Small business initiatives receive local funding
Associated Bank grants over $16,000 to The GRID, OCEDC
By Eileen Persike
Nicolet College and the Oneida County Economic Development Corporation (OCEDC) are both looking to launch new programs to help entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Northwoods. Both organizations received some financial help from a local bank.
Associated Bank granted $10,000 to support the Guiding Rural Innovation and Development (the GRID) initiative, based at Nicolet College. The GRID was created to spur entrepreneurship and business growth.
“Small businesses are at the heart of the Northwoods economy, making up about 80% 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.”
Funding from Associated Bank will allow the GRID this spring to offer a number of virtual training and technical assistance classes in two areas, one to assist small businesses recovering from the ongoing economic crisis and grow their businesses. Another class will assist new business startups. The initiative started about 18 months ago and Van Doren said it will be launched the week of Nov. 9, which is Start Up Week in Wisconsin. Partners include OCEDC, Vilas County Economic Development, Grow North Regional Economic Development, UW-Extension and ArtStart. The GRID has also recently received grants totaling $85,000 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Associated Bank also granted the OCEDC $16,500 to create a pilot program that will help small restaurants and taverns explore contactless options for ordering and delivering food. It is a new concept said OCEDC Executive Director Jeff Verdoorn.
“Your cell phone can scan a QR code and the whole menu would come up, then you can use your phone to pick from the menu and that becomes your order versus having a server handle your menu back and forth,” Verdoorn said. “What the owner gets is point-of-sale information. What’s selling well, what’s not.”
“Associated Bank recognizes our success is dependent upon strong relationships with the communities where we live and serve, said Brad Kowieski, Associated Bank vice president, commercial lending northern market. “As a responsible corporate citizen, we endeavor to foster stronger, more stable communities. Helping to ensure the well-being of our communities is an integral part of our strategy. Through targeted efforts and specific commitments to communities within our footprint, we work to address some of the most important economic development issues in the markets we serve. The efforts of both Nicolet College/Nicolet College Foundation and the Oneida County Economic Development Corporation match our efforts. The organizations help to promote entrepreneurship and economic development, keys to growing a vibrant community.”
Verdoorn said the OCEDC will be looking for five to ten businesses that are interested in making this kind of change, and then will work with them. The funds from Associated Bank will help offset the cost of technology, training and subscriptions. After the application process is developed, Verdoorn said they will begin reaching out to businesses and working with chambers of commerce in the county to provide a variety of businesses.