Local entrepreneurs get boost from grants

Gov. Scott Walker visits the Whitewater Innovation Center Tuesday to announce a partnership between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Whitewater Community Development Authority, along with a $150,000 matching grant to the CDA to assist start-up companies in their development. (Tom Ganser photo)

By Tom Ganser

Correspondent

Gov. Scott Walker announced a partnership Feb. 5 between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Whitewater Community Development Authority (CDA) to provide financial support to area entrepreneurs in the early stages of business development.

“This partnership is an innovative model to advance aspiring entrepreneurs to successful business operation
and job creation,” said Walker.

This is the second investment made by WEDC in a regional fund. The first was made in October of 2012 to the Innovation Fund of Western Wisconsin in Eau Claire.

Walker’s announcement took place in the Innovation Center located in the Whitewater University Technology Park to a gathering of city, school district and university officials, and representatives of area businesses.

WEDC is providing a $150,000 Capital Catalyst matching grant to the CDA that will be used to provide grants to new companies.  The CDA is providing a dollar for dollar match of the WEDC award.

In addition, $10,000 Whitewater Capitalist Catalyst Fund grants were awarded to UW-Whitewater students Andrew Hoeft and Joe Newmann in support of their start-up companies, Date Check Pro and Got Apps Inc., respectively.

Hoeft’s company allows stores to track expiration dates on a per product basis and Newmann’s specializes in creating apps.

Walker described the audience he greeted in the Innovation Center as “a room full of people who represent a community who are going to support entrepreneurs and encourage them.”

Walker said the WEDC $150,000 Capital Catalyst grant is “a lot more than just money.  It’s an investment in big idea, big concepts.”

In presenting checks for $10,000 to Hoeft and Newmann, Walker said, “We’re not just handing out checks for $10,000. What we’re really doing is saying, ‘We’re investing in you. We’re investing in your ideas and the talent that has come to this area, both through the university and through the magnet of entrepreneurialism that’s happening here.’”

“Today is a major event for the City of Whitewater… Today we start a new chapter in economic development,” said Jeffrey Knight, CDA Chairperson, in welcoming the guests to the event.

Referencing his own experience in economic development for over 30 years, Knight said, “I can’t stress enough how proud I am to be part of a forward-thinking community that has demonstrated how cooperation and collaboration can do so much in this area.”

Whitewater City Manager Cameron Clapper called economic development a team sport.

“It requires a team of committed individuals who are willing to make sacrifices and make an investment together in the partnership to be successful. Developing effective partnerships is essential for any type of growth strategy, any type of effective strategy for economic development,” he said.

“I am thrilled for the future that we are going to have as we continue to operate with the seed capital funds, working partnership with WEDC and the various organizations in the community” Clapper added.

Richard Telfer, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater chancellor, recognized former Whitewater City Manager Kevin Brunner for his early support of and role in promoting economic development activities in Whitewater that helped pave the road to the $150,000 Capital Catalyst grant awarded to the CDA.

Telfer applauded the excellent working relationship between UW-Whitewater and the City of Whitewater and the CDA.

“It is a strong partnership that brings many benefits to this community,” Telfer said.  “The city and local businesses benefit for the capabilities and expertise we have at the university, the faculty, the staff and the students.  The university benefits because our relationship offers opportunities for learning that takes place beyond the boundaries of the university.”

Lisa Johnson, WEDC Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, described the Capital Catalyst program’s goal as providing new companies with “seed capital” and “early stage financing to get these companies off the ground.”

Johnson admitted to bragging to others about the Whitewater story.

“The collaborative efforts from this community and this university are really inspirational and I think we’ll use this throughout the state to show how you worked together, with other universities and other communities.”

“You’re really making a difference, not just in this community but in long term impact throughout the state,” Johnson said.