Starting a Business
It’s easy to start a successful business in the Milwaukee Region, thanks to a variety of federal, state and local programs. In fact, Entrepreneur magazine ranks the region as one of the “hottest” urban areas for entrepreneurs. Approximately 85 percent of the region’s business establishments have fewer than 25 employees. In addition to the strong private-sector financial community, there is an established network of venture capitalists, angel investors and economic development agencies that offer numerous choices for entrepreneurs.
Among the many business support programs available include:
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides technical, financial and contracting assistance, as well as special programs for veterans, women, minorities and young entrepreneurs.
State Incentives & Resources
Wisconsin’s state agencies that provide economic development programs and business support services include:
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state's primary agency for business development, focuses on business retention, expansion and relocation, business finance and export development. It works independently or in conjunction with local development agencies. Resources include business growth assistance, support for entrepreneurs and new business financial assistance programs.
The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Toolkit from the Wisconsin Technology Council is designed to give innovators a guide to resources available in Wisconsin and beyond.
The Wisconsin Business AnswerLine provides free information to small business owners and their staffs in the state of Wisconsin on a wide variety of business topics. AnswerLine staff have access to an extensive document library, phone and web resources and often field calls about starting a business, business planning, permits and licensing, insurance, legal entity types and business financing topics. These resources can also be e-mailed to the caller to answer their questions quickly and efficiently. The AnswerLine is available Monday through Thursday, 9 am to 4 pm. Call: 800-940-7232. Or use this secure online form.
The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Agency (WHEDA) offers a choice of small business financing products, including loan guarantees and interest rate subsidies.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a Permit Primer that offers a step-by-step, question-and-answer tour of the DNR regulatory programs to help you determine which environmental requirements apply to you, what permits you need and how to get them.
LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES
BizStarts works with entrepreneurs, service providers, capital connections and other resources in southeast Wisconsin to help launch and grow new companies that will create sustainable jobs. From small stores to large, scalable start-ups, BizStarts is a one-stop center that offers all the help and connections entrepreneurs need.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) offers advice, training and resources for entrepreneurs and small companies.
SBA Women's Business Centers offer business training and technical assistance, along with access to credit and capital, federal contracts and international trade opportunities.
Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) provides small business plan preparation and business advice.
Counties and several communities have economic development programs that provide financial and technical assistance. The community economic development programs typically work in partnership with the private lending community and utilize similar credit analysis and underwriting criteria. Following are the local economic development programs in the region:
Kenosha Area Business Alliance: Economic development and business services, including revolving loan funds, site-selection assistance, economic data and training programs
Milwaukee County Economic Development: Technical and financial assistance to businesses and municipalities
Milwaukee Department of City Development: Coordinates business development, real estate development, planning and permitting for the City of Milwaukee
Milwaukee Economic Development Corp.: Assistance with financing, property location, grant, tax credits, business plan preparation and environmental issues
Milwaukee Water Works: The City of Milwaukee's Water Works offers discounted water rates to encourage business growth and job creation
Wauwatosa Economic Development Corp.: Planning, financing and permitting assistance to business and developers located in or relocating to the city
West Allis Department of Development: Technical and financial assistance to new and existing businesses located in or relocating to the city
Ozaukee County Economic Development Corp.: Financial and technical assistance for companies located in or relocating to Ozaukee County
Economic Development for Grafton Enhancement (EDGE): Financial and technical assistance for companies located in or relocating to the Grafton area
Racine County Economic Development Corp.: Assistance with workforce and technology development, business financing, site location and government programs
Walworth County Economic Development Alliance: Financial and technical assistance for companies located in or relocating to Walworth County
Economic Development/Washington County: Financial and technical assistance for companies located in or relocating to Washington County
Hartford Area Development Corp.: Planning, financing and permitting assistance to business and developers located in or relocating to the city
West Bend Department of Development: Financial and technical assistance for companies located in or relocating to the city
Waukesha County Center for Growth: Financial and technical assistance for companies located in or relocating to Waukesha County
Brookfield Economic Development Division: Financial and technical assistance for companies located in or relocating to the city
Menomonee Falls Economic Development Division: Financial and technical assistance for companies located in or relocating to the city
Angel investors & Venture Capital
The first angel investing group in Wisconsin was established in 2000. Since that time, new angel groups have formed each year. Angel investors typically focus on companies that have already developed a basic concept and business strategy, and are in the seed stage of investment. An emphasis is placed on business enterprises with the potential for rapid growth. Angel investors in the Milwaukee Region include BrightStar Wisconsin, Golden Angels Investors, Silicon Pastures and the Wisconsin Super Angel Fund.
The Milwaukee 7 Venture Capital Fund provides capital to companies as loans, equity or loan to equity with grant support for financing assistance, market analysis and other support services. The capital is intended to help companies achieve measurable business development milestones, such as feasibility assessments, product development and market validation. Loans are made in amounts ranging from $50,000 - $125,000.
The Tech Council Investor Networks support Wisconsin's entrepreneurial spirit by providing entrepreneurs and angel investors a "yellow pages" directory of resources which can assist in making equity investments in early stage companies.
Baird Capital invests in early- to growth-stage business services and healthcare/life sciences companies where its expertise, capital and broad network of resources complement management's business objectives and strategy.