Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rural health and economic vitality

I had coffee this week with friends (and bosses): Board Chair Marilyn and Board Vice Chair Phyllis.

Marilyn has been an active entrepreneur and farmer for 35+ years. Phyllis is nurturing and managing world-class advances in rural health care at Upland Hills Health based in Dodgeville, WI.

Marilyn has just pointed me to a very interesting doc.

Demographic Trends in Rural and Small Town America. Building Knowledge for Rural America’s Families and Communities in the 21st Century

In summary, "Improving the opportunities, accessibility and viability of rural areas is critical for creating a sustainable future for the 50 million rural people and the communities and institutions that are a critical element of the social, political and economic fabric of the nation."

And what could create more opportunities and viability in rural communities than access to world-class health care? Phyllis' work guiding the Upland Hills Health system represents the future for growing rural communities.

With rural health care advancing, beautiful rural communities like Iowa County Wisconsin can thrive.

The following is from the Upland Hills Health Mission...

... to consistently meet or exceed the expectations of those we serve, of those who serve, and of those we hope to serve, in a cost-effective manner.

... to lead a partnership with the communities, reflecting additional emphasis on health education, rehabilitation, and the prevention of illness and injury.

... to participate in the provision of health services to the poor, minorities, disabled, and other underserved persons in our community.

Having this kind of leadership in health care creates the kinds of viability and opportunities in our rural communities that Marilyn's article on demographic trends calls for.

You want to live in a beautiful place? Look where opportunities are most available. Look where health care and community vitality are valued.

For instance, where I work. Iowa County, Wisconsin. Come Grow With Us.

Upland Hills Health

Demographic Trends in Rural and Small Town America. Building Knowledge for Rural America’s Families and Communities in the 21st Century.

Carsey Institute University of New Hampshire. Reports On Rural America. Volume 1, Number 1

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Micro regions: Plan macro. Act Micro.

In the world of economic development there is a strong push toward bigger, multi-jurisdiction, multi-state economic development regions. Good. This has great value.

However, we need to remember our raisin'. What is important to individuals is the quality of life in their own micro region. Why can't a small micro region or a couple of counties be a perfectly wonderful way to spend a day or a weekend or as a basis for a fulfilling lifetime?

Do you know the Fall Art Tour that traverses beautiful Sauk and Iowa Counties in Wisconsin?

My friend Karna Hanna is a great economic developer. She runs the Sauk County Development Corporation.

There is a long-standing, hugely successful arts alliance between Iowa and Sauk counties called the Fall Art Tour. The tour knits together artists along a great scenic drive through the amazing rural Driftless region closest to Madison.

The Fall Art Tour spans an area from Baraboo and Spring Green in the North, through Dodgeville and Mineral Point in the south. It wanders across a couple of political boundaries, but no one on the Art Tour notices. It's just a great day to enjoy art and food and an amazingly beautiful landscape.

Karna and I are continuing to do more entrepreneurship work together. The last time I talked at Karna's Inventor and Entrepreneur Club was before I started working in economic development. Now Karna is coming in this month to help facilitate our Iowa County Club and I'm going to head back to Baraboo and make a presentation about food entrepreneurship through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

This month's Iowa County Entrepreneur Club will be April 28th in Dodgeville (link below). Please come out and welcome Karna and hear a great presentation.

There will be a great talk that evening about how to sell products and services to the State of Wisconsin, presented by Chuck Wallschlaeger, Government Contract Specialist with the Business Procurement Assistance Center (link below).

I get to make a presentation that same evening at the Sauk/Columbia Club about how to utilize our new Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen for food entrepreneurship and expanding jobs in food processing.

If you know anyone in an appropriate radius around Baraboo that would like to learn about starting or expanding a food enterprise through the Innovation Kitchen please see the info link below.

Can arts help define an economic development micro region? I'm watching it happen. What could be next? Local foods and regional food systems?

Our beautiful Fall Art Tour started humbly and now helps to define an elegant, enjoyable economic development micro region.

As we grow out these ever larger development regions, let's stop and give thanks and support to the micro regions where people actually live and participate together.

Regional culture, foods, arts, and environment define the kind of place sustainable development will occur in the first half of the 21st century. New models of advanced manufacturing and service delivery can arise with and from collaborations like this taking place in micro regions all over the world.

Quality of life issues will define which kind of businesses and entrepreneurs micro regions will attract. Building the support networks required to attract, nurture, and support those entrepreneurs is what I think economic development is about.

For economic development it's a great time to plan macro, act micro.

The Fall Art Tour in Iowa and Sauk counties, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

The Iowa County Area Entrepreneur Club. Info about this month's presentation - Selling to the State of Wisconsin. April 28. 6 PM Dodgeville.

Sauk County Development Corp.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Five Years

Today is the 5th anniversary of these posts.

When I set up the blog I put the following text on my masthead.

"This site is about creating sustainable start ups and emerging enterprises. It's about developing successful new products and innovating existing ones. Sustainable work means creating valuable solutions that fix real problems. Sustainable work means creating business processes that make you, your enterprise, and the world a better place. You can do it. Welcome!"

This is what I believe, then and now.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

From Rick's IT director: I think we've done everything right. Please comment if you see anything that has broken in the transition. I'll update the feed links tonight.

w00t. Labels fixed.

I've set up a server-based re-direct 'cause "wait and you'll be redirected in 30 seconds" is lame.

Friday, April 02, 2010

How to start an artisan foods business in the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

Option 1. Preparation Partners.

The world of artisan foods entrepreneurship is in its infancy. Innovation in foods and everything connected to it will increase omni-directionally, as Bucky Fuller said, for as far as I can see. This move toward local foods and regional food systems will make better, healthier foods available to increasing numbers of people at increasingly affordable prices.

I want to help make the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen a platform for food innovators and entrepreneurs to take advantage of this emerging artisan foods marketplace.

One way we will launch this effort is through a program we're calling our Preparation Partnerships. In this process the Innovation Kitchen will prepare, process, package, store and distribute your food innovation for commercial sale.

I'm going to put the draft of this Preparation Partners plan into this blog post and then later move some of it forward as we see what works.

Our Preparation Partners will be food innovators - chefs, existing small food businesses, new food innovators, farmers, anyone who loves food. We will offer a partnership with the Innovation Kitchen to launch and grow artisan food businesses in a state-inspected, commercial kitchen.

Let's map out how this would work on one simple case.

Let's say you want to start or expand an artisan food enterprise.

As an example, let's say you wanted to start an food business around a soup or stew that celebrated a specific local food. [Editor's note: this is a very good idea.]

As a Preparation Partner you could have your recipe prepared and tested at the Innovation Kitchen in an artisan-batch, commercially relevant scale. If this works for all involved, we can help register your recipe and your new business with the state. Then, as a Preparation Partner, you can have your recipe prepared, packaged, and distributed for commercial sale on a contract basis through the Innovation Kitchen.

Here's an overview… The Preparation Partners program will be a platform you can utilize to launch your artisan food business without having to invest in an entire food processing facility and support networks on your own.

This Preparation Partner option will be the initial focus of the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen. We see 3 key processes making up this program.

Process 1. Will it work? As your Preparation Partner, we want your food innovation to succeed. We will work with you to prepare your recipe in artisan-scale, commercially-relevant batches. This insures your recipe will meet your goals for taste, quality, packaging, etc. when it is prepared in larger volumes in a commercial kitchen. Think of it as a 'shakedown cruise' for your recipe.

Process 1 example: You have an amazing morel mushroom soup recipe. It works great in your home kitchen, and everybody loves it. You want to launch a small food business around this recipe. However, you need to learn a number of things about what happens when you scale your recipe up to small commercial batches. Will it meet your goals for quality? How much of the recipe ingredients will you supply? What ingredients will be purchased at what specifications and price? In short, what are the true costs of production for a small-scale commercial production run? This first process at the Innovation Kitchen is designed to answer those critical questions with you tasting and approving the results. This step also supplies critical documentation of real numbers and actual times required, not extrapolated results.

The idea is to make a small, smart investment in your emerging food enterprise to make sure the idea is scalable. Also important, this first Preparation Partner test run will give everyone involved a basis for pricing larger, commercial production runs if that is an option.

So, how is My Magnificent Morel Soup Mix doing? We rented time on the commercial dehydrator at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen and got a batch of our morels just right for a dry mix. We purchased some ingredients from local farms. We bought a few ingredients and our packaging through the Innovation Kitchen's Purchasing partner program. The recipe scaled up to a small-scale commercial size. All costs were documented.

This matched the targets in our business plans, and we decided to move forward and prepare for commercial sale.

Process 2. Signing In. Most food products sold commercially must have their recipes and process approved prior to sale. (A good thing for all of us!) There are exceptions, but if you're going to run an artisan foods enterprise you need to think of yourself as a professional and run your enterprise accordingly. That includes going through legal registrations and all professionally relevant trainings and certifications.

The Innovation Kitchen has the support in place to help legally register food products and processes in Wisconsin. We will also have access to full information for selling your food products outside of Wisconsin. Additionally, the Innovation Kitchen 'Signing In' process makes available business help finding information about appropriately registering new business entities.

Process 2 example: With the help of the Innovation Kitchen, we submitted our Morel Mushroom soup recipe and processing steps. We included all three of the sizes we were intending to produce. We were approved within a few weeks. During that time we also incorporated a new enterprise around our business plans and registered with the appropriate state and federal agencies. We also did this with resources available through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

Process 3. Launch services. Preparation Partners will have access to Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen marketing and sales networks, as well as storage and distribution networks.

Process 3 example: We test marketed our Magnificent Morel Mushroom Soup through the Innovation Kitchen marketing network and found the right mix of customers to start with. After processing our Magnificent Morel Mushroom Soup, the Innovation Kitchen stores our finished product. We send in orders for our soup, and the Innovation Kitchen ships them directly to our customers.

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen Preparation Partners.

So, what's one of the easier and smarter ways to launch or grow an artisan food business? Outsource the testing, organization and food preparation to a state-inspected commercial kitchen that is set up to celebrate artisan foods.

All the difficult food regulation, management and execution steps will be done to code in a state-inspected commercial kitchen. You will have the opportunity to pre-test your recipe at a commercially relevant scale, document your costs, and market-test consumer demand.

Is this a guarantee of success? Of course not.

What the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen represents is a valuable opportunity for food lovers and food entrepreneurs to experiment with new food innovations and product lines in an affordable, valuable setting. A goal of the Innovation Kitchen is to help develop new and existing artisan food enterprises that celebrate healthy foods and our grow our rural communities.

Our Preparation Partners program is one of the ways we can make that happen. Got a recipe you'd like to try?

Stay tuned. I will report back as this emerges.

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen link

Photo is of Hyde's Mill in beautiful Iowa County, Wisconsin.