StartingBlock Madison Taps Resnick to Bring Project to Finish Line

StartingBlock Madison—the proposed co-working space and entrepreneurial center that supporters envision anchoring the tech community in Wisconsin’s capital—today announced $200,000 in new funding and named an executive director who will help bring the project to the finish line and oversee the center’s operations once it opens its doors.

Scott Resnick, the 28-year-old former Madison city council member who recently lost a bid to become mayor, was named StartingBlock’s executive director. He will remain chief operating officer of Hardin Design & Development, a Madison app development shop, but his role with the company will be “diminished” as he leads StartingBlock, he says.

Resnick was part of StartingBlock’s original planning group in 2012, and he calls this move a “unique opportunity” to direct a “fascinating project.”

During his four years on the Madison Common Council, Resnick advocated for a number of progressive issues that are important to the local tech sector, including working with his colleagues to pass the nation’s second municipal open data ordinance.

“Scott is one of our most vocal champions promoting StartingBlock’s potential to help Madison attract more innovators and entrepreneurs,” says Terry Sivesind, StartingBlock board president, in a press release.

StartingBlock Madison rendering

StartingBlock Madison rendering

The plan is for the nonprofit StartingBlock to occupy 50,000 square feet of a proposed 10 to 12-story mixed-use building totaling between 113,000 and 140,000 square feet. The building would be located just east of downtown and would include a co-working space, office suites with flexible lease terms that suit the needs of startups, conference rooms, a 1,500-seat performing arts venue, and commercial and retail space.

StartingBlock would house the Madison office of startup accelerator Gener8tor, the Sector67 maker space, and events put on by networking group Capital Entrepreneurs. It would also host community events and educational programs for teens and young adults interested in engineering, computer science, manufacturing, and other skills.

Fundraising is still atop the to-do list for Resnick and StartingBlock’s organizers. Madison-based American Family Insurance announced a “significant” but undisclosed donation to the project in December, and the city of Madison has committed $1.5 million for StartingBlock construction costs.

Resnick is spearheading a $1.5 million fundraising campaign, he says, which got a boost with today’s announcement that the MG&E Foundation is kicking in $150,000 and the Evjue Foundation is donating $50,000.

The building, which is being developed by Gebhardt Development, still needs final city approval. But the goal is to break ground this year, with tenants moving in at the end of 2016.

Resnick, like other StartingBlock supporters, views the project as one “bookend” of the innovation corridor stretching between Madison and Milwaukee, mirroring similar initiatives like Ward 4 and the Global Water Center in Milwaukee.

“This is an ambitious play,” Resnick says of StartingBlock. “This becomes an industry connector, connecting many of our traditional Madison-based companies to young startup innovators.”

One challenge for StartingBlock will be to help change the “mindset” for locals and people around the country, to start viewing the Madison area (and Wisconsin in general) as an emerging startup hub, Resnick says. He cites the rapid expansions of Exact Sciences and EatStreet as examples of Madison’s burgeoning high-tech sector, which is having a larger impact on the local economy. “We are no longer flyover country,” he adds.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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