Making a Key Connection: Taking Another Step on Our Downtown Redevelopment Journey

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We don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to downtown (re) development — but we can certainly learn from others.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that South Milwaukee — a partnership between the South Milwaukee Community & Business Association’s Project ReStore and the city — has been named a Connect Community by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

The WEDC announced the news today. The application is a result of the efforts we started about a year ago with Graef Consulting and Downtown Business Districts Inc. — work that included tours of several city centers in the region, to see what’s working, what isn’t, and what can be applied to South Milwaukee. A key finding: Partnerships can only help in delivering expertise and best practice sharing, and the Main Street/Connect Communities program is a great example of that.

Thanks to everyone on Project ReStore, led by chamber President Leah Manthey from Parkway Floral, and the city staff who helped put together this application. It was worthy investment of time and resources.

The press release is below. As I state …

“It’s an honor to be accepted into this program, and to partner with the SMCBA and local business owners on our downtown revitalization efforts. We’ve made strong progress already. Being a Connect Community will allow us to accelerate that work and help us on our journey to bringing new life to our city center.”

South Milwaukee Welcomed into State’s Downtown Revitalization Program

MADISON, WI. Aug. 21, 2017 – The South Milwaukee Community & Business Association (SMCBA), in partnership with the City of South Milwaukee, has been accepted into the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)’s Connect Communities Program, an initiative that works with communities to advance downtown and urban corridor revitalization efforts.

The SMCBA’s Project ReStore is one of six downtown organizations around the state added to the program this year, bringing the total number of participants to 61.

The Connect Communities Program, which was launched in 2013, provides access to resources and training to help communities pursue revitalization and redevelopment efforts. Participating communities have reported adding 274 net new businesses and more than 1,600 jobs, as well as $115 million in private investment, since the program’s inception.

“WEDC congratulates Project ReStore and the city for being accepted into this program,” said Mark Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “A vibrant downtown is key to the overall economic health of the community, and we applaud South Milwaukee for taking this step toward making its business district even stronger.”

“The numbers demonstrate that the Connect Communities Program is playing a vital role in helping spur downtown revitalization throughout Wisconsin,” said Barb LaMue, vice president of business and community development for WEDC. “We believe we will see that same level of success replicated in South Milwaukee as we work with local leaders to provide them with the guidance and assistance they need as they continue to strengthen downtown.”

“Being accepted into WEDC’s Connect Communities is a milestone that the team working on Project ReStore is proud to have passed,” said Leah Manthey, president of South Milwaukee Community & Business Association. “We believe that taking advantage of the benefits included in the Connect Communities program will guide us towards an economically viable future for downtown South Milwaukee. We are very excited to start working one-on-one with our new network of community leaders and revitalization professionals.”

Said South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks: “It’s an honor to be accepted into this program, and to partner with the SMCBA and local business owners on our downtown revitalization efforts. We’ve made strong progress already. Being a Connect Community will allow us to accelerate that work and help us on our journey to bringing new life to our city center.”

In addition to being able to engage with a broad-based network of communities with similar objectives, Connect Communities participants receive a variety of services and resources, including:

  • A ListServ/network group to get new ideas from staff and other participating Connect Communities
  • Participation in Main Street workshops focused on a downtown revitalization topic
  • An on-site visit from a member of WEDC’s community development staff to assist in identifying needs and offering assistance
  • Training for downtown director or board president
  • Roundtable discussion groups on pertinent topics
  • Access to WEDC’s downtown development online library
  • Access to resources and training materials developed for Wisconsin Main Street communities
  • Invitation to the annual Main Street Awards program, plus eligibility to nominate a project for a Connect Communities award
  • Quarterly webinars/regional training

In order to be admitted to the program, each applicant had to explain the type of activities or assistance they hope to undertake, and had to identify a local team that will carry out activities and participating in program events and training.

The program 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.

The other five new Connect Communities are: Arcadia, Kenosha Uptown, Kiel, Manitowish Waters, and Orfordville.

1 Comment

Filed under South Milwaukee

One response to “Making a Key Connection: Taking Another Step on Our Downtown Redevelopment Journey

  1. Bryan Lorentzen

    Good job Mr. Mayor and good job to all of the people who contributed to Project ReStore.

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