New $2 million “GROW Fund” will help businesses expand, provide housing solutions in Waukesha County

A new $2 million economic development fund will support business expansion and innovative housing solutions in Waukesha County. The Generating Resources and Opportunity in Waukesha County (GROW) Fund has been created by the Waukesha County Center for Growth to give businesses access to financial resources, while allowing contributing banks to meet federal lending guidelines.

“This shows what can happen when public and private partners work together to spark economic development,” said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow. “This tool will enhance the Waukesha County Center for Growth’s ability to connect businesses with the resources they need to grow.”

The GROW Fund is a revolving loan fund with two core purposes – the first is to support businesses with the capital they need to grow, and the second is to develop residential housing to meet workforce needs. The Fund also provides federal Community Reinvestment Act credits to banks that contribute to the fund, to help meet community credit needs for economic development.

“The GROW Fund is unique because it’s designed to increase affordable housing options in Waukesha County while encouraging banks to invest in the community,” said Nate Zastrow, executive vice president and CFO of First Bank Financial Centre and chair of the board of directors for the Waukesha County Center for Growth.

Three founding members—Town Bank, First Bank Financial Centre and Johnson Financial Group —contributed to create the initial $2 million GROW Fund. The Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation will manage the fund. Businesses that want to access the GROW Fund should contact the Waukesha County Center for Growth.

Loan decisions are guided by a collaborative loan fund committee made up of individuals representing stakeholder interests and who have special expertise and knowledge of commercial lending, economic development processes and workforce housing development lending.

The GROW Fund is the fourth and final outcome to be completed as part of the 2016 – 2018 Business Growth Strategy for Waukesha County. The Strategy was focused around the core objectives of developing a central point of contact for businesses looking for workforce, financial and site selection assistance, and developing an organized strategy to connect businesses with organizations that have the resources to provide the assistance.

With the help of 40 stakeholders and partners, four strategic outcomes were created to serve as the foundation of the strategy:

  1. A central point of contact for businesses looking to expand in or relocate to Waukesha County
  2. A business outreach strategy to identify the needs of businesses seeking to expand in or relocate to Waukesha County
  3. A strategy to identify Waukesha County business workforce needs and connect to available workforce development resources
  4. A strategy to develop a collaborative fund to increase financial tools to businesses in Waukesha County and sustain the Economic Development Organization

As a result of the Business Growth Strategy, the Waukesha County Center for Growth was created in 2016 in partnership with the Waukesha County, City of Waukesha, Waukesha County Business Alliance, the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center and local municipalities, with the mission to connect businesses with the resources they need to grow in Waukesha County. Over the last three years, the organization has established a 16-member board of directors to strengthen partnerships which have a significant impact on advancing businesses and growing Waukesha County.

Read the coverage in the Milwaukee Business Journal, BizTimes Milwaukee and Waukesha Freeman.