Acknowledging that the city’s economic development has historically focused on corporate attraction and expansion, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) said Monday it’s launching several efforts to encourage entrepreneurship, startups and venture funding.

The MMAC will add board members with startup and venture capital experience, create a mentorship program for early startup founders, and maintain a new website to share entrepreneurship resources and stories, as well as a data dashboard to track startup and investment activity in the community, MMAC president Tim Sheehy said in a press briefing.

The organization is budgeting nearly $500,000 for these initiatives over the next couple of years, Sheehy said.

“It’s a substantial commitment that I think we’ll continue to grow as we build out each of these aspects,” he said.

The MMAC board has proposed two new members to represent startup and venture capital interests: entrepreneur Andy Nunemaker, CEO of Milwaukee software firm Groupware Technologies Inc., and Gateway Capital Partners managing partner Dana Guthrie. The MMAC’s members still need to ratify the nominations, Sheehy said.

The organization’s new website, will have a directory of local venture capital firms, accelerator programs, incubators and co-working spaces. It will also feature posts written by Anna Lardinois, who the MMAC hired as its new startup storyteller. The MMAC is also partnering with the Wisconsin Policy Forum for the data dashboard, which it said will be coming soon.

“This represents probably the most resourced and coordinated new set of tools around startups that we’ve seen in a long time,” said Chris Abele, a member of the MMAC’s board of directors and one of the leaders behind the organization’s new startup push.

Abele, the former Milwaukee County executive, has long been involved in the region’s startup community. As the managing director of the venture firm CSA Partners LLC, he owns the Ward4 co-working space and has invested in early-stage Wisconsin companies including gener8tor, Bright Cellars and EatStreet Inc.

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