Building on his business experience
Occupation: Director of UW-Whitewater's Center for Innovation and Business Development
Family: Married with two grown children and four grandchildren
Favorite book: The Bible
Favorite music: Gospel
JANESVILLE As a UW-Whitewater student, Bud Gayhart had his eyes on McCutchan Hall, which at the time was a dormitory for young women.
About 40 years later, Gayhart has a place in McCutchan, but not as a suitor.
Gayhart directs UW-W's Center for Innovation and Business Development, a combination of the school's Small Business Development Center and the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center.
He returned to campus in 2006 after a career that included ownership of a home appliance store, running a lumber yard, directing the merger and acquisition activities of a large wholesale distributor and finally turning around a manufacturing company.
He also dabbled in teaching, so the chance to head UW-W's program was a natural extension.
"It was another opportunity to throw all my life experiences into the classroom," Gayhart said.
Gayhart teaches a business consulting class each semester, but he's become a familiar face in Janesville as part of the university's efforts to help the community through difficult economic times.
With an office at Forward Janesville, Gayhart stands at the front line to help entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality.
"I get to live vicariously as an entrepreneur through so many others," he said. "I still get to play, but I'm not the one signing the guarantees or putting everything on the line.
"I've been there and done that, so I know what they go through, whether there is enough in the sock to meet payroll."
With responsibility for several counties, Gayhart is spread thin, but struggling Rock County is a priority, he said.
"When the General Motors situation unfolded, Bud was the one to step up and say, 'We need to be there,'" said Chris Clements, UW-W's interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
"Bud has such a wide range of experience, and he's a guy who sincerely cares about people who are struggling in business and the economy."
A macho attitude is often what makes entrepreneurs successful, but it often is the same quality that precludes people from asking for help.
Jim Freeman, owner of Helicopter Specialties in Janesville, is a successful entrepreneur, but he long ago recognized he needed outside help and advice.
"I needed an owner's school, an entrepreneur's school, a president's school and a CEO's school," Freeman said. "I don't think they have all of those."
Instead, he found UW-W's SBDC.
"Bud's been very positive in helping us," Freeman said. "He came from the private sector, so he's been through the things I'm going through."
Gayhart said Rock County faces challenges, but it also has a base of businesses such as Freeman's to celebrate.
"This office in Janesville has allowed us to come into contact with people we would have never met before."
That includes people who want to start new businesses, which Gayhart said is critical because the area will rebound better with 10 new businesses that each employ 50 people than with one that hires 500.