Microsoft and the Green Bay Packers are launching a tech incubator near Lambeau Field in a $10 million partnership that is aimed at igniting innovation in an area that is not usually targeted by major, global companies.
For Microsoft, the project that was announced on Thursday is a part of an initiative that the company revealed last week in Fargo, North Dakota, to encourage technological advances and generate jobs in rural and small metropolitan regions.
“We are bringing to a smaller city the types of efforts that you tend to see today only in the larger cities in the world,” said Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft.
For the Packers, the aim is to encourage long-term economic growth to help make sure that Green Bay maintains its NFL franchise.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure that Green Bay is always going to be in an economic position to be able to sustain the Packers,” stated the team’s vice president and general counsel, Ed Policy.
Since November 1959, the Packers have sold out every game at Lambeau Field. However, with a population of around 105,000 people, Green Bay is the smallest city to have an NFL team. The current capacity of Lambeau Field is more than 81,400, making it one of the biggest NFL stadiums.
The incubator will be contained in a new, state-of-the-art building that is to be constructed in the Titletown District of Green Bay, just west of Lambeau Field. The development already includes a brewery, a hotel, and a sports medicine and orthopedics clinic. It also features a plaza and a park with playgrounds and a full-size football field that is open to the public.
The Packers and Microsoft are investing $5 million each over five years in the project, with the majority of that going to a venture capital fund to invest in various startups that work out of the new facility. Startups can get eighteen weeks to work in the space, where they will undergo mentoring and technical assistance to develop their ideas.
“Using the Packers’ brand kind of gives us a little bit of a beacon for all entrepreneurs to kind of look our way,” said Policy.
The new building will be paid by the Packers. The building is expected to cost between $8 million and $10 million, revealed Policy. The facility will include a laboratory for established businesses to send employees to develop new ideas.
“There is, in my opinion, perhaps no single organization that better unites the people of Wisconsin than the Green Bay Packers,” stated Smith, who went to middle school and high school in Appleton, around 30 miles (or 50 kilometers) southwest of Green Bay.
The initiative that Microsoft unveiled last week in North Dakota, called TechSpark, tackles an issue Smith wrote about in a blog after the presidential election in 2016 when he said that the results “registered a strong concern about the plight of those who feel left out and left behind.”
TechSpark, a multiyear, multimillion-dollar investment, is set to create jobs, expand rural broadband, and teach computer science to students, among other things. Smith has said that other projects will be started in Virginia, Texas, Wyoming, and Washington
Smith said that the Titletown venture is an opportunity to help fulfill “a huge amount of promise and potential” in the technology sector of Wisconsin.
“Wisconsin today has lots of successful businesses and lots of smart people. But it does not yet have a technology sector that is really working at scale,” said Smith.