The Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (NWSCDC) was founded as a nonprofit corporation in 1983 and is governed by a 15-member board of directors. The corporation provides business loans to midsize companies located on the northwest side of Milwaukee. Its mission is to enhance the standard of living on the northwest side of the city by improving the business environment for low-income communities through community economic development. Earlier this year, NWSCDC received a $500,000 grant from WEDC, provided as matching funds to increase the amount available for loans made to startups in the community and to broaden the types of loans NWSCDC is able to offer.

Q: Give us some background on NWSCDC.

A: The NWSCDC has served the economic development needs of Milwaukee’s low-income communities since being founded in 1983, assisting with neighborhood strategic planning to improve safety, land use planning and development on Milwaukee’s northwest side to spur retail growth, as well as numerous business and workforce development programs.

Throughout its 35-year history, the NWSCDC has innovated and adapted to changes in the community and economic development landscape. This innovation, along with continuity of management and a strong board of directors, has allowed the NWSCDC to thrive in the face of adversity. In the late 1990s, the NWSCDC board and management developed and began to implement a new business model for community economic development. The new model emphasizes leveraging partnerships and collaborating in business creation and real estate transactions. With this new model, the NWSCDC has pioneered efforts to partner with large businesses such as DRS Power and Controls Technologies and Jonco Industries.

As a result of the new collaborative strategy, the NWSCDC has loaned more than $10 million to several major catalytic projects on the northwest side since 2000.  These projects, which together have created more than 1,000 jobs, include:

  • Helping to finance the second phase development at Midtown Center
  • Assisting with financing of two Lena’s and one Kohl’s grocery store
  • Creating the Milwaukee Technology Incubator Center within DRS Power Controls and Technologies
  • Creating a third, smaller retail development plan with Lena’s at Midtown Center
  • Financing the startup of Nature Tech, a green technology employer focused on sustainable products
  • Helping to finance the expansion of Diamond Precision into Milwaukee
  • Assisting with financing the purchase of Century City Tower, the former Eaton Corporation headquarters

The NWSCDC’s most recent real estate project is Villard Square, an $11 million mixed-use development that combines a Milwaukee Public Library branch with 47 units of mixed-income housing for “grand families”—that is, family units where grandparents are serving as the primary caregivers for their grandchildren. Villard Square is a multifaceted success story that epitomizes the mission of the NWSCDC.

Q: What programs and services does the organization offer?

A: CDFI: We are a U.S. Treasury–certified non-bank lender. We lend provide below-market-rate loans to create jobs and build wealth in Milwaukee’s northwest side. Since 2000, we have loaned more than $10 million, which has helped companies create more than 1,000 new jobs.

Community Development and Neighborhood Strategic Plan (NSP): We have three city-contracted areas where we engage residents in traditional organizing activities, such as block watch and anti-crime, cleanups and quality of life improvements.

Stormwater Management and Green Space: We are contracted by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to engage residents in activities regarding green stormwater facilities in the 30th Street corridor. We are also leading the Green Tech Station site project to feature research and field testing of green infrastructure technologies in an outdoor classroom setting, while improving a vacant site by planting hundreds of trees, native prairie and bioswale areas.

Land Use: We are working on a variety of initiatives, including strategic planning for the north area of the 30th Street industrial corridor, Century City 2 and Ned’s Pizza.

Q: What are the organization’s goals and who does it help?

A: Vision: The NWSCDC will lead the transformation of the northwest side of Milwaukee into a preferred destination for businesses and residents.

Mission: We exist on the northwest side to create jobs, build partnerships and strengthen communities.

Core Values:

  • Integrity: consistency of purpose
  • Community: bringing together financial, business and residential communities
  • Leadership: leveraging partnership
  • Catalyst: agent for economic and community change

NWSCDC directly engages with businesses and residents, as well as a host of other strategic partners, including local and state government and other agencies.

Current strategic goals include:

  • Strengthen our business lending program, expand loan offerings and create a more streamlined process for small business lending.
  • Work with partners to launch a strategic action plan and project implementation for the north corridor area, including infrastructure and accessibility improvements.
  • Work with neighbors and residents to improve quality of life, create safer streets and activate new community green spaces.

Q: How does the organization benefit Wisconsin’s overall business climate?

A: NWSCDC has assisted dozens of small and midsize businesses, including minority-owned firms, manufacturers, retail and others. We are improving the climate for business investment for Milwaukee’s northwest side, which is a huge driver of economic activity for the southeast Wisconsin region and the whole state. We often partner with banks and other development entities to provide gap financing on larger deals.

While the processes of deindustrialization, globalization and automation changed the local economic landscape in major ways, it is crucial for Wisconsin to grow more quality jobs here in Milwaukee. This is where the majority of Wisconsin’s African American population resides, and it is critical for the state to address racial disparity by improving economic opportunities here where people live.

Q: Why is Wisconsin the ideal location to start a business?

A: Milwaukee’s northwest side has perhaps the richest industrial heritage in the state, and the local economy is transforming with both legacy companies and a new generation of advanced manufacturers. We now see growing businesses in technology, service, health care and other sectors. All of the essential types of infrastructure for business growth are located here: available land and facilities ready for new uses; nearby available workforce with inexpensive housing; multimodal freight transportation; low-cost dependable energy, water and sewer; and a vibrant ecosystem of business development partnerships with partners such as M-WERC, The Water Council, and FAB Wisconsin.

Milwaukee has the labor and infrastructure resources to help businesses succeed here. A number of programs also help to attract and facilitate investment, including new Development Opportunity Zones and a variety of tax credits and loan funds.

Now with support from WEDC, NWSCDC has expanded our financing capabilities for early-stage companies. Our new loan product designated for startups and early-stage companies provides more flexible financing than was available before. We hope to work with companies that may have begun to generate some revenue and now need to scale up in order to meet demand and become profitable. This new loan product will primarily support deals between $100,000 and $250,000 for working capital, new equipment, build-out of business space or other similar uses. Our director of lending, Willie Smith, can provide customized business technical assistance or make very targeted referrals for assistance with business and financial planning.

Q: What is the best way to learn more about NWSCDC?

A: Check out our website at, and follow us on Facebook. If you have a business seeking to locate or grow in Milwaukee’s northwest side, contact Willie Smith directly at 414.444.8200 x8105.