Small and mid-size businesses in Jefferson, Sauk and Columbia counties are being offered expert advice from business outreach centers at UW-Whitewater and their counterpart in Madison.
A federal grant for $79,557 was awarded to Ronald "Bud" Gayhart and his colleagues at the Small Business Development Center and the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center, which are business outreach centers at UW-Whitewater.
In collaboration with the Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison, they'll try to help manufacturing businesses in the three counties increase sales revenue, find new customers and add or retain jobs by expanding their markets.
"We can find ways to diversify them into new market sectors," Gayhart said.
The business centers will use market research by the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center, which identifies areas in which businesses can expand their operations and diversify their customer base.
It's an important strategy even for businesses that are successful, Gayhart said.
"The time to look for a lifeboat is not when you're in the water,'' he said. "The time to look for diversification is when things are going well."
The one-year grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration allows the centers to provide the research to businesses for $750 instead of the usual $3,000.
Market studies begin with a detailed look at each client's products and markets before a customized report is produced. "Each of the studies is uniquely focused on that client and that client only," Gayhart said. "It's not a cookie-cutter approach."
Businesses in the three-county area are diverse, he said, including manufacturers of medical devices, agricultural equipment, defense items, automotive supplies and mining materials. The centers focus on businesses that sell to other companies rather than to individual consumers.
The grant was awarded to Gayhart; Kristina Fowler, program manager at the Small Business Development Center; and Sandra Beccue, research manager at the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center.
Jefferson County businesses will work with the Small Business Development Center at UW-Whitewater, 262-472-3217.
Columbia and Sauk county businesses will be served through the Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison, 608-263-7680.