GREEN BAY, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Five months into the coronavirus pandemic, state economic leaders are formulating ways to move Wisconsin’s economy forward.
Developing new ideas, products and services is expected to be one of the drivers of the recovery.
In one word: Innovation.
“We’ve just gone through an incredible change, so taking that momentum from that is really important,” says Missy Hughes, chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. “That’s why we advocate for supporting innovation, it’s going to help keep the momentum going.”
Many businesses have already bought into this idea, changing what they produce and how they do things. For instance, some companies have shifted production— or expanded their portfolio — to include personal protective gear.
There will likely be other entrepreneurs who start businesses tackling new gaps and needs: Technologies allowing people to work with adequate physical distancing, or ways to provide diners with touchless menus.
“We really want to be thinking about how do we support folks who want to do something innovative— who want to open a new business— and make sure we have the system in place to help them do that,” Hughes says. “Where we’re really going to see growth in capital investments and job creation is in those new and exciting ideas.”
Helping start-ups and existing businesses bring new ideas to the market is the backbone of TitletownTech in Green Bay. It recently attracted a West Coast company to relocate to Wisconsin.
ChemDirect is creating a technology marketplace connecting chemical companies to industrial customers. One of its recent focuses is providing disinfectants and sanitizers to businesses and schools — a need that is driven directly by the pandemic.
While the coasts may be thought of as bastions of innovation, the reality is it happens everywhere.
“It takes someone coming here sometimes…to recognize that innovation is everywhere,” says Jill Enos, one of the managing directors at TitletownTech. “Fantastic entrepreneurs and really talented people are in every state. What we’re growing here is just building on what was already happening. It’s just bringing this ecosystem to light.”
She lists a number of businesses aligned with TitlewtownTech who are providing new solutions— or adapting existing ones— to fill needs in the market.
That includes operations like Fork Farms, which has developed a vertical hydroponic system to grow fresh foods. One of the aims is helping alleviate food insecurity issues, a topic that has come to the forefront with pandemic-induced unemployment.
“Challenges bring innovation, and smart people come to the table to solve the problems,” Enos says. “We’ve seen a number of the startups we work with right now really fill gaps and advance to try to solve some of the problems COVID-19 has created.”