Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE)

The Commons lands $250,000 and partnership with Church Mutual

Published July 29, 2016
From Milwaukee Business Journal

The Commons, an entrepreneurial skills accelerator for college students in southeast Wisconsin, has partnered with, and received a $250,000 donation from, Church Mutual Insurance Co. that will be used to develop high-caliber talent for the state’s workforce.

“This program allows us to get students on the right path to a solid career,” said Rich Poirier, Church Mutual’s president and CEO, in a news release. “This program can help produce qualified candidates to feed Wisconsin’s workforce pipeline, help retain talent and define an entrepreneurial culture for central Wisconsin.”

Read the full article here.

The Commons gets $250,000 from Church Mutual Insurance

Published July 28, 2016
From BizTimes

Milwaukee-based accelerator The Commons has received a four-year, $250,000 donation from Merill-based Church Mutual Insurance Co. and has formed a partnership with the property and casualty insurer.

The Commons skills accelerator was founded by Innovation in Milwaukee and Startup Milwaukee in August 2014 to give college students from regional institutions a platform to begin building early-stage companies while learning from executives at local companies like Direct Supply and Brady Corp. It now works with 24 colleges and more than 150 mentoring professionals in southeastern Wisconsin.

The donation has been used to hire Startup Milwaukee co-founder Joe Poeschl as a full-time program director at The Commons.

“It’s all been volunteer people running it, so we’ve had people from the Greater Milwaukee Committee and people from Startup Milwaukee,” said Michael Hostad, executive director of Innovation in Milwaukee. “We’ve … finally been able to hire Joe into that position so he can get compensated for the work he’s doing.”

Read the full article here.

A Letter from the President: June 2016

Taylor, JuliaAs we enter another beautiful Milwaukee summer, we’d like to share some updates on our key initiatives with you. We’re keeping busy at the GMC offices!

Scale Up Milwaukee

Scale Up Milwaukee recently launched a new membership program model; the very first quarterly members meeting took place at the end of June at the University Club with more than 70 individuals from about 50 organizations. Scale Up Milwaukee membership is the perfect way for everyone to directly engage with Milwaukee’s growth-oriented programs, network and culture. We encourage everyone to join and be a part of this exciting movement. For more information, reach out to Elmer Moore or check out the webpage here.

Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE)

MiKE is in the process of planning Walk the Talk 2016, a conference exploring the intersection of innovation and creativity. The conference is scheduled for Thursday, October 13th, and will be hosted in the Near West Side neighborhood. Leading up to the conference, MiKE will host a summer speaking series. The second speaker is in just a few short weeks on July 20th – check out more information and register here.

The Commons completed its spring 2016 session with another 75 students completing the program. The Commons has now served more than 285 students, and after completing the program, 90% of students feel more connected to our professional community and 81% are more likely to look for job opportunities in Wisconsin.

MKE Fellows

Forty-five high-achieving black male college students have been placed in paid summer internships at top companies through the MKE Fellows. Throughout the summer, we’re hosting professional development sessions and partnering with local companies for lunch and learns. Thank you to all the area companies participating!

Teachtown MKE

The GMC launched this important project in 2013 and since then has welcomed nearly 2,500 educators to our urban schools, helped relocate nearly 500 of them to this region and continues to serve hundreds each month in social and professional development activities. In fact, educators that participate in Teachtown MKE activities are 15% more likely to be retained in the classroom. The Teachtown MKE Key to the City, a card given to each educator, includes free admission and promotions to many of Milwaukee’s cultural institutions.

MPS and Bradley Tech

The Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades Council teamed up with Milwaukee Public Schools’ Bradley Tech High School recently to get more students interested in construction jobs and enter apprenticeships. Bradley Tech hosted its first Life Mentor Day, organized by local professional mentors and Bradley Tech students to celebrate five months of mentorship and working hands-on with welding, plumbing, tile-setting, heating, brick-laying, cement-laying and electrical wiring activities. Special thanks to Dan Bukewicz for his leadership with that program!

Reimagining High Schools

There is a lot going on throughout our high schools. Just last summer, 62 diverse Milwaukee leaders met at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago to reimagine what MPS high schools can and should be in order for all students to be successful and to create a vibrant Milwaukee community.  Ultimately, the SAS attendees collectively conceived a vision for the MPS high school of the future. This initiative has a strong commitment from the 60+ collaborators from the MPS High School SAS. The GMC, in partnership with Milwaukee Public schools continues to take on projects like the Super School grant with Morse Marshall High School and the Bradley Tech Redesign plan. These efforts are increasing educational opportunities, finding innovative ways to support our schools, and enhancing outcomes for our students.

Talent Dividend/Inspire Southeast Wisconsin

Following up on our Talent Dividend program, now known as Inspire Southeast Wisconsin, in its first year, the program flourished with 110 active companies, 138 active career coaches and 270 career-based learning activities. Thousands of students learned about companies and connected with professionals in the fields they’re interested in.

Downtown Action Agenda

In May, the team of consultants working with the Downtown Action Agenda was in town for Immersion Week. This included several days of meetings to connect the consultants with the planning efforts already underway or recently completed to ensure alignment and avoid duplicative work. The civic engagement phase of the project began just in the last month. The first round of focus groups is coming up in late July and early August, and will engage 100 key community stakeholders.

Creative Placemaking

The GMC’s efforts in creative placemaking were recently spotlighted during a panel discussion as part of the National Main Street Center’s annual conference held in Milwaukee in May. Looking ahead, the Beerline Trail Extension will soon kick off summer programming along the trail in the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods.


We encourage you to stay engaged with our projects this summer. If anything jumps out at you, let us know and we’ll get you hooked in.



Julia Taylor
Greater Milwaukee Committee

Creative Alliance Milwaukee and Innovation in Milwaukee Announce Near West Side Neighborhood as Location for Walk the Talk 2016, New Speaker Series

Walk the Talk

MILWAUKEE—April 27, 2016—Creative Alliance Milwaukee (CAM) and the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE) initiative are pleased to announce that the Near West Side (NWS) neighborhood will host Walk the Talk 2016. The partners today also announced the addition of a four-part Walk the Talk Speaker Series leading up to the fall conference.

“We are excited to showcase the assets of the Near West Side neighborhood to the hundreds of attendees of Walk the Talk 2016,” said Michael Hostad, executive director of MiKE. “The variety of cultural and entertainment venues, businesses and community assets in this neighborhood gives our planning committee a wealth of options to produce a blockbuster event in a Milwaukee neighborhood that is home to so much creativity and innovation.”

The inaugural Walk the Talk took place October 7, 2015, at more than 18 locations throughout the Historic Third Ward and Walker’s Point neighborhoods, including the Broadway Theatre Center, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, Global Water Center, JCI Innovation Center, Cramer-Krasselt, PKWare, Translator, SURG on the Water, Next Act Theater, WHEDA and Material Studios.

“Walk the Talk is an intentionally designed experience, and its cool factor is as much about where we host it as it is about who attends and what goes on throughout the day,” said Sara Meaney, board chair of CAM. “The Near West Side was a natural next location for the event, as its diverse and eclectic assets and the action-oriented tone of its leadership personify what the event experience is all about: creativity, innovation, action. The Near West Side Partners definitely walk the talk.”

“The Near West Side is a neighborhood of neighborhoods and home to some of Milwaukee’s most innovative and creative institutions, attractions and businesses,” said Keith Stanley, executive director of NWS Partners. “We look forward to partnering with CAM and MiKE on Walk the Talk 2016 and showing Milwaukee what we’ve got.”

Walk the Talk, the annual conference produced by CAM and MiKE, explores the intersection of creativity and innovation in greater Milwaukee. The event draws more than 300 regional thought leaders and practitioners in the realms of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. The day-long event is hosted at multiple venues and features dozens of speakers, presentations and hands-on working sessions to bolster creativity, teach proven creative processes and foster innovative practices that attendees can apply in their workplaces. It is also the premier networking event for area creatives and innovators and those who employ or contract with them. Walk the Talk 2016 is scheduled for early October, with a date announcement expected in early May.

To build momentum and reconnect past attendees over the summer, CAM and MiKE will host a four-part speaker series leading up to the October conference. The first Walk the Talk Speaker Series, presented by Harley-Davidson and Southwest Airlines, will be on May 2nd at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and features Paul Topolos, an artist from Pixar Animation, who will share his story of the intersection of creativity and innovation within his industry. More information and registration for this free event is available at

About the Organizers

Creative Alliance Milwaukee exists to drive economic prosperity for all by fostering a more creative Milwaukee and a culture of innovation, ingenuity and entrepreneurship throughout the region.

Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE) is an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee that creates and supports programming that convenes corporations, universities and talent networks (entrepreneurs, students, independents) in order to create a collaborative ecosystem and foster the development of an innovative workforce in the greater Milwaukee area.

About Near West Side Partners, Inc.

Near West Side Partners, Inc. is a non-profit organization with a mission to revitalize and sustain the Near West Side as a thriving business and residential corridor, through collaborative efforts to promote commercial corridor development, improved housing, unified neighborhood identity and branding, and greater safety for residents and businesses. Near West Side Partners, Inc. is an organization of businesses and civic leaders from throughout the Near West Side, including the organization’s five anchor institutions – Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University, MillerCoors and Potawatomi Business Development Corp.

The Commons Spring 2016 Demo Day

demo dayOn April 19th, The Commons, an entrepreneurial skills accelerator led by MiKE and Startup Milwaukee, hosted its Spring 2016 Demo Day to showcase and celebrate the work of the 75 college students who participated in the spring program. Joined by over 200 attendees, The Commons students presented the work they had completed for a corporate innovation or startup challenge over the past nine weeks. The spring session featured business challenges from Briggs & Stratton, ManpowerGroup, Rexnord, Kohl’s and American Family Insurance. Take a look at photos from Demo Day here!

This marks the third Demo Day for The Commons and the program has now served over 280 students from 23 different colleges and universities. If you know of a rock star student who should join the program or if you would be interested in becoming a mentor for the fall 2016 class, please visit

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