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Friday, August 29, 2014

MaryBeth Matzek: Emergent Labs expands programs into Fond du Lac


By MaryBeth Matzek
Jay Smith of Fond du Lac is an entrepreneur at heart. The chief executive officer of Draiochta Labs, a game developer, participated in an Emergent Labs program in Milwaukee last year. He came away with a $10,000 grant for his business and the idea to bring Emergent Labs to Fond du Lac.

Founded by video game developer Emil Harmsen, Emergent Labs is a business accelerator class. In 2013, Harmsen received grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. for his Milwaukee class and to help five businesses – including Smith's – get off the ground.

"After I went through it, I told Emil that I really wanted to bring this to Fond du Lac. There are so many people out there with great ideas, but just can't get to that next stage because no bank will talk to them. Emergent Labs will help them achieve their dreams," Smith says. "Entrepreneurs are the future of our economy and anything we can do to help people start their businesses here is good for the local economy."

The free 12-week class starts Sept. 17 and Smith hopes to offer another one in the spring. In the program, students learn lean and agile business practices that will help them in the high-tech business world. They'll also gain powerful connections.

"They'll learn a lot about networking and how to grow and use your networks to help your business," he says, adding that students who complete the program will be eligible for a $10,000 grant to help them take their idea to the next stage.

Smith says there are many people in the Fond du Lac area who have ideas related to hardware and software projects and devices. "I think you would be surprised. A lot of people have ideas, but can't get them developed. If we can get those ideas developed here, more businesses will be created and we'll also keep people in the community rather than having them take their idea and move somewhere else," he says.

Smith brought together numerous local businesses and organizations to support the new initiative, including the Fond du Lac Economic Development Corp., where the initial class will be offered. Eventually, he wants to see the class housed in the Emergent Technology Center in Fond du Lac, a building that will also house a college based on the mentor-student concept, open collaborative work spaces, maker spaces where entrepreneurs can fabricate a prototype and offices.

"We're looking at a few spaces. This is something we're very excited about," Smith says. "People talk all the time about manufacturing jobs, but I believe technology can lead to lots of new jobs too. I think the Fox Valley has what it takes to be a place where technology companies can take root and grow."

For more information about the business accelerator class, please visit http://www.emergentlabs.org.

Growing the team

Team Industries, a pipe fabricator company in Kaukauna, looks to finish a 54,000-square-foot expansion this fall that may eventually lead to them adding 155 new fabrication and welding jobs.

The new hires are expected to come on within the next couple of years, company officials say.

Team recently completed a 30,000-square-foot expansion of its loading facility and bought a 225,000-square-foot building that was formerly used by RR Donnelley. All three projects will allow the company to handle the larger and longer pipe spools now being used in more construction projects.

Green Bay medical school loses partner

Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay is opting out of being a partner in the Medical College of Wisconsin's new campus in Green Bay. Aurora along with the three other Green Bay area hospitals initially signed up to partner in the Medical College's new program in Northeast Wisconsin by offering to serve as a clinical site and possibly providing staff as instructors.

The Medical College plans to launch its new Green Bay campus next summer and still has Green Bay's other three hospitals along with the local VA Health Center as partners. The majority of classes will be offered in a building on the campus of St. Norbert College.

Aurora leaders say its long relationship with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is why the organization is backing out. Medical College of Wisconsin leaders say the school is still moving forward and that they have received 1,200 applications for its first class, which will be between 20 and 25 students.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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