We all agree that growing jobs is the key to a vibrant economy and Milwaukee's future. But where will the jobs come from? The structural change to our economy has created the slowest job growth in decades throughout our country. How do we jump start jobs and businesses?
In our region, we have a number of M7 partners utilizing a combination of effective strategies to help the entire region meet its collective job growth goals by attracting new companies, retaining companies and supporting a strong entrepreneurial community.
We are creating jobs through startups assisted by BizStarts, WWBIC and MEDC as well as the accelerators and our cluster organizations -the Water Council, the Food and Beverage Council (FAB), and the Midwest Energy Research Consortium. We are attracting companies and jobs through M7.
But what else can we do to catalyze job growth with our existing businesses and grow the startups and later-stage entrepreneurial-led companies in sufficient numbers to quickly fuel the level of job creation?
The Be Bold: The Wisconsin Prosperity Strategy report by Competitive Wisconsin, Inc. noted, "The public and private sectors must also focus now on encouraging and enabling current employers who have expansion and growth potential to maximize that potential as quickly as possible."
We believe the greatest velocity of job growth will come from small entrepreneurial-led companies that have the ability and leadership to scale up. In April we laid the foundation for this growth potential when we launched Scale Up Milwaukee. Scale Up focuses on companies that already have revenues of $500K to $10M led by entrepreneurial leaders who are incredibly ambitious and WANT to grow and have a business with the POTENTIAL to grow. Our goal is grow the revenues of these companies by 20% per year.
Scale Up is neutral on sector or cluster and focuses on six strategy areas:
Scale Up is not just a GMC project but part of a national partnership with American Express OPEN led by Dan Isenberg, an entrepreneur and professor at Babson College.
Our thanks to our founding partners who are investing time and money to launch Scale Up Milwaukee: American Express OPEN, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the City of Milwaukee. We also want to thank American Express OPEN for selecting and investing in Milwaukee as the pilot city for development of the national model.
We had great success in many of the strategy areas, but in this column I want to focus on one very visible and hugely successful strategy in the Human Capital area - the Scalerator, our intense program where 12 companies were selected for a growth-oriented MBA-like opportunity.
Each of the companies emerged from the pilot Scalerator with plans to increase next year's sales by at least 20% above their original projections.
Here is what several of the entrepreneurs had to say after the program:
"Participating in the Scalerator program allowed me to realize what we were doing well and what we weren't doing well in. For instance, we learned that we weren't speaking to banks well - in the past, we would highlight our goal to become a franchise, which didn't resonate well. Through the Scalerator, we learned what banks are looking for to elicit a positive response and will now communicate that there is a large market for what we do. We also learned different ways to grow sales quickly... one of which is to grow existing customer base. We applied this right away and to-date, this effort has been successful, and we're on track to achieve sales growth."
- Bill Reilly from Hands-on Garage
"Being a part of the Scalerator shifted my mindset to focus on Diamond Discs' value to the industry. I learned to focus more on the long term partnership based on the value of Diamond Discs' solutions to the industry demands of corporate clienteles' operations..rather than simply promoting our products and services. I've made considerable progress in securing business relationships with 4-6 large corporations as a result of utilization of this perspective and am on track to experience a 25% increase by Q2 of 2014."
-Ugo Nwagbaraocha of Diamond Discs International
As noted by Governor Walker at our November Membership meeting, Scale Up is "a strategic investment that goes beyond just startup companies, to scaling up to the next level... now, it's how do you take it to the next step and scale up to where it has not just a significant economic base but an employment base with business here in southeastern Wisconsin and throughout the state." If you want to learn more about Scale Up or become engaged in the initiative, we would welcome your help. More to come - including jobs!
President, Greater Milwaukee Committee