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Vilas County business incubators continue growth, look to futureSubmitted: 08/26/2016

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EAGLE RIVER - You might think a business incubator focuses on creating jobs.  But the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation lives by the mindset of creating opportunities, knowing that when you do that the jobs tend to follow.

VCEDC started its first business incubator in Eagle River in 2012.  That building filled up, so they moved into two others across Highway 70, including the Eye on Entrepreneurs building in 2015.  Project Manager Barry McLeane says creativity now pours out of all six of their current sites, from Phelps to Manitowish Waters.

"I've listened to some pretty bizarre ideas over the last three or four years, and it's OK," McLeane said.  "It's OK, because bizarre ideas settle down into something really substantial."

Those ideas include fishing line cutters, 3-D printing labs, sign-making and more. The incubators have turned startups into successful businesses. McLeane says the county provides about half of his group's funding, but a lot of money comes from angel investors and Vilas County communities themselves.

"All of these communities want to see us do well," McLeane said. "Because if we do well, it can't help but affect where they are and they're doing well."

Now, the VCEDC's focus moving forward is on getting students to come back after college and invest in the Northwoods.

"We know they love to live here, so give them the opportunities, let them go away to college and then come back here and establish their own businesses," McLeane said.

The VCEDC welcomes any and all ideas, offering help developing business plans, finding insurance and funding.

If you have an idea you'd like to turn into a business, call McLeane at 715-891-1284.  

Story By: Lane Kimble

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