In the midst of June Dairy Month, Governor Scott Walker proclaimed June 25 as Wisconsin Cheese Day. He visited the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) to award the center with a $200,000 state grant to expand an innovative program that promotes entrepreneurship within the state’s $43 billion dairy industry.
The grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will enable CDR to continue to provide companies with reimbursable grants of up to $20,000 to support the commercialization of unique dairy technologies and products. Launched in 2013, the Tech Transfer, University Research and Business Opportunity (TURBO) Program has helped 11 companies purchase equipment needed for new products or processes. To date, this program has help create or retain 29 jobs in rural communities.
For more than 30 years, CDR has been assisting the dairy industry with product development and technology transfer,” explains TURBO program manager Vic Grassman. “We have been particularly pleased to assist with and showcase the innovative pursuits of rural Wisconsin communities. This program allows us to expand on that goal and the resulting job retention, creation and capital investment that has ultimately benefited not only the awardees but also their local communities.”
CDR launched the TURBO program, which provides business assistance and technology transfer opportunities to dairy manufacturers, as an extension of its research, technical support, training and outreach programs offered to support the dairy industry. TURBO’s original funding was through an i6 Challenge grant from the United States Department of Commerce, the first in Wisconsin and the first to the food sector.
WEDC’s first $200,000 grant to CDR, awarded in 2013, has helped generate more than $2 million in private spending by the business receiving grants – a tenfold return on investment. Additionally, the cost to create or train jobs was about $7,000 per job from this program, which is significantly less than the Federal grant average.
Those selected for the reimbursable grant must have an innovative product or process improvement idea that requires an equipment purchase, and must be working with CDR on the development of the technology or product. Companies also must be located in Wisconsin and priority is given to smaller, rural companies who will see increased job retention or creation because of the grant.
Examples of companies and communities that have benefited from the grant include Yodelay Yogurt, a new, Swiss-style yogurt manufacturer located outside of Madison. Owner and creator Markus Candinas applied for a grant to assist with the purchase of a homogenizer that would allow him to make this unique style of yogurt, which CDR helped to develop. The equipment purchase helped Yodelay Yogurt to win first- through fifth-place awards in the Flavored Low-fat Yogurt category and first place in the Drinkable Yogurt Category at the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest.
The grant funds also enabled Roelli Cheese Haus in Shullsburg to purchase equipment that could assist in the manufacture of their unique Havarti blue style cheese. Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain also benefited from the grant as it allowed them to meet new standards for the manufacture of Mozzarella cheese.
Other grant recipients include Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese in Waterloo, Nasonville Dairy in Marshfield, LaClare Farm Specialties in Malone, Chula Vista Company in Browntown, Muscoda Protein Products in Muscoda, Silver Lewis Cheese Co-Op in Monticello and Union Star Cheese in Fremont.
“From the beginning of the TURBO Program, WEDC has provided financial, marketing and networking support,” said Grassman. “We are thrilled to continue that relationship and know that this funding will provide new opportunities for WEDC and CDR to work together to support small, dairy-related food and beverage companies in Wisconsin.”