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The Commons and Church Mutual form partnership to develop Wisconsin workforce
Church Mutual donates $250,000

MILWAUKEE  (July 28, 2016) — The Commons and Church Mutual Insurance Company have formed a partnership to develop high-caliber talent for Wisconsin's workforce.

The Commons, a standing program since 2014, has partnered with more than 20 colleges and universities in southeast Wisconsin to augment campus learning with hands-on, project-based skills development. The Commons is a project of the Greater Milwaukee Committee's Innovation in Milwaukee initiative and Startup Milwaukee.

It already has been credited for its impact on talent retention in Wisconsin.

Ninety percent of the 300 students who have been in the program say they feel more connected to the professional community in southeast Wisconsin and more than 80 percent say they are more likely to seek jobs in Wisconsin as a result of their experience at The Commons.

With Church Mutual's support, leaders expect the program to strengthen and expand.

Church Mutual's top leader, Rich Poirier, is thrilled to help Wisconsin students get career ready.

"This program allows us to get students on the right path to a solid career," said Poirier, the company's president and CEO who is based in Merrill, Wisconsin. "This program can help produce qualified candidates to feed Wisconsin's workforce pipeline, help retain talent and define an entrepreneurial culture for central Wisconsin."

Church Mutual, the largest insurer of property and casualty in all denominations of religious organizations, also has bolstered its partnership with a $250,000 donation. The contribution will be dispersed over a four-year period beginning in 2016.

"We are incredibly grateful for the support of Rich and his team at Church Mutual," said Michael Hostad, co-founder of The Commons and executive director of Innovation in Milwaukee, an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. "His support shows us that The Commons is having a statewide impact when it comes to the development and retention of entrepreneurial talent in Wisconsin."

As a result of that noticeable impact, Church Mutual has partnered with the Wausau Chamber of Commerce and Northcentral Technical College in Wausau to form a program named The Branch, which serves Central Wisconsin in particular. Although The Branch serves a different geography, the team is consulting closely with The Commons to incorporate best practices and lessons learned. These programs are not in competition with each other, but rather work collaboratively to retain students in the state and provide excellent opportunities for local businesses.

NTC president Lori Weyers touts the benefits of the program that partners with eight colleges in central and northcentral Wisconsin.

"The Branch not only gives students an opportunity to explore innovation in a supportive, low-risk environment, it allows them to produce tangible pieces of work for their professional portfolios and an opportunity to launch their own companies," she said.

Program leaders say they look forward to the growth of the program.

"The successes we've seen in southeast Wisconsin through the efforts of The Commons can be applied throughout the state," said Commons co-founder and program director Joe Poeschl. "We are eager to support the work of The Branch and share a model that can have a regional economic and workforce impact across Wisconsin."

To enroll

The Commons is now accepting applications for its fall program, which will begin on Sept. 17, 2016. The program accepts applications from students at 23 colleges and universities in southeast Wisconsin. For more information and to apply for the fall program, visit

About the partners

The Commons is a regional entrepreneurial skills accelerator in collaboration with business and academia in southeast Wisconsin. The program partners with colleges and universities to augment campus learning with hands-on, project-based skills development that builds experience and develops the fundamental skills necessary to create successful new ventures or innovate within an existing company.

Church Mutual Insurance Company, founded in 1897, offers specialized insurance for religious organizations of all denominations, as well as schools, camps, denominational offices and senior living facilities. Church Mutual markets most lines of commercial property and liability insurance, including multi-peril, workers' compensation and commercial auto insurance. Church Mutual holds the following honors:

  • A.M. Best Company "A (Excellent)" rating
  • 2016 Ward's 50 Top Performing Property and Casualty Insurers
  • BenchmarkPortal Top 10 National Customer Service Center

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For media inquiries, contact Amy Kimmes, marketing communication consultant, at 715-539-4529 or

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Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. (a stock insurer)
P.O. Box 357 | 3000 Schuster Lane | Merrill, WI 54452-0357
Telephone (800) 554-2642 or (715) 536-5577

© 2022 Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. All rights reserved. Protecting the Greater Good is a registered trademark of Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I.

Church Mutual is a stock insurer whose policyholders are members of the parent mutual holding company formed on 1/1/20. S.I. = a stock insurer.