WEDC Awards $500K As Part Of Entrepreneurship Support Program

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) said this week that it gave grants worth a combined $500,000 to 11 nonprofits based in the state as part of a program aimed at improving Wisconsin’s entrepreneurial climate. (Disclosure: WEDC is a supporter of Xconomy in Wisconsin, but our coverage is determined independently by our editors.)

Four of the grants support organizations affiliated with the University of Wisconsin system of higher learning institutions:

—$75,000 went to the UW-Madison Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, which provides company founders with free advice on options for incorporating, intellectual property, and other legal and business matters.

—$60,000 went to the Center for Innovation and Development at UW-Stout, in Menomonie, WI. The funding will help allow inventors to receive feedback on the feasibility and market potential of their ideas for new products.

—$33,000 went to the UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation to support healthcare-related ventures through a pilot program called “I-Corps for Health.” Sheboygan, WI-based VibeTech is one company based in the state that has gone through I-Corps, which is part of the National Science Foundation’s National Innovation Network.

—$15,000 went to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which manages patents and licensing of intellectual property for UW-Madison. The money will help fuel the expansion of UpStart, a program backed by WARF that supports minority and female entrepreneurs.

The grant winners, which WEDC said were chosen from 32 applicants, are from all different parts of Wisconsin. In a news release announcing the awards, WEDC CEO Mark Hogan said it’s important to support startups and entrepreneurs in small and mid-size communities, as well as in the state’s larger cities.

“Economic development is most effective when it is driven from a local or regional level,” Hogan said. “Through this program, we are supporting local and regional organizations that understand the unique needs of their communities and have developed innovative strategies to respond to those needs.”

WEDC awarded the grants as part of its Entrepreneurship Support pilot program, which launched in September.

The agency has made headlines for providing tax incentives to out-of-state companies that create jobs in Wisconsin. Two examples from recent months were Immucor, a Norcross, GA-based medical device maker focused on transfusion and transplantation diagnostics, and Catalent (NYSE: CTLT), a pharmaceuticals company based in Somerset, NJ.

WEDC also supports small and early-stage businesses, though. It contributed $402,000 to StartingBlock Madison, a yet-to-be-built entrepreneurial center in Wisconsin’s capital city. The agency has pledged another $350,000 in rent subsidies once construction is complete and tenants have begun to move in.

Many have argued that entrepreneurs in Wisconsin can use all the backing–financial or otherwise—they can get. In August, the Badger State again finished dead least in a ranking by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of states’ startup activity.

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