Local businesses excited about possible state venture capital fund
Among the many challenges small businesses face these days is finding the money to expand.
It's a problem Gov. Scott Walker is hoping to help solve in his proposed budget, by setting aside $25 million to help companies do just that.
The venture capital program is being received with open arms by some in the small business community.
While they're happy about the funding, they're concerned $25 million won't be enough.
After only about a year into business, orders are pouring into Wyatt Bicycles in La Crosse.
"This past week I've been assembling about 20 bicycles by myself," said owner Whyatt Hrudka.
Like many startup businesses, Hrudka says his business is ready to expand.
"Additional funding to hire employees would really help," said Hrudka.
Right now, Hrudka's business produces single gear bikes. With a little extra capital he could expand his product line to include some multi-gear models.
"There are a lot of limitations with businesses right now because they go to the banks and get that additional funding and it's hard for the banks to say, 'We'll do it,'" said Hrudka.
Hrudka's situation is not unique.
Local small business development centers say Walker's proposed $25 million venture capital investment fund is needed by many companies across the state.
"Those are the kinds of things these small businesses need to get going," said David Loomis, Coulee Region Business Center director.
"The need is great and everyone notes that," said Anne Hlavacka, director of the Small Business Development Center.
Walker's program will try to partner with private investors to build the fund.
"The state would be providing some funding and then look to raise, I believe it would be a 2 for 1, they would invest $25 million and look for an additional $50 million raised through private sources," said Hlavacka.
But even so, some worry it's still not enough.
"The one item most people comment on is whether or not it's adequate. It would be a handful of companies that would be able to access it because it's not that large of a fund as it's currently proposed," said Hlavacka.
"There's so many businesses out there that have ideas and can expand," said Hrudka.
Hlavacka says the venture capital fund is just one piece needed to help businesses grow.
She says there are a lot of other initiatives going on in the state right now to help small businesses get off the ground.
Walker is proposing the fund be managed by Department of Administration.
It would be up to the Legislature to decide how the program would be run.
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