By Mayor Zach Vruwink
As Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids, I am proud to be a member of a recently formed team of Wood County leaders who are supporting Wood County as one of just a few areas in the country – and the only one in Wisconsin – to be selected as a demonstration site for the Rural Crowdfunding Project of The Local Crowd.
Crowdfunding is commonly used in times of tragedy or illness to raise funds but doing so for business growth and development in rural areas like ours is far less common. Crowdfunding empowers entrepreneurs to raise business capital through the Internet and social engagement. With the help of The Local Crowd, Wood County can give ambitious individuals a single platform upon which to showcase and share their brand, resources and plans with potential investors. This approach also enables entrepreneurs to be creative in offering investors more ways to contribute, ranging from financial investments in exchange for equity, to small-scale donations in exchange for a first-run product or other reward.
The Local Crowd model includes locally-based crowdfunding software, consulting and instruction – including webinars, seminars, workshops, retreats, in-person and online classes, and courses for groups and individuals. The Local Crowd taps into community involvement by working directly with local economic development groups – in this case, the North Central Community Action Program (NCCAP).
To qualify for the Rural Crowdfunding Project, NCCAP submitted a detailed proposal in which it committed to:
- Establishing a virtual incubator at NCCAP offices;
- Including Wood County leaders as team members;
- Attending all trainings and provide research assistance;
- Marketing the program via local Community Media (TV), public radio, print media and social media and;
- Sharing experiences with local and state governmental bodies.
Our NCCAP team represents a wide swath of Wood County, from north to south. Joining me as team advisors are: Joe Ancel of the Clean Green Action Program; Mary Jo Carson, former Wisconsin Rapids mayor; Jenny Harms, of Incourage; Karen Olson, of the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Service Corps of Retired Executives; and Ed Wagner, Wood County Board and Marshfield Council member. Carla Lenk, Jobs & Business Development coordinator for NCCAP, serves as team leader and liaison to The Local Crowd.
NCCAP deserves kudos for opening up this opportunity to local people seeking to start or expand their businesses. As Aaron Hagar of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has expressed it, “With the help of modern technology, crowdfunding is revolutionizing business finance for both small companies and small investors.”
NCCAP Newsletter link: here.
During the past several months, the Wisconsin Rapids area has made tangible forward steps toward our vision of a vibrant and prosperous community: private and public Downtown development projects; Riverfront revitalization grant assistance from the State of Wisconsin; Incourage’s Tribune Building project; and the growing interest of prospective Triangle Area developers, to name a few. The time is ripe for current and aspiring entrepreneurs to share in an exciting era for our community by growing or creating businesses right here. The Rural Crowdfunding Project offers another asset for fulfilling both community and individual aspirations for success.