Project Milwaukee: Innovation

Some leaders believe "thinking outside of the box" is an important tool for economic growth that helps to create new products, processes and services. While Milwaukee's history is steeped in innovation, today the state ranks low in the generation of new ideas and products.

Project Milwaukee: Innovation - How Do We Compete? examines the status of innovation here, its value and the factors that are laying the groundwork for the city's future success. We'll talk with entrepreneurs, investors, educators and others about Milwaukee's assets and challenges. And, we'll learn about some of the big ideas coming out of Milwaukee.

Ways to Connect

Emily Files

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Frank Brogan — who recently made the news with his comments on arming teachers — visited a Milwaukee public school Tuesday. The federal education official was touring the Midwest to highlight innovation in schools.

He recognized Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School, an MPS magnet school on the south side, for its anti-bullying efforts. Its anti-bullying initiatives include a program that partners incoming freshmen with older students.

Hillary Thompson

About an hour northwest of Milwaukee, there's an innovative wrinkle in Wisconsin's ongoing experiment  to create a self-sustaining flock of whooping cranes in the Eastern United States. A family of cranes is living at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, after two chicks in the family were born in captivity in Florida, and all the birds were flown there by jet.

No Studios

Oscar-winning filmmaker and Milwaukee native John Ridley formally unveiled plans to bankroll a new, for-profit creative hub in an old Pabst Brewery building on West McKinley avenue.

How Jerry Smith's Entrepreneurship Shaped His Career in Commercial Banking

Feb 19, 2018

Jerry Smith's entrepreneurial streak helped shape a successful 45-year career in commercial banking. He was founding CEO of First Business Bank and its parent company. Jerry is now chairman of First Business Financial Services, a publicly traded company with a $200 million market cap and $1.8 billion in assets.

1. Trust your instincts and don’t quit

How Roger Thrun Moved Into the World of Moving People

Jan 16, 2018
Reggie Baylor artwork

When Roger Thrun founded WHR Group, Inc., in 1994, it was an appraisal management firm. Nearly 25 years later, it has grown into a full-service global provider of employee relocation services for Fortune 500 companies and government agencies.

Thrun says the aim of the Pewaukee-based company is to bridge the gap between affordable relocation solutions and "high-touch" customer service. 

On this episode of "How Did You Do That?", Thrun shares some lessons he's learned along the way:

Peter Kim / Fotolia

In our Project Milwaukee: Innovation: How Do We Compete? series, we’ve been exploring the challenges that innovation faces in Wisconsin. 

In 2007, film industry supporters and filmmakers were able to take advantage of a tax credit program designed to lure filmmakers to the state of Wisconsin. The program offered tax credits of 25 percent for production spending and 15 percent for infrastructure.

scaleupmilwaukee.org

One deterrent to would-be new businesses is the fear of not being prepared in the beginning stages before the company has even made a name for itself.  Scale Up Milwaukee is one local organization working to aid entrepreneurs and innovators at the early stages of their business plan. Its "Scalerator" program is a six-month, seven-session training program that aims to teach business owners how to inject growth into their ventures.

PDS

Local colleges and universities are key players in developing the talent start-up and existing businesses are looking for. Still, the region has some way to go before all of the top talent is homegrown.

Rachel Morello

If anything has become clear during WUWM's week of coverage on innovation, it’s this: Milwaukee needs creative minds.

School can be the first place to open and shape those minds, yet with everything else classrooms aim to teach these days, where do creativity and innovation fall on the priority list?

When we think of the word “creativity,” things like music and art might come to mind. But the definition of “creativity” is much broader than craft. In today’s world, it’s about ideas.

Michelle Maternowski

Cultivating talent and collaboration quickly surfaced as central themes of WUWM's Project Milwaukee panel discussion on innovation and the economy. Insiders shared ideas for how Milwaukee can become and remain competitive in innovative fields.

Researchers at companies and universities may be tempted to hold their cards close to the vest. But Brian Thompson says in Milwaukee that "silo thinking" will get you nowhere. Thompson heads UW-Milwaukee's Research Foundation.

S Bence

The Mid-West Energy Research Consortium, or M-WERC, is working to add Milwaukee to the energy tech landscape.

The group sprouted out of the interest of three universities and four industrial companies in 2009.

Marquette University

Innovation can be a nebulous topic. People have their own definition of what innovation entails, and it sets each on their own path to fostering creativity.

The same holds true for local colleges and universities. In examining their own role in fostering innovation across the city, each school has its own mission.

Even so, if you talk to higher education leaders in Milwaukee, the word “innovation” almost always comes attached to another word: "collaboration."

Cooperation and partnership drive many of the initiatives on the city’s biggest campuses.

S Bence

Historically, water was key to Milwaukee’s booming innovative and industrial successes. Now there’s a concerted push to position Milwaukee as a water technology hub.

Hensley Foster is part of the action. His career as an industrial engineer stretched across four decades, but he says when it ended, his creative juices were far from tapped out.

LaToya Dennis

Study after study ranks Wisconsin poorly when it comes to the number of new startups. In fact, the Kauffman Foundation puts the state last on its list when it comes to the number of business start-ups.

When you think about a place to start a new tech business, Milwaukee might not be the city that comes to mind.

bonoboconservation.com

For our Project Milwaukee: Innovation - How Do We Compete? series, the scientific community has been highlighted for its work in both research and practice.

Surgeon James Sanger is particularly noteworthy for his work as a plastic surgeon and a hand surgeon. But his patients are noteworthy, too.

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