Janesville51.4°

UW-W office might bolster local business

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JAMES P. LEUTE
October 7, 2008
— With an eye on helping displaced General Motors' workers and other struggling businesses, UW-Whitewater is extending its reach directly to the Janesville area.

In a partnership with Forward Janesville, UW-Whitewater said Monday it will open a satellite office of its Small Business Development Center in Janesville.


SBDC consultants focus on growth and innovation for existing small businesses and training and resources entrepreneurs need to start new businesses. In the past year, more than 100 clients received guidance and training from the SBDC.


For the most part, SBDC's consulting and training services are free and are offered under a mandate from the U.S. Small Business Administration.


The SBDC office at Forward Janesville will provide a direct connection to UW-Whitewater and offer easier access to clients who need counseling services, said Ronald Gayhart, director of the center at UW-Whitewater.


The local office will focus on job creation and business formation, and Gayhart said long-term economic development opportunities include launching new businesses, sustaining current businesses, expanding existing markets and diversifying business capabilities.


"Sustaining existing business and assisting with the launch of new ventures will be enhanced by being closer to the customer in the downtown Janesville setting," Gayhart said.


Gayhart said educational training will be a critical driver in the success of any economic development initiatives. With the help of several faculty members, UW-Whitewater will provide programs, courses and opportunities to displaced workers that will make them more marketable.


"Much of the economic success of Rock County over that past 100 years can be traced to local citizens deciding to develop an idea into a business venture," said John Beckord, president of Forward Janesville. "Entrepreneurship is part of our community's DNA..."


"Our intent is to encourage more small business development, employment opportunities, and investment."


The satellite SBDC project is expected to continue for at least three years.


It is part of an initiative triggered by a recent three-year, $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Agency to Rock County and Forward Janesville.


The federal grant, which is designed to help with redevelopment efforts proposed by local leaders, will be matched with about $171,000 in support from Forward Janesville, Rock County, the cities of Janesville and Beloit, UW-W and from others.


Gayhart said that about $5,000 of the federal grant will go toward the SBDC satellite office. The remainder of the costs will be UW-W's in-kind contribution to the collaborative effort.


OPEN HOUSE

The public is invited to attend Forward Janesville's showcase of the new UW-Whitewater Small Business Development Center satellite office at 5 p.m. Thursday at 14 S. Jackson St. in downtown Janesville.


The event is part of a celebration of the Jackson Square Building, a revitalization project in the heart of the downtown that's home to Forward Janesville, the Janesville Design & Development Center and the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin.



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