By Gregg Hoffmann
MILWAUKEE Could the I-Q Corridor be talked about some day in the same way as the Silicon Valley?
Some hope so and are working toward it. Three panelists talked about the potential of high tech business along the Interstate freeway leading from Chicago through Wisconsin to the Twin Cities at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Conference Wednesday.
Chicago cannot go it alone, so I find it incredulous that we couldnt develop a corridor, said Candace Renwall of Technology Business Partners Inc., a Chicago-based firm.
I think the branding of the I-Q Corridor is wonder. I prefer it to the Silicon Prairie (a label once used in Illinois). You need to brand it to build interest.
Dan Miller of Excorp Medical, a Twin Cities company that makes bio-artificial liver systems to sustain patients during recovery from illness or waiting for transplants, listed some challenges in establishing a corridor.
Miller said risk capital is short in the Midwest. The region also does not get many of its federal tax dollars back. Minnesota has a $9 billion gap in taxes paid and returned in government contracts and aid. Wisconsin is at minus $3.4 billion and Illinois has a $19.3 billion gap.
Entrepreneurs can either move their businesses elsewhere or form alliances to help attract capital from all over the world and to develop more political clout on returned tax revenue.
It doesnt matter which end of the I-Q Corridor you are at. You can benefit from alliances, Miller said.
William Ihlenfeldt of the Chippewa Valley Technical College already is involved in building an alliance with other tech schools and Twin Cities businesses interested in the nano-tech and other technology businesses.
His college has joined with others to develop Nano-Rite, an initiative to provide incubator space, technical assistance and training and ultimately create jobs for their students.
I believe the window for doing this is rather narrow, Ihlenfeldt said. I think the opportunity is now.
Miller said he has found public and private sector leaders willing to cooperate. Resistance is not a problem. Its more a matter of organization, he said.
Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council said that group has considered forming a coordinating body or council to assist in the development and branding of the corridor.