Innovation Center a ‘creative hub’

The Innovation Center, located in Whitewater’s Technology Park, is used as an incubator for staring businesses and entrepreneurs to help facilitate ideas. The city secured a $4.7 million award to build the Innovation Center.

The $4.7 million Innovation Center unites the city and the university by allowing students to utilize the technologies with other beginning entrepreneurs.

Director of the Innovation Center Ronald Gayhart said the concept of the Innovation Center came out of several years of research.

The building is used as an incubator to help facilitate ideas of start-up businesses and entrepreneurs.

“The building is an interesting collaboration between the city and the university because the city owns the building, but the university provided assistance in getting the grant that allowed the city to secure the award,” Gayhart said.

The grant also provided enough money to complete the extension of Starin Road. A bicycle path was also created from the Industrial Park into the Technology Park. Walking trails wind their ways through the Technology Park now, providing access to employees at the Innovation center, Gayhart said.

Currently, three tenants are housed in the Innovation Center. CESA 2, Community Education Service Agency, oversees 74 school districts in this region. Gayhart said they are a major tenant for the center, occupying 25 percent of the space there.

J.E.D.I., Jefferson Eastern Dane Interactive, is interconnected with CESA. They provide platforms for web based education in K-12 schools. They offer assistance to school districts who wish to make web learning possible.

The third tenant is Blackthorne. Gayhart said their business has been growing substantially and has needed to add more staff. Originally, they occupied one suite, but have now moved into a second suite.

“Our goal was to provide a beginning spot for early stage businesses based upon the strakes of the university,” Gayhart said. “Businesses are coming out of the I.T. area, but there could also be businesses coming out of the arts area.”

Professor Dr. Dan McGuire has three patents for improved technology in the investment industry. The patents were just licensed to a commercial company, Gayhart said.

Gayhart said the revenue is now generating back into the university.

“That’s exciting stuff,” Gayhart said.

City Manager Kevin Brunner was named the secretary of the Innovation Center.

As the secretary, he helps communicate and document the exciting ideas that tenants have.

Businesses can come out of any discipline. Entrepreneurs and businesses aren’t just coming out of the College of Business, but from other schools as well.

McGuire, for example, came out of the science department. The science departments will be utilizing space at the Innovation Center by using the wet labs, Gayhart said.

Wet labs are currently being constructed in the Innovation center and should be completed by the end of this month.

The biology department will be using two of the wet labs as a teaching platform. Students in this department will get the chance to do some of their course work in the new center.

The Innovation Center is seen as the hub for other businesses to utilize. Businesses in the Industrial Park now have a place where they can hold off-sight meetings, but in close proximity to their business.

The center houses a large meeting room that accommodates 100 people. This allows for workshops, seminars and symposiums.

The city has been looking for ways to attract businesses. Businesses have been unaware of all the services that Whitewater offers, Gayhart said.

“When we look at a map and look at three points; Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago, it makes a triangle,” Gayhart said. “In the heart of that triangle is a community called Whitewater.

The proximity to large cities gives the Innovation center easy access to markets, airports and other prospective pieces to businesses.

Gayhart said a potential tenant is coming in this week to look at space and possibly relocate their business to the Innovation Center.

Currently, the business is at an incubator at North Western University. Gayhart said they’re unhappy with the space and lack of assistance.

“One of the value added pieces that we provide to students or businesses who are launching, is access to faculty, staff and other resources through the university that they may not have been able to tap into otherwise,” Gayhart said.

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