The pilot program is aimed at communities and nonprofit groups whose smaller budgets don’t let them “do everything they want to do” and who might not be a good fit for WEDC’s existing offerings, said Aaron Hagar, the agency’s VP of entrepreneurship and innovation. Those communities will be able to apply for a chunk of the $500,000 in grants to help develop local entrepreneurship programs.

“We’re hoping this allows them to really pull out their ideas to support entrepreneurship and move those forward,” Hagar said.

The effort comes weeks after Wisconsin was ranked dead-last in startup activity for the second year in a row. But Hagar said the program, which WEDC has worked on for months, is “really about supporting local companies” and that any improvements in such rankings would be an “added benefit.”

The agency didn’t set many specifics on what kind of programs it will fund, which Hagar said will let local officials come to the agency with a wide range of ideas.

“The sky is the limit when it comes to proposals,” Hagar said. “Maybe at the end of the day, there’s a really great thing we turn into a larger scale program down the road.”

The grants amounts will range between $10,000 and $100,000, and applicants need to find matching funding for the projects they take on. Applications are due Oct. 31.

See the release: