$1.26 million federal grant aims at educating displaced workers
A $1.26 million project expected to begin in October could give aspiring entrepreneurs in Walworth and Rock counties the boost they need to start their businesses and get into the market.
The project will be supported by a $687,100 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration to promote business creation in Rock, Walworth, Kenosha and Racine counties.
The grant will underwrite up to 80 percent of the nearly $1,250 cost of entrepreneurial education programs in the four-county region.
“It’s a great way for people to be able to take an entrepreneurial training course, including the production of a business plan, at a reduced cost,” said Therese Fellner, director of business development at Gateway Technical College.
Fellner said the three-year grant can support up to 380 participants and will run from Oct. 1, 2009, to Oct. 31, 2012.
Gateway Technical College and the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance spearheaded the application process and will match the government funds with $429,287. Other partners are Small Business Development Centers at UW-Whitewater, UW-Parkside and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation.
The grant is particularly opportune because of the blows the Janesville economy has suffered with the closing of General Motors, said Fred Burkhardt, the alliance’s executive vice president.
“There is a huge amount of talent that’s been cut loose,” Burkhardt said. “That talent basically has to either look for a parallel job or they have to move or reapply those skills in a different company.
“Or they can take those skills and turn them into a business of their own.”
The programs are based on the Kauffman Foundation method, a business recipe utilized by more than 300,000 entrepreneurs in the Untied States, Burkhardt said. It’s the opportunity for people with little to no experience to learn the basic of business management.
“We normally offer business plan classes that cover fundamentals of running a business, marketing, legal issues, management, human resources, that type of thing,” said Kristina “Kaia” Fowler, program manager at UW-Whitewater’s Small Business Development Center.
“Sometimes the client needs to learn how to write a business plan. Sometimes they already have a plan and have specific questions they would like to run past an adviser.”
The class walks potential entrepreneurs through concepts they need to know to start a new business or grow an existing one. It helps participants answer questions about their personality, life situation and feasibility of their business plan so they know how to make their plan become reality.
“It helps people explore those questions before they invest a lot of time and money,” Fowler said.
The grant also will allow the organizations to start an online business development course, Fellner said.
“This is an opportunity to put entrepreneurs back in the business parks, not only with training but networking and financing,” Burkhardt said.