The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will locate its Madison offices in the Urban League of Greater Madison’s Black Business Hub when construction is complete in 2023, WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes announced Tuesday, in hopes of connecting economic development with small businesses that will give entrepreneurs easier access to state resources.
“Having WEDC move into the building, along with some of the other tenants that we can’t name yet, we will have more economic development support services in one place than anywhere else in the state,” Urban League of Greater Madison CEO Dr. Ruben Anthony tells Madison365. “I think that having them in the building will add rocket fuel to our work on developing Black-owned businesses.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, WEDC has provided more than $600 million in assistance to small businesses in Wisconsin and have targeted aid to diverse businesses that were hardest hit.
“WEDC has demonstrated their commitment by donating $400,000 to our work on our accelerator fund to provide loans and grants and technical services to the businesses that are going to move into the building,” Anthony says. “So, they were already in as far as a partnership with us and in terms of helping Black-owned businesses.”
Hughes’ announcement comes as WEDC is preparing for MARKETPLACE: The Governor’s Conference on Diverse Business Development, which is marking its 40th anniversary with virtual events on Dec. 7 and in-person events at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee on Dec. 8 and 9.
“WEDC is strengthening our relationships with small businesses and entrepreneurs. This move will enable WEDC to physically be a part of Wisconsin’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Hughes said in a statement. “We will literally be working alongside some of our state’s most exciting innovators and we will be close enough to serve as a resource for the young companies that will call the business hub home. Embedding ourselves in the Hub will also help WEDC connect with traditionally underserved communities, including people of color, women and LGBT individuals who may not have the same access to capital and technical expertise as others.”
The Black Business Hub is looking to become the Madison region’s premiere Black-led enterprise center devoted to incubating, accelerating, and networking under-served entrepreneurs. Located on Madison’s South Side, the hub will include office space, retail storefronts, pop-up vending spaces, co-working space, a shared commercial kitchen and more. Anthony says that he hopes to have the Black Business Hub construction completed by the end of 2022 and entrepreneurs in the building by 2023.
“When we look at what COVID has revealed in terms of supply-chain disruptions across the nation, we know that we need to keep growing businesses here in this country – particularly small and minority-owned businesses,” Anthony says. “Having WEDC in the hub will help us add more resources to that work and I’m so happy to have them in.”