By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — The Joint Finance Committee approved the Wisconsin budget on Tuesday, and while this doesn’t include funding for the renovation of the former Tribune building, those within Incourage are not deterred in the slightest.
“Now is not the time to look in the rear-view mirror,” said Incourage Board Chair Kristopher Gasch. “I think of all of the work that has gone into this project; and I think about the residents that have stepped forward and taken so much ownership of this project — we’re just the ones that are there to make the gears move underneath and keep all of that going forward.”
Inclusion of a State Building Commission grant that would heavily fund the Tribune project may have fallen short, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to Incourage CEO Kelly Ryan. According to Ryan, there have been many items that will be included in the budget, including the $4 million investment into Alexander Field, that is hopeful to lead to community economic growth.
“We’re really pleased that our legislators; Representative Krug, and Senator Testin, were both supportive of the Tribune project,” said Ryan. “They were also supportive of other investments in our region, including, most notably, the $4 million dollars for Alexander Field.”
State Building Commission funding is a highly competitive process in which local area businesses and residents responded by making their case as to why Wisconsin Rapids deserves a large amount of financial investment. This includes over 150 residents and 35 businesses and organizations that put in time and effort over the last 11 months into contacting local area and state legislators.
“We didn’t get the outcome we were hoping for with the allocation of the state budget, but this doesn’t mean that this process isn’t without any successes,” said Gasch. “It’s about more than the building — it’s about the process, too, and it has certainly gone leaps and bounds to put central Wisconsin and the needs of this part of the state on the radar with elected officials and others in Madison.”
As pointed out in Representative Scott Krug’s statement on the building, there is more than one funding mechanism aside from the state budget to put towards the project. According to Ryan, Krug is working on a package for central Wisconsin that will include more sources of funding for the Tribune building.
Regardless, the mood remains optimistic for those working in Incourage and the Tribune project. Citing first-time connections with legislators and elected officials, Gasch and Ryan see this as a catalyst for future growth of the project, and could create even more opportunities for local residents to get involved in the project’s progress going forward.
“If I engage in something I believe in, I can make a difference,” said Ryan. “That is really the underlying premise of the Tribune building itself — community-driven residents that see that if in fact they do engage, they can make a difference.”
The next Tribune Building Project meeting has been set for Sept. 12. For more information on the meeting and how to attend, please check out Next Tribune Building Project Meeting Set