State Investment in Energy Innovation Center Expected to Provide Dividends

When State of Wisconsin officials decided to provide more than $900,000 in funding to the new Energy Innovation Center in Milwaukee, they did so knowing that the funding would have a major impact on two levels.

For starters, the grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) will provide the facility with a significant boost, which will accelerate the development of innovative technology and deployment in the energy, power and control industry.

Secondly, the state's support of the center on North 27th Street is also an important facet of Governor Scott Walker's Transform Milwaukee initiative, which is redeveloping Milwaukee's 30th St. Industrial Corridor and neighborhood.

Governor Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett joined nearly 100 academic, governmental and business leaders in August 2014 to announce the state backing of the Energy Innovation Center, at the Century City Tower. The facility, which is operated by the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) , will bring together industry and academic scientists, engineers and business leaders to conduct joint research, jump-start innovative technologies, transition prototype products to the commercial stage, and nurture startup companies.

Construction on the $9.6 million center, which will occupy 65,000 square feet of the former Eaton Corp. research building, is expected to begin in September 2014. A grand opening is targeted for September 2015. A second construction phase is expected to begin around October 2015 and be completed by mid-2016.

"Just as the Global Water Center has put Milwaukee and Wisconsin on the map when it comes to water technology, we believe the Energy Innovation Center has the same potential for the energy, power and control sector," Governor Walker said. "Southeastern Wisconsin already is home to some world-leading companies and research universities in the sector. This is an opportunity to harness that innovation all in one place."

And officials from WEDC hope the Energy Innovation Center will replicate the Global Water Center in another way as well by transforming the surrounding neighborhood.

"There is no question the Global Water Center has spurred residential and business development in the Walker's Point Neighborhood since it opened in September 2013," said Lee Swindall, WEDC's vice president of Business & Industry Development. "We are confident that as the Energy Innovation Center begins to attract new tenants and becomes a hub for the industry, we will see similar success on 27th Street as well."

"The Energy Innovation Center has tremendous potential to help fulfill one of the major goals of our Transform Milwaukee Initiative, to return employers and much-needed jobs to the once-prosperous 30th Street Industrial Corridor and improve neighborhoods in the area," added WHEDA Executive Director Wyman Winston. "WHEDA is delighted to have played an early role in collaboration with our partners at WEDC to make this critical project a reality." Mayor Barrett agreed the center has great potential to advance the energy industry and revitalize the neighborhood.

"The City of Milwaukee with its state and federal partners is revitalizing the 30th Street Corridor into a modern economic hub with thriving businesses and residential areas," he said. "This is a long-range plan, similar to the one we successfully completed in the Menomonee Valley. As the 'Smart Energy Hub', Milwaukee has the industry and academic strength to lead the nation in clean energy, power, and control technologies. Establishing the Energy Innovation Center here is a significant catalyst for future growth of that industry and the redevelopment of the corridor."

Supporting the Energy Innovation Center is just one example of WEDC's strong commitment to the Transform Milwaukee initiative.

In the last two years, WEDC has directly invested more than $20 million in grants, loans and tax credits for economic development projects as part of the initiative. Those investments are expected to result in the creation of more than 700 jobs in the corridor over the next several years.