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April 29, 2015

Innovation By Design: Janesville’s Best Kept Secret

By Laura Barten, Barten & Associates, LLC

What do personal lubricant, flanges and mobile marketing apps have in common? Before you get too creative, we’ll end the suspense. All three – and many more products and services – are being developed or manufactured locally at the Janesville Innovation Center.

Strong Beginnings
In 2011, the City of Janesville was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) to further economic development by building an innovation center to support new and growing businesses. To make the project a reality, the City of Janesville provided $850,000 in matching funds plus land within the City of Janesville’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District 22 near the intersection of Highways 11 and 51. The project was completed and accepted its first tenants in April 2013. Located at 2949 Venture Drive, the 22,000 square-foot Janesville Innovation Center (JIC) is comprised of nine office spaces and four manufacturing bays. The office spaces include office furniture, Internet, phone and utilities as part of the monthly rent, plus a shared kitchen and conference room. The manufacturing space features high ceilings, loading docks, floor drains, separate suite entrances and restroom facilities. “These are turnkey spaces for startups and early stage businesses,” said JIC Operations Manager Mike Mathews.

More Than Office Space
The location has proven ideal, with easy interstate access and short drive times to surrounding communities. But far more than a place to operate, JIC provides mentoring, business counseling, tools and connections to facilitate business development. “When we bring in new clients, we assess the business—what key opportunities and challenges exist. Together we work through prioritizing essential needs and then work to identify resources that can assist,” said Mathews. “We provide mentoring, offer legal assistance through the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic, answer questions about prototyping, the hiring process, identifying sources of capital, and more—it’s a comprehensive approach, tailored to the individual client.”

New tenants make presentations to the JIC Board after securing space, sharing what makes their business special. The board includes a diverse mix of senior private and public sector leaders, including city and county officials and higher education professionals, providing access to a wide range of talents and invaluable advice. Ongoing one-on-one meetings and tenant support complement this assistance. All tenants also have access to a product called “Growth Wheel,” which formally assesses and tracks their business readiness and knowledge. “We appreciate the tenants and what they are investing to realize their dreams for growing their businesses. They are so committed to the community and want the whole area to benefit from their entrepreneurial successes. Some of our existing tenants are developing products and services that are already being sold internationally. The energy and potential is amazing,” said Mathews.

In addition to hosting new and fledgling businesses, JIC is available to established businesses that require short-term “surge” space to manage growth or product development and to established companies relocating to Janesville that might require temporary space until permanent facilities are available.

JIC Office Suite
A Community Collaboration
The JIC facility is owned by the City of Janesville and managed by a non-profit entity called Janesville Innovation, Inc. (JII). The center has received tremendous support from city representatives and their staffs. “The city is an important part of the operation of the facility—without their support this would not be possible. The resources and ideas they provide have been invaluable,” said Mathews. Other contributors are similarly generous. The Janesville Foundation, for example, awarded JIC a grant to make additional improvements to better serve tenants, including conference room equipment and technologies, and the Janesville Art League has offered to place art works from local artists throughout the building as an expression of their support. Said Mathews, “It’s great to see the creative community participating in the creation and innovation of new businesses in Janesville and Rock County. The JIC has really been welcomed and well received. This is truly a collaborative, community effort. It is an investment in the community and has communitywide support. That collaboration and broad base of support is something that differentiates the JIC. The ultimate success of the center and the tenant companies will be a real tribute to the community.”

Learn More
One ongoing challenge is identifying qualified candidates “Unfortunately, you can’t Google ‘potential entrepreneurs’ and come up with a list of local possibilities,” jokes Mathews. If you or someone you know in the community might be a good candidate, contact Janesville Innovation Center Operations Manager Mike Mathews at (608) 206- 7121 or mike@economicgrowthadvisors.com or City of Janesville Economic Development Director Gale Price at (608) 755-3059 or priceg@ci.janesville.wi.us. For more about the Janesville Innovation Center, visit www.janesvilleinnovation.com.

Janesville Innovation Center
2949 Venture Drive
Janesville, WI 53545 |  608-755-3059
www.JanesvilleInnovation.com |  info@JanesvilleInnovation.com

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JANESVILLE INNOVATION CENTER 2015 UPDATES
Provided by Mike Mathews, Janesville Innovation Center Operations Manager

As the Janesville innovation Center celebrates its second complete year of operations, several exciting developments have occurred in 2015:

JIC Floor Plan
New Manufacturing Suites
Construction of four manufacturing suites (ranging from 450 to 1400 square feet) was completed in February. The manufacturing suites are located adjacent to the office portion of the building, creating opportunities for companies to combine professional office space and manufacturing suites for production, assembly, shipping and receiving.

Business Expansion
K4 Innovations, LLC  www.k4inn.com expanded its operations within the Innovation Center in March by relocating to a new office and a new 1100 square foot manufacturing suite. The additional space allows K4 to efficiently manage their inventory and order fulfillment under one roof.

New Tenant
DLG Naturals, LLC www.dlgnaturals.com moved into the JIC in March.  DLG sources, imports, exports and sells southern African botanical ingredients to the cosmetic and personal care industry around the world. The company has an office and a 550 square foot manufacturing suite.

JIC Tenant Loan Fund
JIC tenants now have an additional source of capital from the newly established JIC Tenant Loan Fund. The fund was created to provide tenant companies with access to working capital for projects and investments that accelerate revenue growth, profitability and/or the ability to secure additional growth capital for their young businesses.

JIC  Second Anniversary Open House Celebration – May 14, 4:00 - 6:00
The Janesville Innovation Center and the City of Janesville are partnering to celebrate the Janesville Innovation Center second anniversary and the City of Janesville Volunteer Appreciation Program at the innovation Center on May 14, from 4:00 - 6:00. In addition, the Janesville Art League will have several select pieces of art on display. A brief program will begin at 5:00 p.m.