A SEED for Wisconsin's Future
In September of 1984, when the warm summer months began growing cooler, Mr. Richard Hecht found his company, Stuart Manufacturing, tumbling into a despairing situation. Come September, his lessor would sell the building to new owners, and the company would suffer a forced exodus. Buildings in downtown Milwaukee were too expensive, and moving it outside the city wasn’t an option, as many of the manufacturer’s staff relied on public transportation to make it to work every day. The only option that seemed the most economical was to move the operation to the Sun Belt, where Hecht could run his operation for reduced cost. If this were to happen, over 175 Wisconsin jobs would be lost overnight, leaving many unemployed in the heart of Milwaukee.
Due to some intuitive thinking and proper financing, a third solution soon became clear. Applying for financing through WHEDA’s newly issued SEED Program, Hecht realized that with a large enough loan, he could effectively purchase the entire building himself, retaining everything his company had built in Wisconsin. Receiving a $310,000 SEED loan, Stuart Manufacturing was saved, and the financing even allowed for the upgrade of industrial equipment. However, the company experienced its greatest success in the retainment of jobs for its hardworking employees. In the history of the company, this proved to be a monumental achievement.
The milestone, however, did not belong to Hecht alone, as it represented a significant growth in WHEDA’s development as well. The first entity to ever receive SEED funding, Stuart Manufacturing contributed to the growth of Wisconsin business through WHEDA’s bond financing. While Stuart Manufacturing may have been the first to utilize the program, it certainly would not be the last.
Due to the nature of bond financing, the SEED Program was limited to moderately sized operations, rather than truly small businesses. Realizing the opportunity for growth of another market, WHEDA would introduce the Linked Deposit Loan Program in 1988 as a “sequel” to the SEED Program. Thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of people like Hecht, WHEDA encountered significant success in its attempts to grow Wisconsin economy, sewing together the seams of economic progress.