Spire LLC: Sussex businessman hopes new equity venture will bolster competitiveness of state companies

Wisconsin could see a renaissance of business innovation and expansion if existing, late-cycle companies were rejuvenated via capital infusions and management support.

That’s the position of a Sussex firm that is working to unite investment-oriented individuals with late-cycle small businesses in the state. The firm, Spire LLC, has launched a small business private equity venture to serve as a conduit between investors and companies.

“At certain points in the life cycle of most small businesses, they require a capital infusion in order to continue the expansion and growth required to sustain their viability,” said Christopher Zuzick, Spire’s managing director. “At the same time, those businesses need executive leadership support to help drive a positive return on investment.”

Wisconsin has thousands of businesses in that later cycle of business life, Zuzick says, adding that the demographics of Wisconsin business owners indicates that the coming years will see a tremendous amount of ownership transfer.

“In the next five to seven years, approximately 50% of Wisconsin companies will experience an ownership transition,” Zuzick says. “If this state is to maintain a strong, vibrant economy, we need to keep those companies here. And we need to reinvigorate them.”

Further, many of those companies, particularly in the manufacturing sector, face intense pressures from a changing world economy.

Zuzick points to a recent news report indicating a dire situation for metal stamping plants, which are a prominent part of Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector. In the report, an attorney in the metal stamping industry predicted that up to half of the metal stamping plants in the U.S. could be out of business in six years.

Rising steel prices, increased global competition, and retirements of owners are factoring in the business closures.

Zuzick says such companies currently have few options to attract infusions of the capital they need to become more competitive, and few options to facilitate ownership transfer in a growth-oriented manner. That’s why his firm has launched the new effort under the name Spire Small Business Equity.

“In today’s environment, there is a clear gap, a void of equity capital for small business,” he said. “Traditional equity or mezzanine-level lending is, for the most part, not available for these businesses.”

Zuzick said Spire Small Business Equity will help connect late-cycle small businesses that need cash infusions with area investors who have experience running and leading small businesses.

“We need to connect the dots between the business that needs the capital, and the investor who not only has the capital but, also, the guidance, mentoring and leadership abilities to help reinvigorate the company.”

Spire is online at www.spirellc.net.