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.
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!