As funding for entrepreneurial ventures becomes more widely available across Wisconsin, a continuing challenge is making sure access is widespread—and that it reaches into geographic areas and social and professional networks that have not historically had as much access to these resources.
WEDC’s new round of Capital Catalyst awards aims to help with this, providing matching funds for local funding sources in communities across the state—including a new small business startup loan fund specifically for businesses on Milwaukee’s northwest side.
The Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (NWSCDC) received a $500,000 award, which will be placed in a revolving loan fund along with an equal amount of matching funds contributed by the organization itself, for a total of $1 million available for loans to business based in the organization’s service area.
The loans are intended for early-stage companies that are generating some revenue but are not yet profitable. The loans are intended to benefit companies in the service area’s primary industry clusters, which include food and beverage; water technology; and energy, power and controls. The loans are expected to benefit the primarily minority-owned businesses that already exist in the organization’s service area, as well as to draw new businesses to locate in the area.
“NWSCDC presents the perfect overlap between community need and the ability to provide significant resources to an underserved area in Milwaukee,” says Aaron Hagar, WEDC vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. “This award will attract growth companies into an area of Milwaukee that needs stimulated growth.”
Most loans are expected to be between $100,000 and $200,000. In addition to financial assistance, borrowers will also receive technical assistance, mentoring and connections with other businesses in their industry cluster.
NWSCDC Executive Director Howard Snyder notes, “For a long time, we have struggled to make smaller loans to smaller companies. These dollars from WEDC give us that opportunity to finance the growth of entrepreneurs in Milwaukee in addition to creating new jobs.”
It’s an eventful year for entrepreneurship in Milwaukee: the new Capital Catalyst site is just one of several new initiatives designed to enliven and support the city’s entrepreneurial community. The city is also home to two new initiatives funded by WEDC’s Seed Accelerator Program: the Blueprint Cultivator, a project of the Milwaukee Institute and the Young Enterprising Society, and Backline, a music industry accelerator offered by 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, as well as the Milwaukee 7 Venture Capital Fund, an existing program that is continuing its work of supporting advanced manufacturing and technology–focused companies in the organization’s coverage area.
“One of the top priorities of WEDC is to promote substantive local development by helping communities enhance their business districts and establish firm foundations for ongoing economic growth,” says WEDC Secretary and CEO Mark R. Hogan.
The Capital Catalyst Program provides incentives for capital formation and investment in startups and emerging growth companies to support growth and attract additional private investment throughout the state of Wisconsin. The program provides matching grants to seed funds managed by local communities and other eligible entities that demonstrate the organizational capability and the availability of entrepreneurial support to achieve their program goals.