC network consists of 12 centers hosted at University campuses throughout the state, plus three specialty centers focused on providing specific assistance to businesses and entrepreneurs (SEE MAP).

    The Specialty Centers include: the Wisconsin Business Answer Line in Madison, where business professionals can call and get their questions answered by phone; the Center for Innovation and Development at UW-Stout, which provides access to specific technical resources and expertise; and the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center at UW-Whitewater, which specializes in market research and product development for inventors, manufacturers and business owners. All serve the entire state.

    WCCR brings ideas to market

    The Wisconsin Center for Commercialization Resources (WCCR) was established in 2012 to help first-time entrepreneurs, university faculty members and businesses to turn ideas into commercially viable ventures. Currently, the organization serves about 22 clients in a variety of industries.

    WCCR was established as part of a grant initiative from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which seeks to forward and facilitate economic development within a given region by establishing University Centers.

    Wisconsin is unique in that five Wisconsin educational institutions collaborate to form the one Center.

    “The type of network we have in place is what differentiates our University Center from the others across the nation,” said Carmel Ruffolo, center director and director of corporate engagement and regional development at the UW-Milwaukee and UW-Parkside. “No one else has done this, and we’re glad to offer such an extensive network of expert resources for those who need it.”

    WCCR member partners include: UW-Milwaukee, UW-Parkside, UW-Whitewater, Milwaukee School of Engineering and Marquette University.

    “What each university brings to the table is different,” Ruffolo said. “It’s extremely valuable for the clients coming in because we can direct people to the resources that suit their current needs and then point them in a new direction if those needs change.”

    The WCCR utilizes the Small Business Development Centers at each partner location as well, Ruffolo said.

    “We don’t just rely on the resources we have at the universities, either,” she said. “If clients come in and we can’t directly address their questions we can refer them to our partners in organizations like BizStarts, or the SBDC, or even partner institutions throughout the Midwest. The opportunities and the potential for this type of organization in the state are really unlimited.”

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