Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE)

Greater Milwaukee Committee

Funding Received: 2011
Milwaukee, WI
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
October 16, 2011

If I said the words “interface” and “innovation” what images come to mind? Probably not a lawn mower.  At companies like Briggs & Stratton, a premier maker of lawn mower engines based in the Milwaukee area, interface and innovation are as critical to its business success as the pistons in its engines.

When asked what his passion is, Briggs & Stratton CEO and President Todd Teske will say, “Innovation.”  It’s what drives his business (pardon the pun).  He says innovation is “huge,” and that “more and more businesses are doing it, and more and more businesses need to be doing it.”

We are doing just that with MiKE-- our Artplace project designed to spark innovation in Milwaukee by creating place and space for young creatives to connect new ideas to 100 year old companies like Briggs--world class makers of small engines.

Enter Anthony Pleshek, a software developer.  Anthony is a recent college graduate who completed an internship in the corporate world.  That’s where he learned that atmosphere just wasn’t for him. He wanted more freedom and a more relaxed work environment where he could still do his own work but also collaborate with fellow developers.

Anthony was immediately drawn to Spreenkler Talent Labs, a unique environment that connects talent in the design and technology industry to promote creativity and innovation and grow the Milwaukee region’s talent pool.  Anthony says it’s there that he’s learning a lot just by being around other developers and designers.

Teske likes that collaboration.  He says he, himself, wants to interact with those smart, talented people because they are potential employees.  And he says that’s what makes him excited about a design/technology cluster like MiKE.  It connects people who might not normally come together to collaborate and create something much bigger than ever thought possible.

Pleshek realizes it isn’t easy to achieve the ultimate interface of incredible design and the best functionality.  He says, “Sometimes the designers will make things and it’ll look great. The way that it’s designed should work wonderfully, but it’ll take another 15 hours to code it exactly that way.  So sometimes we have to find a happy medium between the two, and that’s nice, too, because it works on the collaboration with everybody.”

Facilitating, growing, inspiring, accelerating… these are key words in our overall plan to put the "i" back into "MKE" through MiKE.  And you’ll find us at the intersection of Interface and Innovation.