Some indicators rank Wisconsin 50th or dead last in entrepreneurship. Other studies are a little more kind to Wisconsin but I have not seen any that have the state in the top 25. This is a challenge that I believe we, as economic developers, can do something about. I have seen several times where entrepreneurs will want to start up a business here in Grant County but cannot get the support or environment to do so. They head to another state to make their dreams come true. Entrepreneurship is tough. It requires courage and intelligence. I believe we have a lot of people living right here that have the courage and intelligence to start and operate a successful business. We need to create the environment. When Wisconsin is ranked 50th, it is in large part because we lack, or don’t foster, the environment for entrepreneurs to develop and grow. So what do we do about this?
We have many of the resources here to support entrepreneurship. We just need to organize a little better, improve communication, and improve opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses to access those resources. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) serves our region, as well as Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative (WWBIC), Southwest Tech, (SWTC) and U.W.-Platteville (UWP). We have the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SWWRPC), and our financial institutions. We have our Chambers of Commerce and our economic development organizations. We have many resources (and yes, each resource has an acronym), but we need to improve our communication and efforts to reach and support entrepreneurs to encourage the growth of their ideas and initiatives and to remove the obstacles.
Need help with a business plan or financial planning? We have that available, for free. Need help with a patent, we can help. The resources listed above all have abilities to support entrepreneurship and small business development. Improvements are still needed in areas of mentoring and seed funding or microloan programs. I am working to recreate a loan program with capital to lend. My corporation has some funding available. We have been doing a few microloans, but these funds are best served in conjunction with traditional bank/credit union financing. The idea of “Pop-Up Shops” has been brought up. I think we could work with local chambers and the owners of vacant and available buildings in commercial areas to foster new business development by having the resources to get the business planned and then help with some of the costs of lease/rent of the storefront. Many of the obstacles to starting a business aren’t necessarily complicated, but it is still a challenge. My office is working with those listed above to develop an environment that encourages the risk by reducing the challenges. We are looking to create more and stronger resources, because we need too.
Now is the time. Our demographics show an aging population, fewer young people, and a migration of business and industry to larger urban areas. We need to grow our own future. That is what entrepreneurship is about. Much of our future here in Grant County is, and will be, centered around the development and growth of businesses. That is why entrepreneurship is so important. Interested in starting or growing a business, please contact my office. (822-3501)
Ron Brisbois, Executive Director – Grant County Economic Development