There are a few things to know about looking for Wisconsin small business loans. First, the good news: There is capital available for Wisconsin small business owners from Wisconsin-specific lenders and organizations. There is a caveat, however: Wisconsin-specific business loan resources aren’t abundant, and many need to look to other national resources to find the business capital they need.
There are six strong state of Wisconsin small business loan options for you to consider as you’re looking for capital to start or grow your business.
National lenders are not right for every small business. If you’re seeking a local funding solution for your Wisconsin small business, you do have a few options to look into for capital. The funding comes from a mix of both government and private organizations.
Here are the top options you can consider as a Wisconsin-based business:
The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) could be an excellent resource for some Wisconsin small business owners. As the state’s largest microlender, they provide direct lending as well as strong financial support and resources. Although they’re technically open to applications from anyone, the organization focuses on women as well as minorities and lower-income-bracket applicants, since these individuals historically have had a harder time accessing business capital.
Small business entrepreneurs in Wisconsin may be able to access up to $250,000 of funding, and WWBIC guides applicants through the loan-application process—which means that you won’t be in the dark if you decide to submit an application. In 2019, the WWBIC issued the most microloans in the state of Wisconsin, with more than $4 million financed.
Financial assistance from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) is available to Wisconsin small businesses and farms in both rural and urban areas, and are meant to enable businesses to launch, stimulate growth, and create and maintain living-wage jobs for Wisconsinites.
Through their Participation Lending Program, WHEDA pairs with public and private lenders to provide capital access to Wisconsin-based small businesses that may not necessarily have access to capital through traditional lending sources. These institutions include banks, credit unions, and nonprofit organizations, for loans up to $2 million. There is also the possibility to secure an SBA 504 loan through this program.
WHEDA also offers small business loan guarantees—up to $750,000 in some cases—with special resources for those in the agriculture sector.
If you’re a Wisconsin small business in a rural or economically distressed area, you might be able to take advantage of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Business Development Loan program. These loans, which are typically between $100,000 and $250,000 for a term of up to 84 months, are meant to fill the funding gap for those entrepreneurs in rural areas that may not have as much access to capital as others in more profitable urban economic centers.
A certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Impact Seven is an alternative lender for Wisconsin small businesses looking for capital to get off the ground as well as scale and aims to help entrepreneurs who may not be able to get business capital through more traditional means. Their capital comes from both public and private sources to provide direct loans that range from $10,000 to $5 million.
Based out of Madison, Summit Credit Union is the credit union with the most SBA 7(a) loans approved in 2019, with a total dollar amount of $9,460,900 issued. Their strong track record has made them the leading credit union for SBA loans throughout Wisconsin. You can apply for a variety of business financing programs through Summit Credit Union, including term loans, business lines of credit, and, of course, SBA loans.
If you find that none of the programs listed above are quite right, consider expanding your search to include national lenders, both traditional and alternative. Although they don’t specifically provide capital to Wisconsin-based small businesses, you could find a strong fit for your business with one of these lenders.
Huntington Bank is a well-known national bank, so it’s not a Wisconsin-specific business lender. However, Wisconsin small businesses have had strong success with securing SBA loans through Huntington Bank; they issued more than $32 million of SBA loans to businesses within the state in 2019.
In addition to the Wisconsin commercial loan programs that provide capital to Wisconsin small businesses, entrepreneurs can also take advantage of helpful financial programs within the state. These can guide entrepreneurs to make the best decisions and also provide relief in the form of tax credits and grants. Although these Wisconsin small business resources aren’t for directly providing loan capital, they can be invaluable in other ways.
Here are four additional Wisconsin small business financial programs to consider:
The state of Wisconsin offers businesses tax incentives if they are either expanding in the state or relocating from other states. Wisconsin’s Enterprise Zone Tax Credits take the form of refundable tax credits that businesses can receive through a variety of means, including job creation and retention, capital investment, and employee training or supply chain purchases from other vendors also headquartered in the state.
Another program designed to help spur job growth and investment in low-income communities in cities and rural areas of the state: the New Markets Tax Credit. This program is actually a nationwide effort to create new opportunities in underserved communities as well, rather than being strictly based in Wisconsin alone. However, it’s a good fit for Wisconsin small businesses. The program helps businesses finance projects through WHEDA that provide tax credits if they meet certain program requirements.
Agriculture is at the core of Wisconsin’s economy, which makes USDA block grants for specialty crops a great option for small business owners working in this space. USDA block grants make it easier for farmers working in specific agricultural sectors to produce and sell goods at competitive prices. These crops include tree nuts, fruits, nursery crops, vegetables, and turf-type grasses. Grants range from five to six figures.
Wisconsin’s Workforce Training Grants are designed to attract, develop, and retain talent for businesses operating in the state by offering grant funds that help improve job-related skills for their existing (or new) employees. The grant program focuses primarily on training that pertains to new technologies, industrial skills, manufacturing, or business leadership development.
Businesses receiving Workforce Training Grants have to offer training programs that are not otherwise available currently in the state through the Wisconsin Technical College System, OSHA, or the state’s Department of Workforce Development “Fast Forward” program.
Although the state of Wisconsin doesn’t offer an abundance of programs for Wisconsin small business owners, there are some other strong resources available to help. If you’re looking for capital specifically, you might want to expand your search beyond Wisconsin-specific lenders, or adjust your search toward tax credits and venture investments. There are, of course, national lenders that might be able to provide you capital. It’s worth checking out both options to see what you’re approved for, and to find the most competitive rate.
Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a GM at NerdWallet.
Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.