Foremost Media, Author at Janesville Innovation Center

Blackhawk Technical College Offers Operational Assistance & Resources

Effective February 1st, Blackhawk Technical College (BTC) began assisting the Janesville Innovation Center Board of Directors with the day-to-day operations of the business incubator and the innovation center. Mark Borowicz, BTC’s Director of Workforce and Community Development, is already working closely with the innovation center’s partners to ensure a successful transition from the scheduled retirement of Mike Mathews of Economic Growth Advisors, who served as the JIC’s long-time operations manager.  

The Janesville Innovation Center (JIC) building is owned by the City of Janesville and leased, operated and managed by Janesville Innovation, Inc. (JII) — a local nonprofit economic development organization. The JIC represents a community-wide business investment to provide resources to a variety of new and growing small businesses in the greater South Central Wisconsin area.

This new collaborative partnership allows JIC to leverage college resources and broaden its portfolio of offerings to startups and second-stage small businesses that are seeking to strategically grow. With a new advanced manufacturing center under construction at BTC’s Central Campus, just a few miles south of the JIC, BTC will be positioned to provide state-of-the-art equipment and subject matter expertise in machining, welding, and other core manufacturing processes. Additionally, BTC’s expanding suite of business courses provides a complementary, plug-and-play menu for existing — as well as prospective — JIC tenants. 

“We have a great team led by Mark and we’re already ingrained in the region’s small business development sector,” Tracy Pierner, BTC president, noted. “Through great leadership, we are committed to leveraging our connections to help grow the JIC and its clientele.” 

BTC and JIC are a great fit, as the college is heavily involved in workforce and economic development and works tirelessly to identify the resources businesses need to get, as well as maintain, for a strong foundation. Plus, the JIC and BTC share the same values. 

“Providing flexible education in a supportive environment is our mission statement,” Mark Borowicz says. 

As such, there’s a logical convergence of current programming and related focal points between the BTC and the JIC — particularly when considering the premiums placed on talent development, retention, and attraction, and other operational efficiencies resulting from the adoption of lean and green applications. 

In addition to managing the daily tasks associated with operating a business incubator and innovation center, Mark will also serve as a tenant concierge. From onboarding to the amenities provided by the JIC, Mark will be onsite a few days each week to ensure operations are running smoothly. 

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with the JIC’s business partners and providing onsite support,” said Borowicz. 

Mark will also be the primary contact to access the JIC’s customized, and free of charge, business consulting services — complements of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center. From business planning to preparing a debt / equity financing pitch deck, Jonathan Klein and the entire SBDC team are ready and available to offer a menu of business consulting services to existing, as well as prospective, JIC tenants. 
Borowicz refers to this one-stop convergence of office and manufacturing space and technical expertise as “a package deal,”and it’s the right combination to connect entrepreneurs and growing businesses with the necessary tools to eventually strike out on their own. Interested in learning more? Visit or contact Mark (  or 608-757-7623).

Industrial Hearing Consultation Fills Wisconsin Niche

When Cynthia Chow purchased a hearing practice in Oak Park, Illinois, she never imagined expanding to Wisconsin. But her future husband was in Janesville, and with a growing number of industrial clients in the Badger State, a second location made sense. The Janesville Innovation Center (JIC) was a perfect fit.

“We needed a brick and mortar location to establish legitimacy,” Cynthia says. “The Janesville Innovation Center was perfect.”

OSHA Compliance for Wisconsin Workers

While The Hearing Place’s Chicagoland office sells hearing aids and performs clinical testing, the focus in Janesville is on OSHA compliance. Many of the Oak Park clients live close to the practice and visit in person, but in Wisconsin, Cynthia and her husband travel around the state, acting as consultants. They visit factories and manufacturing facilities from Beloit to Green Bay to ensure employee hearing is intact.

These onsite visits are industry-mandated. OSHA requires all employees who are exposed to loud noise to have their hearing tested every year.

“Our company goes out and we do the hearing testing,” Cynthia explains. “We have software to generate reports and catch shifts in hearing. When we send the report, we might say, ‘hey — out of your 200 employees, these four had shifts in hearing. Let’s follow up with them to make sure they’re not having noise-induced hearing loss. If they are, let’s make sure they’re wearing proper hearing protection.’”

In addition to industrial consulting, The Hearing Place offers clinical hearing aids and evaluations, and has a government contract to perform evaluations for veterans. Cynthia enjoys the variety.

“It’s nice to float around between the three,” she says.

Competitive Rent, Support Let JIC Tenants Focus on Growth

Cynthia believes the decision to rent space at JIC was a smart business move for several reasons.

“Janesville Innovation Center has been great because we don’t need a lot of space, but we do want to have an actual physical location,” she says. “They have helped us look a lot more legitimate, which gives clients confidence that we aren’t going anywhere.”

There are other benefits to being a JIC tenant.

“The rent is super competitive,” Cynthia continues. “It allows you to build that clientele base. If you go to a place with high rent, your overhead is way higher and you’re more likely to fold. It gave us a nice stepping stone to grow our Wisconsin consulting business.”

Cynthia and her husband plan to stay at the JIC for as long as they are welcome there. Once they leave, she envisions adding clinical audiology and related services, but is in no hurry for that to happen.

“The Janesville Innovation Center is a great place, especially if you’re just looking to expand or start up,” she summarizes. “You have a lot of support, it’s a great facility, and you have everything you need for your business to operate.”

When Mission-Critical Solutions Matter

David Farrell knows a thing or two about Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS). Designed to provide backup power in the event of an outage, they’re an essential piece of hardware that protects both electronic equipment and data. Devices that rely on a UPS include computers, wireless routers and modems, televisions, security systems, mobile devices, and more. 

“Anything that is critical runs on a UPS,” David says. “Today’s electronics cannot withstand gaps in power.”

While most people might associate UPS with a certain global courier, David knows better. He’s a sales manager for N1 Critical Technologies, experts in the design, installation, and maintenance of mission-critical UPS systems. 

Switching Focus in Order to Compete

When N1 Critical Technologies was formed in 2015, they started out as resellers, offering UPS systems from brands like Eaton, General Electric, and Xtreme Power. Two years later they had their sights set on government and school district bids but realized they were unable to compete with suppliers, who secured contracts through lower pricing. Success demanded they develop, and sell, their own systems. 

That’s when a lightbulb went off. Or more accurately, a battery: a lithium ion (LI) battery. Nobody in the single-phase market had used one before, but N1 Critical Technologies felt it was an idea worth exploring. 

This turned out to be a shrewd business move. Pairing a UPS system with an LI battery allowed the company to offer a 10-year warranty and 15-year design life, far superior to anything else available at the time.

“As you can imagine, if you have 200 of these units in your school district or across your company, you’re not changing the battery every three to five years,” David explains. “You’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.” 

From that point forward, N1 Critical Technologies was able to compete for contracts alongside the brands they had once sold.

Janesville Innovation Center Offers Space & Mentorship

When David and his partner were first setting up shop, they decided a space in the Janesville Innovation Center would perfectly suit their needs. After all, it was just the two of them. 

“It made sense because we needed an office, a phone, and internet, and we had no money,” he recalls. “We did our startup with nothing down, and JIC was very affordable. It was a great leg up in order to get started.” 

In addition to the amenities provided by JIC, other intangibles came into play. The innovation center introduced them to community leaders, banks, and other business people who served as mentors to help them get the company up and running.

Eventually, N1 Critical Technologies grew to the point where they needed more space, so they purchased an office building on Parker Drive in Janesville. And then COVID happened.

“Our whole workforce went remote,” David says. “And we had the best two years we’ve ever had!”

When they finally returned to work, they were there for about three days before deciding they preferred the flexibility of remote work. They sold the building and moved back to the Janesville Innovation Center full-time, taking an additional space that included a lab for testing and holding video conferences with clients. No matter what happens next, David says N1 Critical Technologies won’t ever make the mistake of buying their own building again. Why should they when they’ve already got the perfect setup? 

“We’ll stay in JIC as long as they’ll have us or until we outgrow it,” he promises. “As long as they’ll keep us, we’d love to stay!”

Man Your Posts!

When Kane and Jennifer Carmody were growing up, their dad waged war with a stop sign. They never imagined that one-man showdown between a lawn mower and a sign post would lay the groundwork for their future business venture.

“When we were young, there was a stop sign in the front yard,” Kane explains. “We had to mow around it, and it was always getting chopped up. Dad wanted to protect the bottom part of it, so he came up with an idea in the early ‘90s.”

That idea was a piece of vinyl that would fit around the bottom of the post and protect it from mowing and trimming, but it never moved beyond the concept stages. Until Kane and his sister grew up, bought houses of their own, and encountered similar problems with cedar fences. They reached out to their dad to see if he was interested in resurrecting the idea, and Post Shields was born. 

Well, sort of.

National Sale Leads to Incorporation

Like most entrepreneurial ventures, things got off to a slow start. Kane and Jennifer teamed up to buy a 3D printer, but creating the individual panels that connect together to form a square or circle around the post was a laborious process that took 3-4 hours per panel. They brought in a friend who did CAD drawings, another one familiar with plastic extrusion, bought a saw for cutting, and improved the efficiency enough to be able to create small production runs to get started. They’d already had some success selling on Amazon, but were ready to take things a step further. 

Next stop? The National Hardware Show. Ace Hardware liked their product and agreed to put it into their retail service centers nationwide. That’s when the Carmody siblings realized they had a small problem.

“We had just sold a product we didn’t have from a company that didn’t exist,” Kane recalls. They had to file vendor paperwork and incorporate, a process that took 7-8 months. They also needed office and warehouse space and signed a lease with Janesville’s Old Towne Mall. Despite the building’s historical appeal and cheap rent, the basement space wasn’t ideal for their growing business: semi trucks were dropping off 6-8 pallets in the street, and unpacking and carrying the boxes downstairs took an entire day with each shipment. 

Janesville Innovation Center Offers Perfect Solution

Fortunately, there was a solution. The Carmodys had met with Mike Matthews at the Janesville Innovation Center and he encouraged them to become a tenant there. The rent was higher than they had been paying at Old Towne Mall, but within a month the decision to relocate had already paid off.

“That month we had 20 pallets come in,” Kane says. “With pallet jacks and a dock, it took us 20 minutes versus at least a day at our old location.”

The Janesville Innovation Center offered plenty of additional benefits, from conference room space to the camaraderie between other tenants — startups like themselves, experiencing the same highs and lows that accompany any new business venture. Through it all, they found the mentorship required for success.

“Mike Matthews has been a wonderful guide for our business,” Kane shares. “Janesville Innovation Center is an amazing place that fosters healthy startup business growth. You have the absolute best possibility to grow your business there.”
If you’re interested in learning more about protecting fence and sign posts from damage, Post Shields’ website has a solution perfect for your needs. And if you’re a new company looking for a business incubator setting, check out Janesville Innovation Center.