Downtown Milwaukee

As the U.S. startup ecosystem begins to extend away from the coasts and mature in the middle part of the country, investors are looking to cast a wide net to capture the next wave of innovation — by promoting cooperation with its neighbors to the north, in Canada.

On March 24, Wisconsin Inno gathered regional business leaders for a virtual roundtable to discuss the growing number of cross-border collaborations designed to seed the landscape and accelerate startup growth in both countries, including those gaining traction in Wisconsin.

Kira Lafond, market president and publisher of the Milwaukee Business Journal, which publishes Wisconsin Innomoderated the discussion, which highlighted the importance of cooperation between the international business allies and detailed successful partnerships already taking root.

Lafond was joined by Wayne Robson, acting Consul General of Canada in Chicago; Joan Schmit, American Family Insurance Distinguished Chair in Risk, University of Wisconsin School of Business; and Dan Reed, managing director at American Family Ventures, who served as the event panelists.

The event kicked off by emphasizing the importance of the two countries’ trade relationship.

The panelists discussed how the pandemic is affecting the current business landscape, especially as the countries look to maintain cooperation between borders, prioritize its integrated supply chains, and control the virus.

“Currently the Homeland Security and Canadian border crossing agencies that are involved with this, as well as public health, have extended non-essential crossborder travel limitations through April 21,” Robson said.

Prior to the pandemic, there were about 400,000 border crossings a day, he said. Now, they average about 2% of that total, or about 8,000. Business crossings have remained relatively the same, though testing requirements and quarantine measures are still in place. Despite the drop, essential travel continues to flow.

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