October 20, 2014

Portage Enterprise Center: Putting Ideas to Work

Guest Post Written by Steve Sobiek, Director of Business Development and Planning, Portage Enterprise Center

Portage Enterprise Center
The Portage Enterprise Center (PEC) offers flexible office and light manufacturing space to new or start-up businesses. Business assistance, including the Columbia County Economic Development Corp and the City of Portage Department of Business Development and Planning, is located on site.

PEC is seeing success attracting and growing new business start-ups and providing critical work force training.

Current tenants include:

  • DeHaus, a new manufacturer of welding equipment, entered the market earlier this year and is creating new jobs.
  • Ship-Rec Logistics, a new logistics, shipping and recovery services company, has steadily seen its employment  increase since moving into PEC. 
  • Idea2Results, offering innovative marketing and business services, has seen a very healthy increase in its client base, and has added new employees since moving into PEC.
  • Premier Concrete Admixtures, specializing in a complete line of chemical admixtures in the concrete industry, entered the Wisconsin area market in 2014 and has seen steady growth. Employment has increased since operations began in PEC in January.
  • WorkSmart, a team of the South Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, provides innovative employment and training services to prepare workers for the needs of business and industry. 

Madison Area Technical College (MATC)’s satellite location is located at the Portage Enterprise Center and offers training in advanced manufacturing concepts and techniques to area high school students and incumbent workers from area manufacturers. MATC’s innovative Middle College program allows students to take manufacturing classes at PEC while still in high school. This Fall,  MATC  will begin operating its new Advanced Manufacturing Center at the Portage Enterprise Center, offering more manufacturing class offerings to  middle college and incumbent workers, including advanced manufacturing concepts and industrial maintenance.

Incumbent workers at TriEnda, a Portage area manufacturer, are currently receiving training in lean manufacturing techniques at PEC. As a result of this and other efforts, employment at this manufacturer has ticked up in the last several months.

On November 20, 5-7pm, The Portage Enterprise Center will host a Celebrate Entrepreneurship event. Come and learn about the Portage Enterprise Center and entrepreneurship assistance available to assist new and start-up businesses.

The Portage Enterprise Center is an important and integral part of the city, county and regional economic development strategy, as well as its success. Portage’s new job creation rate this past year stands at 4.4 percent.

Portage Enterprise Center Contact:
Steven Sobiek
Director, Business Development and Planning
Portage Enterprise Center
1800 Kutzke Road, #109
Portage, WI 53901

October 7, 2014

Q&A: WEDC's Lisa Johnson on Capital Catalyst

Lisa Johnson of WEDC
Lisa Johnson is vice president of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Wisconsin’s lead economic development organization. Lisa has served a variety of executive roles in business startup and business investment strategies. Lisa has spent more than 22 years in business development and technology licensing and operations in the biotechnology sector.

Q: How would you describe the Capital Catalyst program?

A: WEDC’s Capital Catalyst program is designed to support the efforts of entrepreneurial-minded communities and organizations to stimulate new business creation by providing capital to high growth technology-based companies in Wisconsin.

Capital Catalyst provides grants to communities and other entities to capitalize a seed fund that provides funding to high-growth startup and emerging growth companies.  The grant from WEDC must be matched on a 1:1 basis by the community/entity.  The seed fund created by Capital Catalyst dollars and the required match is managed and administered by the community/entity to provide capital to eligible businesses in the form of grants, loans or investments (equity or royalty-based).  No amount of the Capital Catalyst or matching funds may be used for administrative expenses.

Q: What communities have successfully accessed the program?

A: Whitewater was the first community to take advantage of the program in early 2013, supporting six local businesses through funding made available in its initial $300,000 fund.  That success led to a second round of funding from Capital Catalyst that, along with Whitewater’s matching funds, totals an additional $500,000.

Capital Catalyst grants have also been awarded to Baraboo, Green Bay, and the Eau Claire region.  In addition, the program has also funded healthcare-specific funds with organizations in Madison and southeast Wisconsin.  Capital Catalyst was also the source of funding that matched UW System support in creating the Ideadvance Seed Fund program, which supports startups from UW four- and two-year colleges, excluding UW-Madison.

Start. Seed. Scale.
Q: How much money does the program currently have available over what timeframe?

A: For the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, Capital Catalyst has a $2 million program budget available through an open application process.

Q: Can you describe some success stories from the program?

A: In addition to the many businesses that participating communities have funded through the program, the Ideadvance Seed Fund has energized startup activity on UW campuses statewide.  To date, 23 startups have been accepted into the program, which provides grant funding as well as business model training and mentoring.  Startups from campuses including UW-Platteville and UW-Whitewater are progressing through a variety of business development milestones, with some having acquired key partnerships and early adopters.  These are the critical steps that Capital Catalyst funding can support until the businesses are positioned to attract investment capital.

Q: I am a start-up business in the region. How do I go about accessing the program?

A: Capital Catalyst provides grants to seed funds that are managed at the local level, so WEDC does not provide direct funding to businesses or review business applications under the program.  Businesses should check the list of current Capital Catalyst-funded entities to inquire about the availability of funds and the application criteria.  Those organizations are listed on the program page of WEDC’s website.

It should be noted that the program is designed to support startups and emerging growth companies primarily in technology sectors, and may not be used to fund real estate, retail or hospitality industry businesses, including restaurants.

Exploring Value-Added Dairy Opportunities

Last week’s World Dairy Expo in Madison drew 70,000+ participants from nearly 100 countries, many of them showcasing and/or seeking innovation and advancements within the dairy industry. Nestled among a myriad of dairy shows and exhibitor booths was a series of educational seminars, including one titled Exploring Value-Added Dairy Opportunities, presented by Sarah Cornelisse of Penn State Extension.

Her presentation was designed to help farmers make decisions about whether to sell their product as a commodity in the open market, or value add their commodity into something that could open up additional markets and hopefully generate higher profits. The content aims to help farmers evaluate the risk-reward proposition, analyzing gains in control over pricing as well as competition and knowledge barriers that represent risk.

MadREP attended the presentation and obtained the slides to share with our own Madison Region dairy entrepreneurs. View the slide deck, and feel free to contact us for further discussion.