- A Northwoods organization created to spur entrepreneurship and business growth recently received $95,000 in grants to advance economic development in the region.
The funds will go to support the Guiding Rural Innovation and Development, or The GRID, initiative, currently based at Nicolet College.
Of the total, $50,000 came from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, $35,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and $10,000 from Associated Bank.
"Small businesses are at the heart of the Northwoods economy, making up about 80 percent of all business activity in the region," said Toni Van Doren, Nicolet business solutions coordinator and one of the founders of The GRID.
"These grants will go a long way in helping us get new businesses off to a strong start and also help existing businesses grow their current ventures. It will no longer be about who you know or who you're connected to. The whole idea of The GRID is to connect everyone."
The organization serves businesses in Oneida, Vilas, Lincoln, Langlade, Forest, Florence, and Iron counties.
The new funding will support a business-growth initiative that includes several elements, including creating a new, resource-rich website that will provide information and guidance on the numerous different elements that need to be in place to launch, operate, and grow a successful business.
The website and associated database will include information on such topics as active investors, legal and accounting services, securing patents, banking and financial services, business incubator spaces and real estate services, business plan assistance, along with other aspects of starting and running a business.
"We're going to put in the time to make this information as specific and useful as possible," Van Doren said.
Individuals will be able to access information on their own and also, when needed, work one-on-one with an experienced business professional from The GRID to identify and locate the information and resources needed for any specific phase of business development.
The website is expected to launch this fall.
Another element of The GRID is to establish a series of social and informational events where budding entrepreneurs, established business owners, and business support services professionals can network and help each other for the collective good of everyone, Van Doren said.
"It's common for many different types of businesses to face the same challenges," she explained. "One example is marketing. What are the most effective and cost-efficient ways to tell the world about what you have to offer? By bringing the collective business community together, people can hear about what works, what doesn't, and give individuals ideas about what strategies are best for them."
The light of COVID-19, in-person gatherings are currently on hold. The organization is holding online events, however, and those will be listed on the website and on social media. In-person events will be held when it is determined to be safe to do so again.
For more information on The GRID, call (715) 365-4425 or email email@example.com. The organization also is on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.