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Financial Partnership Boosts Local Business
By: DAVID HENKE, Staff Writer Northfield News
NORTHFIELD â€” Robert Palmquist was looking for investors to help expand SpeechGear, his small, local business. The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation was looking for innovative businesses with products â€œahead of the curve.â€
The two found a perfect match in each other.
Under a working partnership established earlier this summer, SMIF is loaning SpeechGear $175,000, and investing roughly $25,000 in capital in the small business, which produces digital language translation software.
The partnership is a substantial boon to SpeechGear, said SpeechGear President and CEO Palmquist. The business, Palmquist said, is currently looking to expand its software into four new markets: the biomedical field, retail stores, banking and the K-12 educational setting. Last year, SpeechGear was awarded a contract to create a portable language translation device for the United States Army â€” a contract that is still in limbo, after routing error sent its funding to another branch of the Army.
In the meantime, Palmquist said, the partnership will help SpeechGear pick up the slack. With the funding, Palmquist hopes to fund field trials of his products in each of his four, target consumer settings. Additionally, Palmquist's partnership with SMIF should help him network with biomedical companies in the region, since SMIF has established relationships with major biomedical organizations, like the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Palmquist said.
â€œThis is money that we can use to go after those much larger spaces,â€ Palmquist said. â€œGetting this seed money is a huge benefit to us.â€
â€œWhen we see businesses that are very intriguing, with a lot of market potential, we take an interest,â€ said Tim Penny, the President and CEO of SMIF. â€œWe are in a world economy, and SpeechGear's product is something that has utility in many, many sectors.â€