December 2022

Director’s message

Supporting small and rural businesses

The Office of Rural Prosperity (ORP) recognizes that small business is big business in rural Wisconsin. The Blue Ribbon Commission report on rural prosperity identified several priorities for investing in rural entrepreneurship and developing stronger entrepreneurial ecosystems in rural communities. This month I’d like to update you on two of those recommendations with an overview of progress made to date.

Recommendation: Support more (and more) innovation through coaching and technical assistance for rural small business startup, growth and transition.

Progress: This fall, the Governor’s Office announced a $1 million initiative led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension and WEDC to provide much-needed resources, support and technical assistance to rural entrepreneurs across the state. UW-Madison Division of Extension will work closely with WEDC and other partners across the state to develop the initiative to provide training, technical assistance, and legal and financial advice to rural entrepreneurs in need of support to start a business or bolster their existing business.

Recommendation: Support the development of cooperatives.

Progress: ORP created the Wisconsin Cooperative Feasibility Grant initiative, which aims to support the success of current and future cooperatives by allowing them to explore all facets of their business before investing in large-scale changes. This program supports comprehensive feasibility studies and elements of feasibility studies that are useful to make decisions for business planning. The next two deadlines for the coop feasibility grant are December 15, 2022 and February 15, 2023.

The holiday season is a brilliant time of year to be thinking about and supporting small businesses in rural Wisconsin. In this month’s newsletter, we highlight resources and organizations that provide support for small businesses across the state. We invite you to share the magic of the holidays by shopping small this season and posting your experiences on social media using the hashtag #ShopSmallWI.

Beth Haskovec
Director, ORP
David Fleming Sr.

Meet your neighbor:
David Fleming Sr.

David Fleming Sr. lives in New Post, a tiny village near Hayward in northern Wisconsin, that has “a fire department and a church—and that’s it.”

New Post is where David grew up, on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, in a clump of eight houses “and nobody else for miles.” The nearest grocery store was 30 minutes away, and the bus ride to school took an hour.

“My playgrounds and streets were forests and streams,” he says.

Read more


Open opportunities

Now Hiring: Community Liaisons for USDA's Rural Partners Network

Apply by Dec. 12

The Rural Partners Network (RPN) is a first-of-its-kind collaboration, bringing together federal agencies and networks of local leaders and stakeholders to improve the community and economic well-being of rural areas. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now hiring RPN community liaisons to work on the ground with selected Community Networks in Wisconsin. Community liaisons will help rural people clarify community improvement priorities, navigate federal programs, build relationships and identify additional resources to promote locally driven solutions.

Apply at


Small Business Resources

With the winter holidays upon us, we want to extend our appreciation to all of the incredible rural small businesses that are a cornerstone in the economy of our state. Pouring one’s heart into operating a small business can be overwhelming at the best of times, let alone during a more hectic season such as this one. Below are some resources and supporting organizations that can help small businesses with conceptualization, execution, growth and handling curve balls.

LLC Laws Webinars
LLC laws in Wisconsin are changing. Join the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-La Crosse for a free webinar on Dec. 15, from noon-1:30 p.m. to learn how these changes may affect your business. Owners with existing LLCs have the option to: (1) by Dec. 31, file a statement of nonapplicability with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions to continue the status quo and have your LLC governed by current LLC law; or (2) do nothing, and on Jan. 1, 2023, your LLC will be governed by the new statute by operation of law. If you wonder what is changing and how the changes might impact your LLC and its owners/managers, come learn more about the changes and the options/actions you should consider taking to get your desired result. The webinar will be facilitated by attorneys familiar with the new LLC statute.

Register here

Community Developing Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in Wisconsin
CDFI are specialized, community-based financial institutions with a primary mission to promote economic development by providing financial products and services to people and communities underserved by traditional financial institutions, particularly in low-income communities.

Learn more

Start In Wisconsin
Start In Wisconsin is a collaboration among WEDC, local entrepreneur support organizations and the UW System Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship. This up-to-date online directory of business and networking resources and calendar of entrepreneur-focused events and programming is searchable by ZIP code, type of business assistance and many other categories. Designed to support those starting a business in Wisconsin, these tools help entrepreneurs to start, scale and accelerate.

Learn more

UW Extension’s Homegrown: Entrepreneurship in Your Community
Homegrown is a program focused on building and strengthening your local entrepreneurial network. It is a joint effort between UW-Madison Division of Extension and the University of Missouri Division of Extension. Homegrown can be tailored to community members or professionals with a shared interest in learning about entrepreneurship. The program offers facts about entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial ecosystems and why they are important; a close look at the local entrepreneurial community; the opportunity for participants to identify their local entrepreneurial network; strategies to build network relationships; and guest entrepreneurs invited to share about their businesses and support networks.

Learn more

UW Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic
The Law & Entrepreneurship (L&E) Clinic provides free legal services to nascent entrepreneurs and early-stage companies through the work of law students supervised by faculty and private sector attorneys. The work of the L&E Clinic closely traces the dynamic evolution of the Madison startup community. Since its creation, the clinic has helped thousands of founders, creators and inventors start innovative businesses.

Learn more

WISCAP Agencies Jobs and Business Development (JBD) Program
The JBD program helps low-income individuals to create their own full-time job through small business development. Individuals interested in entrepreneurship receive a variety of services to help them successfully open their own business.

Learn more

Wisconsin Cooperative Feasibility Study Grant
This grant program aims to support the success of current and future cooperatives by allowing them to explore all facets of their business before large investments are made.

Learn more

Wisconsin Family Business Center
Family-owned businesses contribute greatly to the economy, but they face unique challenges. Discover why family businesses of all sizes join the Wisconsin Family Business Center.

Learn more

Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
The Wisconsin SBDC offers consulting, education, referrals, sophisticated tools and resources for business owners just getting started or looking for ways to improve their business.

Learn more

The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation provides underserved individuals who are interested in starting, strengthening or expanding businesses with access to critical resources such as responsible financial products and quality business and financial training. They focus on individuals who face barriers in accessing traditional financing or resources in pursuit of their dreams and economic well-being—in particular, women, people of color, veterans, and rural and lower wealth individuals.

Learn more


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Office of Rural Prosperity
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
201 W. Washington Avenue, Suite 1801, Madison, WI 53703