A new initiative among UW-La Crosse’s College of Business Administration, the UW System and the state is a one-stop shop to bolster Wisconsin’s economy.

The effort addresses the economic difficulties regional businesses face by providing additional resources to more effectively meet their needs and create growth and jobs. The efforts will be spearheaded in the new Center for Entrepreneurship, Sustainability and International Trade, located in 120 Wimberly Hall.

“The center will collaborate with the UW-L Small Business Development Center to provide additional theoretical and practical support aimed at fostering entrepreneurial opportunities, building international awareness and developing best practices for sustainable businesses,” explains Anne Hlavacka, SBDC director. “It will enable faculty and other university resources to be deployed to advance growth strategies aimed at commercializing innovation and helping businesses access new markets.”

Hlavacka says the center was developed at UW-L because of the university’s importance as a regional resource. “By enhancing its interaction with community and business organizations, the university fulfills its mission of promoting economic development,” she notes.

SBDC Director Anne Hlavacka and Business Outreach Specialist Terri Urbanek

SBDC Director Anne Hlavacka (right) and Business Outreach Specialist Terri Urbanek

Research and innovation continue to be important drivers of economic development, says Hlavacka. “UW-La Crosse’s academic reputation puts it in a strong position to effectively engage faculty, staff, students and community members in research and development projects that are likely to foster regional economic opportunities and grow area businesses,” she explains.

The university has a strong history of academic and collegiate success among alumni and friends. “The center enables the university to more effectively channel that interest to strengthen the institution and extend its reach in the region and beyond,” explains Hlavacka.

Center to offer an array of services

The center’s activities have already begun. Tailored programming is scheduled for fall.

The center will have a Web portal to enable businesses and organizations to identify and access key university resources. It also will house an executive-in-residence program to provide faculty, students, businesses and economic development agencies with access to business executives to gain a practical understanding of issues that confront business today.

Many businesses struggle while developing a sustainable business model, says Hlavacka. “The center will promote best practices that enable businesses to be better positioned and create sustainable business operations,” she explains.

In addition, the center will spearhead a growth acceleration program called “Forward Entrepreneur.” The program will enable collaboration with regional economic development resources to provide businesses with support necessary to expedite growth and create jobs.

The efforts will extend to undergraduates as well. “Students also will be able to provide assistance to businesses through class projects, research and internships as they pursue their academic and entrepreneurial interests,” explains Hlavacka.

Center targeting MBA students, biotech startups, more

The center will also work with the UW-L MBA program to help graduate students prepare for managerial careers. Opportunities will exist for students to share their talents with organizations while gaining practical operational insight.

But CBA faculty and students won’t be the only ones getting the state back to business. UW-L science programs will help develop entrepreneurial biotech startups.

The center will collaborate with the WiSys Technology Foundation to support research and technology development. The efforts will link campus researchers with business and other resources to increase entrepreneurship, innovation and research opportunities.

Promoting business here and beyond

UW-L College of Business Administration Dean Bruce May says the college is well positioned to support the center and help with improving state business.

“We have received a series of national awards and recognitions,” notes May. “The CBA is bolstered by highly qualified faculty experts, and this has given us a consistent reputation for strong undergraduate and MBA programs.”

This reputation, combined with critical partnerships, will extend the center’s relevance far beyond the university, May says. “We want to build international awareness and develop best practices for sustainable businesses, not just for our own students, but for entrepreneurs throughout the state,” he explains.

Businesses can get involved by contacting the center at: CESIT@uwlax.edu