Associated Banc-Corp recently made a $10,000 corporate donation to the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), a statewide economic development organization focused on business creation, expansion, and sustainability, and job creation and retention in both urban and rural areas.

WWBIC provides access to capital including direct lending, one-on-one business assistance, business education, and financial awareness education programming. While WWBIC’s services are open to anyone in Wisconsin, the organization’s mission emphasis is women, people of color, and people of lower wealth and incomes – those most likely to be underserved by traditional financial institutions.

“It is our honor to support critically important organizations such as WWBIC,” said Andrew Ruehl, Associated Corporate Social Responsibility Manager. “At Associated, we are committed to promoting the long-term health, strength and stability of the communities we serve. Contributing to organizations that share those goals, like WWBIC, is one of the best ways we’ve found to help make that happen.”

This year, WWBIC celebrates 25 years of putting dreams to work – a milestone WWBIC President/Chief Visionary Officer Wendy Baumann attributes to long-term partnerships with the private sector, such as Associated Bank’s 14-year history with WWBIC.

“This is a generous donation for us, and we are certainly proud to be supported by the official bank of the Green Bay Packers!” said Baumann. “Since 1998 Associated Bank has donated more than $60,000 to WWBIC. This is another example of how Associated Bank cares about the Wisconsin community.”

Her team is thrilled that Associated Bank is committed to assisting in the growth of small, non-bankable businesses that have the potential to grow into businesses that qualify for traditional bank financing in the future, she said. “What we do at WWBIC is complementary to the role of financial institutions – WWBIC can fill gaps in financing, such as working capital. We are involved in many participation loans. We also fund businesses that don’t fit the traditional bank client profile, including start-ups and other businesses that are too small, or too risky for bank financing.”

Baumann added that WWBIC also provides an important function in that traditional financial institutions like Associated Bank can refer borrowers directly to them. For example, WWBIC was able to assist a siding and roofing contractor, a vintage clothing store, a salon and spa, and a painter – all recently referred by Associated Bank.

“Associated Bank’s support means that more entrepreneurs and small business owners will be able to realize their dreams,” said Baumann. “Micro and small business are a proven economic development strategy. We know that given the right opportunities, anyone, regardless of gender, race, or income level, can have a successful business. We at WWBIC are in the business of making those opportunities happen.”

The funds donated by Associated Bank will primarily support WWBIC’s quality business education and one-on-one business assistance, she said. “In addition to their intrinsic importance and the added visibility they bring to our work, funds from the private sector are also incredibly important in that they help us to leverage federal funds.”

The Public Policy Forum has identified WWBIC as being one of Southeast Wisconsin’s most effective organizations in bringing back federal dollars. WWBIC has several major sources of federal funding – the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, and, for rural enterprise initiatives, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. All require some level of matching with private funds.

Andrew Ruehl (right), Associated Corporate Social Responsibility Manager presents a check to the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation.