By Dave Buchanan, UW-Parkside
Wagner was in the capital as an invited guest at a forum sponsored by the White House Council for Auto Communities. Wagner was asked to provide insight into “on the ground” issues and challenges of helping entrepreneurs, companies, and workers create new economic and employment opportunities.
Wagner offered what he called “a view from the trenches” of entrepreneurship.
“Remember, these are Washington folks, they don’t see what’s happening in the trenches as much,” Wagner said. “My focus was on the Parkside SBDC and what we’ve been doing with our partners relative to workforce development and entrepreneurship.”
A program of UW-Parkside’s School of Business and Technology, the SBDC offers entrepreneurs and existing southeastern Wisconsin businesses education, training, and one-on-one counseling. It also connects businesses to faculty, students, and other university resources.
Wagner said he’s seen a doubling in the number of people taking his entrepreneur classes in the last few months as the economy struggles to rebound and unemployment remains high. One of the problems he pointed out to government officials while in Washington—what he called “a headache” for entrepreneurs—is income generation for a start-up company.
“When you are on unemployment and you launch a business, if you start to generate income, you start to lose your unemployment [benefits]. When in reality, you’re still not able to ‘pay yourself’ a salary once all of your expenses are accounted for each month. So, there are some policy implications of more unemployed going into entrepreneurship,” Wagner said.
While giving Washington officials a dose of entrepreneurial reality, Wagner also did some taking. Top on his “to-do” list was taking a peek into the capital’s crystal ball.
“The thing I took away was some insight on what’s coming down the pike,” he said. “Anytime we can get a jump on what new initiatives might be coming out of D.C.; things we can work on with our political leaders, here at UW-Parkside, and also with our economic development partners, we stand a better chance at putting proposals together that might bring funding here.”
Through some dedicated networking, Wagner got a better understanding of who at the federal level is making policy decisions that affect our region. And, indeed, he came home with a list of potential budget initiatives that may be useful in the future.
So, for Wagner, the trip to Washington was successful … thanks to a little give and take.