SBDC: Small-business advocate to retire

MADISON, Wis. – Feb. 8, 2006 – Erica Kauten, state director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Wisconsin-Extension, announced recently that she would retire from the university in July.

Kauten has directed UW-Extension’s Business and Manufacturing division, including the SBDC, since 1995. Under her leadership, the division has grown from a 10-campus organization to become the nexus of a 70-member entrepreneurial support network that spans the state.

Kauten recently spearheaded the formation of the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network (WEN), creating a new user-friendly support system to link entrepreneurial services across the state.

“We’re going to miss Erica’s leadership at UW-Extension,” said Interim Chancellor Marv Van Kekerix. “More important, entrepreneurs across the state are going to miss her tireless work on their behalf. Small business is the engine that creates new jobs for our state, and Erica is one of the spark plugs that kept that engine revving smoothly.”

Van Kekerix appointed a special committee to begin the national search for a new director for the state SBDC. Debra Malewicki from UW-Whitewater will chair the group.

Serving on the board of directors for the national association of Small Business Development Centers, Kauten led a multiyear national strategic planning process for that organization. In this and other roles, she has been a prominent advocate for entrepreneurship in Wisconsin and across the nation.

In July 2005, she testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Small Business in support of peer-learning opportunities for second-stage small businesses. More recently, Kauten has been to help the state of Louisiana rebuild its small-business services as part of the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.

Before joining the university in 1995, Kauten held regional economic development posts at Forward Wisconsin, Alliant Energy Corp. and the UW-Platteville campus. She was named a Wisconsin Idea Fellow by the UW Board of Regents and, during her employment at Chippewa Valley Technical College, Kauten was inducted into the Teacher-of-the-Year Hall of Fame for the upper Midwest.

Kauten serves on boards of directors for the Wisconsin Technology Council, the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Outreach Center, as well as the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment and the Madison Urban League Board Development Committee.

“Erica has been a true advocate for entrepreneurship in Wisconsin and has compiled a long and distinguished record of channeling high-quality resources to business start-ups,” said Mary P. Burke, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce.

“Erica is a high-energy, extremely successful professional who has demonstrated the capacity to work in difficult circumstances, but do it very well. She has taken the Small Business Development Centers to levels never thought imaginable. She will be missed,” said Mark Bugher, director of the University Research Park in Madison.

A native of Los Angeles, Kauten earned her baccalaureate degree from the University of California at Los Angeles and her master’s degree from UW-Eau Claire.

As one of the first in the nation, the Wisconsin SBDC has operated continuously since its inception in 1979. Along with 13 campus-based centers, the state network includes the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center at UW-Whitewater, the Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation at UW-Parkside and the Center for Innovation and Development at UW-Stout. See for additional details.

Through UW-Extension, all Wisconsin people can engage in lifelong learning and access university resources, wherever they live and work. In addition to the SBDC, UW-Extension offers programs through local Cooperative Extension offices in every county and the statewide networks of Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. In partnership with the 26 UW System campuses, UW-Extension supports an array of continuing education courses and distance-learning programs. See for more information.