Diverse Business Assistance grant will support rural entrepreneurs
PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, WI. AUG. 29, 2022 – A more than $65,000 Diverse Business Assistance grant is launching an effort to create a business incubator to help build and grow more diverse businesses in Crawford County, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes announced today.
“The Diverse Business Assistance grants were created to bring opportunities to individuals and communities that may not have had access to capital and business development resources in the past including people of color, women and rural residents,” Hughes said. “Under Governor Evers’ leadership, Wisconsin’s smaller communities, including Prairie du Chien, have had great success improving and inspiring new businesses through the Main Street Bounceback grant program, which provides $10,000 to businesses and nonprofits that locate in a formerly empty commercial space. The Diverse Business Assistance grants take this to a new level by working to create a new generation of entrepreneurs that can include everyone.”
Gov. Evers announced more than $86 million in investments for diverse businesses in March. Today, the governor announced a second round of funding with $15.7 million in grants.
The $65,903.52 grant to Driftless Development Inc., which leads Crawford County’s economic development efforts, will go toward services for small businesses and start-ups such as providing mentoring, financial and marketing expertise and more.
That’s just the first step for Driftless Development, said Carol Roth, the group’s executive director.
“The ultimate goal is to have a business incubator in Crawford County,” Roth said. “Crawford County is full of hard-working individuals with great ideas, but too often they lack the financing and business skills to turn their ideas into successful businesses. That’s where a business incubator can help.”
The grant will allow Driftless Development to work with entrepreneurs to enhance their business skills making them more likely to be able to access the financing needed to start or grow their businesses, Roth said. Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), Couleecap, and UW-Extension will partner with Driftless Development on this project to provide a variety of needed financial resources.
At the same time, Driftless Development and its partners will work with financial institutions to advocate for additional small business lending.
The project will begin to provide services throughout the county with a mobile business incubator, Roth said.
The next phase will create a permanent space for the incubator. Driftless Development along with a local school district are working on plans to open a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center. The business incubator will compliment the CTE Center, Roth said.
Another focus of this project is to provide mentoring services and support apprenticeship programs. Workforce development is a key issue in the county and providing mentoring for both youth and adults is an important pathway to grow our workforce, Roth said.
Arleena Roe, small business owner and member of the Driftless Development Mentoring Work Group said that mentoring can help small businesses get off to the right start.
“I have experienced firsthand how mentorship plays an essential role in a business’s ability to start, grow, sustain, and flourish,” she said.
The grant will allow Prairie du Chien and Crawford County to build off the tremendous success their communities have had with the Main Street Bounceback grants. As of Aug. 7, 45 grants had been awarded in the county to new businesses or nonprofits moving into previously vacant commercial spaces.
“The Bounceback grants have benefited our downtown corridor,” said Tammie Katzung, Prairie du Chien Main Street Director. “This next grant will allow us to help our local businesses even more.”
Crawford County’s population is rural with about 13.3% of residents living in poverty compared to 10% statewide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Median household income is $51,218, less than the state overall at $63,293, and just 18.9% of those aged 25 and above have earned at least a bachelor’s degree compared with 30.8% of Wisconsin residents overall.
This funding will allow our residents to gain the business and entrepreneurship skills needed to grow our local communities and provide careers, said Roth.
“We’re going to be giving rural residents access to the same types of resources you might find in urban areas,” Roth said. “But we have the expertise to know about the barriers rural residents face to do business and how to overcome them.”
Part of a more than $1 billion investment allocated by the Governor for economic resilience and support for small businesses and impacted industries, the Diverse Business Assistance program was first announced in October 2021 to support equitable economic recovery statewide. The Diverse Business Assistance Grant program is administered by the Department of Administration (DOA) and funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The first round of announcements was made in March 2021.
“Today’s investment from Governor Evers means tomorrow’s successful businesses and entrepreneurs will be able to create even more opportunities in their communities, and respond to the changing needs and challenges they face.” said DOA Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld.
A complete list of grant awardees and program information can be found at the Diverse Business Assistance Grant Program website.