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Monday, November 3, 2014

MaryBeth Matzek: Grant program changes look to boost business' exports


By MaryBeth Matzek
Businesses that export tend to have a healthier bottom line since they draw from a larger customer base. To encourage more businesses to look beyond U.S. borders, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is rolling out several changes to its exporting grant programs.

The WEDC is altering its International Market Access Grant and Collaborative Market Access Grant by increasing the amount of money available to companies, says Monica Wahlberg, international grants manager for the WEDC.

The maximum award for the IMAG, which provides funding for companies to participate in trade trips, overseas meetings or to receive export education or consulting services, increased from $10,000 to $25,000 per award. For the CMAG, which helps industry associations and other organizations work directly with companies to increase exports, the amount rose from $50,000 to $150,000 with a maximum of $15,000 going to any single business.

"By increasing the amount available, we're hoping to encourage companies to think more strategically when it comes to their exporting plans," Wahlberg says.

She says the WEDC also streamlined its application process by incorporating cultural and educational expenses as part of IMAG; previously companies had to fill out a separate grant application for the WEDC's Export Education Grant program.

"We're listening to business owners and what they think the barriers are to exporting. We are then trying to come up with ways to address those barriers. Exporting isn't easy and we want to provide businesses with all the tools we can to make them successful," Wahlberg says. "We really want to help companies prioritize what's best suited for them and their needs."

Interest in the program has grown in recent years as the WEDC – the successor to the Department of Commerce – made several changes, Wahlberg says. Four years ago, there were 19 Wisconsin companies helped and so far this year more than 65 have been aided.

"We've received a lot of positive response too about the new changes so we anticipate even more growth," she says. "Studies have shown that businesses who export do better overall and it's our goal to help businesses succeed."

Interest high in Green Bay medical school

Applications have poured in for the Medical College of Wisconsin's new campus in Green Bay. A total of 1,800 students, including 67 from Wisconsin, have indicated they're interested in the Green Bay-based program, which begins next July.

The Green Bay campus – and one in central Wisconsin which will open in 2016 – will offer a three- year, immersive curriculum aimed at students with an interest in pursuing careers in primary care, psychiatry or general surgery. The main campus in Milwaukee offers a four-year curriculum featuring additional specialty options.

The Medical College of Wisconsin will select between 20 and 25 students for the program's first class.

More new businesses

More new business entities have been formed in Wisconsin in the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, according to statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

Through Sept. 30, 27,480 domestic business entities were created – up 5.2 percent from the 26,119 formed during the same period in 2013.

-- 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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