Nicolet College currently leads a collaborative economic development partnership called The GRID (Guiding Rural Innovation and Development). Created in 2019, the GRID is structured as a department within the Economic and Community Development division of the college. The GRID acts as a one-stop connection to a wide-ranging list of business resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Northern Wisconsin. The GRID works with local community navigators to identify the most suitable business resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners to meet their specific situations and type of business.
The GRID region consists of eight underserved rural counties of North Central Wisconsin (Florence, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marinette, Oconto, Oneida, and Vilas Counties) and includes three tribal communities (Forest County Potawatomi, Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the Sokaogon Chippewa Community). Rural areas of North Central Wisconsin often lack adequate broadband access and typically are not reached by awareness and communication campaigns from organizations that provide business resources, thus residents are unaware of services and programs that are available and are unlikely to reach out for assistance.
To ensure reaching targeted businesses, a focused direct outreach effort will be conducted by trusted and knowledgeable community navigators. Navigators are local champions for businesses within their communities and are equipped with the knowledge of relevant federal, state, and local relief programs. Local navigators meet business owners where they are to discuss their needs, challenges, and concerns. Following an in-depth assessment of needs, navigators will provide direct assistance to entrepreneurs and business owners to assist them in accessing appropriate resources and specialized support (e.g., accounting, tax, financial, legal services) available through the GRID’s extensive network of business mentors, counselors, and public and private resource partners.
The GRID’s mission is to promote entrepreneurship and small business growth in North Central Wisconsin by networking and strengthening the innovation community and connecting business builders to the resources, education, expertise, and social connections they need to succeed.
Toni Van Doren
Meet Toni Van Doren is the Innovation Center Manager at Nicolet College and Manager of the GRID. Toni is a Certified Program Planner, a certified facilitator, has a certificate in project leadership, and is a Six-Sigma certified green belt in project management. In other words, she is rocking it here at Nicolet College and the GRID! All while juggling everything extremely well!
Thomas Wartman (Tommy)
Tommy Wartman is the Project Coordinator for the GRID and the Wisconsin Northwoods Navigators (WiNN) Grant. Tommy has a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Business and Psychology. Tommy is highly skilled in operations and process management, has an amazing ability to streamline processes, and is a spreadsheet guru!! In addition, Tommy brings the perspective of being a small business owner from Minnesota.
Angi Schreiber is the Operations Assistant for the GRID and the Wisconsin Northwoods Navigator (WiNN) Grant at Nicolet College. Angi has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Public Administration. Angi’s background consists of entrepreneurship, small business, and community development and offers experience in strategic planning, event planning, and marketing. She has a strong passion for small business development and can manage challenging situations professionally and effectively.
Nicolet College and Economic Development Partners Receive $1 Million Grant to Advance Economic Development in the Northwoods
Our Funding Support
The GRID operates with the generous funding of donors and corporations, federal and state grants, partner in-kind contributions, and a legion of volunteers seeking to impact the regional economy by fostering a culture of innovation. Major funding sources: