The Waukesha County Business Alliance has been awarded the contract to create a new economic development organization for Waukesha County, county executive Paul Farrow announced Tuesday.
The new organization will be created as a non-profit but with support for marketing, administrative and other services coming from the Alliance. Suzanne Kelley, WCBA president, said her organization would begin searching for a director immediately and then work with the University of Wisconsin – Extension to find a business outreach specialist.
Kelley said the Alliance already receives calls from businesses looking to expand asking about buildings, land, talent and financing, so expanding its offerings made sense.
“It seemed like a natural evolution for us,” she said. “We are extremely excited about the opportunity.”
Farrow, who campaigned for county executive on making Waukesha County the epicenter for economic growth in the region, said a public-private partnership was always the goal for the organization. He said an economic development entity needs to have elements of networking, workforce and financing to work. The Alliance has a network of over 1,000 members and has partners in developing the workforce. The challenge will be developing the financing portion.
“I think it’s a great relationship,” Farrow said.
To get the new entity started, the county is contributing $250,000, the city of Waukesha will add another $50,000 and the UW Small Business Development Center will add another $50,000.
“Now we’ve got to look at creating a pool for not only lending but other superlative activities,” Farrow said.
The idea is for the organization to initially focus on helping companies with less than 100 employees expand. Farrow said surveys the county conducted show the majority of the county’s business fit that profile and many are looking to expand.
He said the county conducted an RFP process for the contract and the WCBA was the only applicant.
Farrow said he is in talks with other communities to secure commitments similar to the city of Waukesha’s. The city was already looking at hiring someone to focus on economic development, Mayor Shawn Reilly said, so it made sense to partner with the county.
“We see that the end product is just going to be so much better than what we could do on our own,” Reilly said, adding that there will be less cost and duplication while the staff of the new entity will be able to specialize in specific areas.