Welcome to Revitalizing Wisconsin’s Downtowns – through E-Learning and Networking

By downtowns

This program is a cooperative effort between the Wisconsin Department of Commerce’s “Wisconsin Main Street” program, the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council, and two units in the University of Wisconsin-Extension: Center for Community and Economic Development and Local Government Center. The goal: deliver distance education (primarily as webinars) throughout the state to assist local municipalities in developing their downtowns, while also building networking opportunities among participants.

You are now at the discussion blog for the series. For more detailed information about the program and registration, be sure to visit the website, lgc.uwex.edu/downtowns.


October 20th Webinar

The 2011 Revitalizing Wisconsin’s Downtowns Webinar Series returns after the summer hiatus with the October 20th session entitled ” Attracting and Developing Small Downtown Industries“.  The session will be aired live from the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s 2011 Wisconsin Conference on Downtown Revitalization


Here is a brief  summary the session:

Small industries have always been an important part of downtown economies, providing downtowns with a built-in supply of customers and boosting building occupancy. With the internet putting a global customer base within the reach of small businesses, the time couldn’t be better for expanding downtowns’ small industrial base. This session will explore examples of districts throughout the country that are successfully attracting small industries and expanding existing ones.

Reminder that the October session will begin at 10:10 am, and not 8:00am like the previous two 2011 webinar sessions.




Answers to the “Downtown Retail Recruitment” June 9th, 2011 Webinar Questions

Thanks to all who attended the June 9th, 2011 webinar “Downtown Retail Recruitment” with presenters Elaine Kroening, Executive Director of Positively Pewaukee and Beth Nicols, Executive Director of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21.

Due to the limited amount of time of the webinar, we were unfortunately unable to answer all questions from the county hosts.  Below are the responses from the Executive Directors to those questions.

Beth Nicols, Executive Director of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21

Elaine Kroening, Executive Director of Positively Pewaukee


1. In regard to the pop-up shops in downtown Milwaukee, how do you market to retailers? Does Milwaukee Downtown offer any incentives to retailers?

Free rent for three months, a marketing campaign and advertising throughout the holiday season.  Also see attached press release form at the end of the entry.

2. What is Pewaukee’s relationship to neighboring communities, competitive or cooperative?

The relationships we have with our neighboring communities is very good.  We are actually working on a grant with Waukesha for our Farmers Market together.  I would like to see our relationships grow; I think regional tourism would be a great thing for us in Lake Country.

3. Grants vs Loans? Do “grants” reduce future motivations by others? Should the grants not be available? Why should I put money in if others have just received funds through grants?

Grants allow us to launch catalytic projects which elevate visibility for the initiative.  It rewards those who choose to be pioneers in the effort.  We evaluated the potential of loans but in talking with others who have experimented with loans they have indicated that loans require a lot more ongoing administrative work.  Please note this does not mean we are NOT fans of loan programs we just do not have the staffing capacity to administer them.  We still promote the loan programs through the City and the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation. 

 I can’t speak for other communities that “give away” money through grants.  Our façade program is a loan program and everyone who owns a business building in our downtown has the same opportunity to use the funds.

4. How do you encourage property owners to fill vacant space with not just any business that can pay rent, but with businesses that match the profile, needs and ‘sense’ of the downtown.  How can they get ‘diversity’ instead of just one more consignment shop?

It’s tough and we try to get all of our property owners on board.  It will always be a challenge especially if they can sign a long term lease and know that their rent will be guaranteed regardless of the level of the tenant.  We really try to be in front of those kinds of deals and utilize peer pressure when we can.

That is a hard answer to say.  The biggest problem we have is a business opening and we don’t know about it.  A perfect example is before I could speak to the building owner about an opening he had, he had rented it out to a business we did not need in our downtown (already have four).  I have tried to work with all our building owners, but some are more stubborn than others.

Communication is the key to this problem.  If you share your plans with others and try to get them to buy into the plans it seems to help, but you will always have owners that don’t care and just want to rent out their space to the first person who comes in.  Share the vision and hope they become part of it.

5. How do you excite comfortable retailers and comfortable/complacent landlords?

With ongoing information and motivation – we have regular retail meet-ups to get our existing retailers fired up and we regularly share data and reports on the significance of our retail initiative and pour progress.  W build our base one believer at a time and the domino effect has been very dynamic.

Encourage them to become part of the things you are doing.  We are always trying new retail events and trying to get people involved who have not been in the past.  One thing we are trying this year is having block captains.  They are either board members or volunteers who are assigned businesses and they check in with them once a month or so to make sure everything is ok and to try to get them to become more involved. 

Also as your city/village officials to take a more hands-on approach with building owners that might not be keeping up with things.  Sometimes it just takes the right person to sit down and talk with them to help them see the light!


Milwaukee Pop-up Retail Attachmentpage 2

County Leakage Data

Here is a link to the trade analysis data for Wisconsin Counties courtesy of Steven C. Deller, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, that was mentioned in the April 15th, 2011 Buy Local Campaigns Webinar.

An Updated Trade Analysis of Wisconsin Counties for 2009

Placemaking 101

What is placemaking? How can communities evaluate the success of their public spaces?

These questions and more are answered by the Project for Public Spaces at its Placemaking 101 website . Check out the site and learn about tools that your community can use to improve its public spaces.

Help make Ripon one of the Coolest Small Towns in America

Ripon, WI is currently in 6th place in the Coolest Small Town in America competition with 5,590 votes, but Newtown Borough, PA is close behind in 7th place with 5,554. Please keep voting and help them climb back into the top 5!!

To participate in the contest, go to the Budget Travel website and click on the Ripon star located in the center of the Wisconsin map. You can vote once every 5 hours until the poll closes on February 11, 2011.

The top winners will be featured in the September 2011 issue of Budget Travel magazine which would create national exposure for Ripon.

Vote often and help make Ripon the Coolest Small Town in America!!

Working Downtown – Webinar discusses importance of nurturing downtown as a place of employment

During the September 9, 2010 webinar, Beth Nicols, CEO of the Downtown Milwaukee BID#21 discussed how Downtown Milwaukee has become a great place to work.  The BID has elevated Downtown Milwaukee’s image among business leaders and employees, an effort that ties in with business retention and recruitment efforts.

If you attended, share with us your ideas to make your downtown a dynamic center for employment.

Proposals are needed for 2011 Main Streets Conference Sessions

Are you attending the 2011 National Main Streets Conference May 22-25, 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa?  Have you had successes with a historic downtown revitalization project?  Or maybe you have ideas or expertise you’d like to share with a group of conferees?  Then you should consider presenting a session of your own!

If you’re interested in getting involved with a session then visit the website, the deadline for submissions  is September 20, 2010.

Join the 2010 This Place Matters Community Challenge

Could your downtown benefit from bringing people, leaders, and preservation-minded folks together to express what places really matter to them? If so, then consider taking the This Place Matters Community Challenge. This campaign, sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, aims to help non-profit preservation organizations raise awareness and mobilize people and to start a conversation about what matters in your community – along with the chance to win a $25,000 cash award!

For more details visit the website and be sure to register your support by September 15.

Webinar on downtown retail management

The International Downtown Association (IDA) and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) have joined efforts to offer a unique opportunity for participants to interact with the General Services Administration (GSA). GSA manages federal space in more than 9,600 buildings across the nation.

This event will focus on how GSA manages its extensive amount of properties and ways that your community can engage the government in its work. Topics include sustainable site selection, public space management, BID contracts, and more.

The webinar is on Tuesday, September 14 at 3pm ET. Visit the website to get more information and register.