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Q&A with John Miller, Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation


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Q&A with John Miller, Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation

Since its inception, the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has strived to help businesses in the greater Milwaukee area take flight, while creating or retaining jobs through various loan programs. We recently sat down with John Miller, vice president of MEDC, who gave us more insight into the group’s mission.

Q: How was the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation formed?
A: Our organization was formed in 1971, as a result of ongoing discussions between business stakeholders and the City of Milwaukee. Business owners wanted to raise revenue, but were running into issues with bank lending limitations, and they didn’t have enough equity to fill the gap. The initial idea was to find a way, through city money and federal and state grants, to fund a loan pool — and thus MEDC was born. Shortly thereafter, the City of Milwaukee started to fund our flagship Second Mortgage Program.

Q: Can you tell me about the programs MEDC offers?
A: We have a few program options for business owners:

  1. The Second Mortgage Program is our staple program, making up about 75 percent of our loan portfolio. The program works similarly to a Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan, in which a bank or other type of lending source is a partner in a deal, along with MEDC and the owner. Typically, the deal is made up of about 50 percent bank loan, 40 percent MEDC loan, and 10 percent is the minimum equity from owners. Our lending program is unique because we require less equity investment from owners, which is a very attractive benefit for companies.
  2. MEDC also takes part in the SBA Community Advantage Program. With this program, MEDC can underwrite SBA loans up to $250,000 in total aggregate size as a single-source lender. Most often, we don’t have a bank partner with these loan arrangements because they’re smaller deals. Banks aren’t typically interested in loans that size.
  3. A few years ago MEDC participated in a joint venture called the M7 Venture Debt Program, which focused on regional coverage of the seven-county area of southeast Wisconsin. MEDC was authorized to lend up to $1.5 million to early-stage businesses that were not yet generating positive cash flow, but had high growth potential, much like ABC’s Shark Tank. We were able to put all $1.5 million into the market between six projects total.
  4. Additionally, we’ve worked on standalone projects through federal New Market Tax Credits, and reaching the Venture Debt Program’s goals with matching funds. We also created revolving loan funds out of the tax credits, enhancing our ability to lend more money to the city at a lower interest rate, which has been very attractive to businesses.

Q: What kind of companies can apply for these programs?
A: For the most part, any company can apply, provided they plan to create or retain jobs in the Milwaukee area. However, we typically do not lend to nonprofit businesses, religious-based businesses or retail outlets that sell guns or liquor. We also look for and fund as many manufacturing businesses as we can, since that is a priority target for us.

Q: How do MEDC’s offerings benefit the state’s business climate?
A: I think we provide a competitive option for business owners because the structure of our financing allows owners to invest less equity in a project. We also have very little, if any, fee structure to our debt, as well as flexible terms for underwriting. Also, MEDC can be easier to work with because we’re centrally located in downtown Milwaukee, so we’re just a phone call or site visit away.

Q: What is the best way for companies to learn more or apply for MEDC programs?
A: Visit our website, It has more information about how our programs work and what we look for to initiate contact. Otherwise, please give us a call at 414.269.1440. We have six loan officers including myself on staff, so we’re ready, willing and well-staffed to address borrower needs in a timely fashion.