WEDC awards $500,000 to entrepreneurship assistance programs

BrightStar Wisconsin, Concordia receive less than in 2018

Dan Steininger of BizStarts discusses its entrepreneurship assistance programs.

Last updated on July 1st, 2019 at 10:47 am

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has awarded $500,000 to nine state organizations that support entrepreneurs through its Entrepreneurship Support Program.

The matching grants are to be used in 2019 for education, training and other assistance for new business owners, and those seeking to start a business.

Among the recipients is Milwaukee-based BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, which will receive $55,000 to host nine HATCH entrepreneurial pitch programs in three regions of the state, and Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, which will receive $59,000 for an “innovative cohort-based education program to low-wealth communities in Milwaukee,” administered by Milwaukee entrepreneurship assistance nonprofits BizStarts and Launch MKE.

Those awards are each lower than what the southeastern Wisconsin organizations received last year.

BizStarts and Launch MKE last year received $80,000 for their programming, but this year applied for less funding because of a newly-formed partnership with Concordia University Wisconsin, said Kenneth Harris, president of Launch MKE, which targets its training to entrepreneurs in underserved Milwaukee neighborhoods. Concordia provides in-kind services including a meeting space at its Midtown Campus, and Harris decreased the number of entrepreneurs Launch MKE is seeking to reach in 2019 from 180 to 150, so fewer resources are needed, he said.

“We are definitely honored and committed to working with WEDC,” Harris said. “I believe that it’s proven to be a very fruitful collaboration in that we’re able to work with people who understand and appreciate the things that we’re trying to do in Milwaukee, especially in the inner city.”

BrightStar Wisconsin last year received $65,000 for its HATCH programs. Fred Raasch, vice president at BrightStar, said the amount was decreased because WEDC wanted to divvy its grants up to as many organizations as possible. But WEDC actually gave fewer grants this year than last year, when it distributed 11 grants under the program.

The reduction in funding won’t impact the HATCH programming, the specifics of which are still being finalized for 2019, Raasch said.

“That’s the bulk of our budget, but we also secure local sponsorships and things to help cover costs,” he said.

WEDC said 22 organizations applied for the competitive grants.

The other recipients were:

  • Oconto County Economic Development Corp., $40,000 for new business creation and scaling assistance in Oconto County.
  • Green County Development Corp., $80,000 for the creation of 15 to 17 new businesses and scaling assistance in Green and surrounding counties;
  • Westby-based Couleecap Inc., $70,000 for multi-agency effort to form as many as 35 new businesses in the region by expanding entrepreneurship services;
  • Ladysmith-based Indianhead Community Action Agency Inc., $41,000 for entrepreneur technical assistance resources for 12 rural counties;
  • Janesville Innovation Inc., $40,000 for creation of Rock County Entrepreneurial Business Development Program;
  • Madison-based UW Health Innovation Hub, $75,000 for establishment of a collaborative hub focused on patient and health system innovation;
  • and Eau Claire-based Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council Inc., $40,000 for business development for underserved entrepreneurs.

WEDC’s Entrepreneurship Support Program awarded $500,000 to 11 organizations last year. Green County Development Corp. received twice as much funding this year as last year, when it got a $40,000 grant; Couleecap received additional funding this year, up from $62,000 last year; Indianhead Community Action Agency received the same amount as last year; Oconto County Economic Development Corp. received less than last year, when it got $43,000. Organizations that received funding in 2018 but not 2019 are: Cooperative Educational Service Agency 3, Fennimore; Heart of Wisconsin Community Incubator, Wisconsin Rapids; Nicolet Area Technical College, Rhinelander; University of Wisconsin-Stout Center for Innovation and Development, Menomonie; and WiSolve Consulting Group, Madison.

“These grants will enable organizations throughout the state to provide more resources to support their local entrepreneurial communities,” said Mark Hogan, secretary and chief executive officer of WEDC, in a statement. “Through this program, we are supporting local and regional organizations that understand the unique needs of their communities and can provide key resources to foster a statewide culture that celebrates and encourages entrepreneurs to build successful businesses.”

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Molly Dill
Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.