By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Oct 04, 2018 at 1:03 PM

This week, Northwestern Mutual launched Cream City Labs, a collaborative innovation lab at the company’s Downtown headquarters that is open not only to employees, but also to students and teachers taking part in the company’s Data Science Institute.

The 17,000-square foot space at Van Buren and Mason Streets includes a collaborative team space, innovation events and training space, an interactive LCD wall, personal lockers and a makerspace with augmented reality, virtual reality, a 3-D printer and prototyping equipment.

There is also space dedicated to mentoring and design thinking, as well as for STEM programming, workshops, meetups and hackathons.

Oh, and there’s also shuffleboard, comfy couches and cold brew coffee.

According to NM, the goal of the lab is to "advance innovation, ideation and experimentation for employees and community partners, including local startups" and to "encourage new ways of thinking to deliver a leading digital experience for the company’s clients and financial advisors."

The company also has had a digital innovation program for nearly a decade that it says has generated more than $100 million in business value.

"Cream City Labs demonstrates our commitment to providing our employees with skills, opportunities and space to innovate and embrace an entrepreneurial mindset as we work to transform how people experience financial security," said Karl Gouverneur, vice president of digital workplace, corporate solutions and head of digital innovation at Northwestern Mutual.

"The lab enables our employees to connect with digital innovators and creative thinkers both within and outside of the organization, driving innovation forward both in our company and our community."

For more on the new lab, visit innovation.nm.com.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.