For the City Times
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has accepted 18 municipalities, including Wisconsin Rapids, into its Connect Communities Program, an initiative that works with communities to advance downtown and urban corridor revitalization efforts.
With the latest members, there are now 43 participants in the Connect Communities Program, which provides access to resources and training to help downtown organizations pursue revitalization and redevelopment efforts. Since the program was launched in January 2014, participating communities have reported adding 175 total new businesses and more than 500 jobs, as well as $30 million in private investment.
“We are proud that Wisconsin Rapids has been selected by the Connect Communities Program. This designation validates the vision shaped by years of local support – from the planning of civic leaders from years past down to our present day, to the interest and suggestions of everyday community residents.” said Mayor Zachary Vruwink in a memo. “With continued engagement from our citizens, our involvement with Connect Communities will help us to leverage the unique assets of our Downtown Riverbank district.”
The new Connect Communities participants are:
- City of Ashland (Ashland County)
- Village of Balsam Lake (Polk County)
- City of Boscobel (Grant County)
- Village of De Forest (Dane County)
- East Troy Economic Development Alliance (Walworth County)
- Village of Elkhart Lake (Sheboygan County)
- Hortonville Downtown Business Association (Outagamie County)
- Mainly Manitowoc (Manitowoc County)
- Main Street Mayville, Inc. (Dodge County)
- City of Muskego (Waukesha County)
- City of Neillsville (Clark County)
- City of New London (Outagamie/Waupaca counties)
- Prairie du Chien Downtown Revitalization Inc. (Crawford County)
- Greater Tomah Area Chamber of Commerce (Monroe County)
- City of Verona (Dane County)
- Walworth County Economic Development Alliance- Elkhorn (Walworth County)
- City of Waterloo (Jefferson County)
- City of Wisconsin Rapids (Wood County)
“In a little more than two years, the Connect Communities program has made an impact on dozens of downtown districts in every region of the state,” said Reed Hall, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “Downtown and urban commercial districts are an integral part of the overall economic vitality of communities of all sizes, and this program is just one way in which WEDC works closely with local downtown leaders to help them develop strategies for success.”
Connect Communities is designed to support and complement the Wisconsin Main Street Program, which has supported projects statewide resulting in the creation of more than 3,100 net new businesses and 7,200 net new jobs since the program’s inception in 1987.
Under the program, applicants had to explain the type of activities or assistance that they hope to undertake as part of the program, and identify a local team that will be responsible for carrying out activities and participating in program events and training.
Connect Communities participants benefit from a variety of assistance and resources simply by being part of a broad-based network of communities with similar objectives, but specific program services include:
- A ListServ/network group to get new ideas from staff and other participating Connect Communities
- Participation in Main Street workshops focused on revitalization topics
- An on-site visit from one of WEDC’s community development staff to assist in identifying needs and offering assistance
- Training for organization director or board president
- Roundtable discussion groups on pertinent topics
- Access to WEDC’s online library of best practices and white papers
- Access to resources and training materials developed for Wisconsin Main Street communities
- Quarterly webinars/regional training
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing Wisconsin’s business climate. WEDC nurtures business growth and job creation by providing resources, technical support and financial assistance to companies, partners and communities in Wisconsin. Visit www.inwisconsin.com to learn more.