What do they stand for?
Unscrambling acronyms for state and federal business-assistance organizations

By Katherine Michalets - Special to The Freeman

March 7, 2015

WAUKESHA - Acronyms for business organizations often are casually mentioned in an economic announcement or in reference to a new statewide initiative, but what do they all mean? And what do these organizations do for businesses in Wisconsin?

For business owners, knowing what kinds of services these organizations offer can mean finding guidance when needed or financial assistance when sought.

Below are some of the commonly used acronyms and a brief description of the organization’s mission. WEDC — Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (www.inwisconsin.com) is a public-private entity that was created in 2011 by state statute, 2011 Wisconsin Act 7, during a special session focused on job creation called by Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature.

The WEDC established four key operational strategies, according to its website: invest in companies and industries that are creating jobs through startup, expansion or relocation; advance key target industries and consortia; strengthen our investment in communities and economic development networks; and promote a positive business climate.

The WEDC is governed by its own board and is able to conduct itself like a business. It also partners with 650 economic development organizations in Wisconsin to serve businesses. An example of WEDC’s recent action would be the up to $9 million in tax credits it’s providing Exact Sciences Corp. in Madison to expand and create jobs. In the recent State of the State address, Walker encouraged the merger of the WEDC and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).

WHEDA — Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (www.wheda.com) is a publicprivate entity created in 1972 by the Wisconsin Legislature to provide low-cost financing for housing, small business and agricultural development.

In January, WHEDA announced three awardees of a request for proposals to select fund managers to form and administer $4 million in venture funds from the Wisconsin Equity Investment Fund.

WEDA — Wisconsin Economic Development Association (www.weda.org) aims to be Wisconsin’s “voice for economic development.” It comprises more than 420 Wisconsin member organizations.

Founded in 1975, WEDA is a nonprofit organization whose professionals and volunteers “are dedicated to making Wisconsin a better place to live and work through economic advancement that focuses on retaining and expanding existing businesses; facilitating investment and entrepreneurship; and, attracting new companies, employment opportunities and innovation capital,” according to its website.

WMEP — Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (www.wmep.org) is a nonprofit consulting organization that seeks to help grow smalland medium-sized manufacturers in the state. Since it was formed in 1998, WMEP has provided services to more than 4,000 manufacturers, according to its website.

WMEP also strives to “raise public awareness about the critical importance of manufacturing to Wisconsin’s economy now and in the future.”

SBA — U.S. Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) is an independent agency of the federal government created in 1953 to assist small businesses with counseling sessions, loans and loan guarantees, contracts and other forms of assistance.

The SBA’s mission, according to its website, is to “to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” On Feb. 27, the SBA announced a partnership with the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders to develop a “Business Smart Toolkit” to help community leaders build on financial literacy and basic business assistance.

CTC — Center for Technology Commercialization (www.wisconsintechnologycouncil. com) was formerly known as the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network or WEN. CTC aids startup companies and entrepreneurs, especially in technology-based sectors, through the UW-Extension Small Business Development Centers and its four regional directors.

The organization offers help at the early stages for a startup and has been in existence as WEN since 2005.

Milwaukee 7 (mke7.com) was created in 2005 to form a collaborative economic development platform for seven southeastern Wisconsin counties: Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha. The organization’s goals are to grow, expand and attract export driver industries and emerging business clusters, to strengthen the region’s capacity to innovate and to increase the region’s competitiveness.

The Milwaukee 7 also worked with community stakeholders to create a business plan for improving the region’s economic opportunities, which can be found on its website.