Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh what a place to grow your business!

You can't know how great it feels to say this:

Everything written in these blog posts solely reflects my own personal opinion. Nothing in these posts reflects the opinions of my past, current or future employers.

I have been looking for just the right way to use the ideas I discuss in these posts to make as valuable and widespread a contribution to entrepreneurs as I could manage.

I will forever be grateful to Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) and their wonderful Small Business Center, led by Russ Roberts. Russ and the WCTC Small Business Center gave me the encouragement and platform to deploy my own set of courses in micro enterprise. We taught those online. The interactions with entrepreneurs in those courses was very positive and the feedback was really fun.

I've recently accepted the position as Executive Director of the newly created Iowa County Area Economic Development Corporation. I'm humbled and honored to have the chance to work with these great folks.

Iowa County is immediately West of Dane County (Madison area), Wisconsin. Iowa County is at the heart of what we call the driftless region of Wisconsin. The glaciers never reached this region leaving the spectacular beauty and outdoor excitement of these amazing landscapes to become sculpted by the environment for millennia. Throw in three spectacular state parks in our county alone. Throw in our own excellent portion and access to the Lower Wisconsin Scenic Riverway, about 95 miles of undammed, wild and scenic river, surrounded by 80,000 acres of protected, public land. Throw in the largest tall grass prairie East of the Mississippi

Wait a minute, I'm supposed to be talking about work. Yet I am.

The good people of Iowa County, Wisconsin have protected their resources and grown vibrant, livable communities within that context. It's a compelling vision and a wonderful place to grow your own business.

The area is situated exactly in the middle of a region of more than 25 million people. It has great shipping logistics (think Lands' End headquarters). It has an amazing ag sector and a growing, exciting arts and creative community that makes groundbreaking global contributions. Our manufacturers include one of the most innovative furniture designers in the world, Ulrich Sielaff, of The Sielaff Corporation, and Cummins Engine, a global manufacturing innovator, especially in our plant's contribution to environmental stewardship. Our world class health care systems have kept Iowa County rated among the healthiest and happiest people in Wisconsin. Do you like history? Ours is the oldest working courthouse in Wisconsin and a photographer's dream (as is the entire county). Like architecture and design? Iowa County is the home of Taliesen, Frank Lloyd Wright's home, studio and school. Like drama? We're home to the world renowned Shakespeare focused American Player's Theater and its magnificent outdoor stage. Wonderful tourism? You have to visit The House on the Rock and it's related golf amenities. At every turn of every beautiful road, I can find something new that amazes and delights. Log cabins, glass artists, potters, storytelling, dancing and strong cultural celebrations such as those found at our Folklore Village. Add in wonderful agricultural businesses of every variety, including our (delicious!) sustainable regional foods group. All of this beauty and dynamism is built around vibrant, liveable communities that create and support all this.

Can you see why I'm so enthusiastic? I get to help.

We'll be creating platforms for all our great communities and all our county enterprises to introduce themselves to you. We'll be rolling out a new Entrepreneurs and Inventors Club quickly. I love the empowerment these groups bring to emerging entrepreneurs. Through these clubs, we'll be launching as many smart, new, sustainable businesses as we can. We'll be sending out RFEs (Requests For Entrepreneurs) who would like to grow their business in beautiful Iowa County Wisconsin. Come join Iowa County. We're open for business!

The Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen wrote a great book on economic development called Development As Freedom. I see my role in economic development in that light. Building stronger enterprise skills among individuals and greater economic strength for existing businesses delivers more freedom for people, communities and their governments. This has never been more true than in the turbulence we've lived through this year.

I'm humbled and honored by the opportunity to make a contribution to this great region. I truly believe this is the renaissance age of entrepreneurship and that it's just beginning.

Come on out and visit our exciting county and our diverse region. We're looking forward to introducing you to each other. Oh what a place to grow yourself and grow your business!

Welcome to Iowa County, Wisconsin.

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