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Municipalities' plans centering on businesses, residents
Creating and fostering a community that is appealing to both future businesses and residents is not easy with expanding technology, shrinking municipal budgets and worthy nearby competitors.
Area communities, however, are finding ways to compete with one another and work together to create places where people will visit, live and work.
Beloit started more than 25 years ago with a long-term plan to revitalize the city by partnering with local businesses and local government to put new life downtown, along the river and in other parts of the city.
A key component of the strategy to attract businesses in particular is the Gateway Business Park.
Affordable land that is move-in ready and locally controlled is key for when businesses come knocking, said Andrew Janke, Beloit's economic development coordinator.
"Without having that park available when those opportunities arise, clearly we wouldn't be able to compete ... You're not even in the game," Janke said.
Janke also stressed being proactive-predicting and creating new opportunities.
With limited budgets come limited tools, he said, so the idea is to work quickly and efficiently when it comes to prospective customers.
Much outreach is done through Rock County 5.0, which is a countywide economic development initiative, and regional partners to promote not only Beloit but also other communities and the fact that the communities together make a good environment for businesses and residents, Janke said.
As with other municipalities, having space ready for businesses to move in to or build on immediately is important for Edgerton, said Ramona Flanigan, Edgerton's city administrator.
The city competes with other communities by having a long-term strategic plan, using TIF districts and assisting businesses financially with programs to help make their business the best they can be.
Edgerton also sets itself apart by having easy accessibility to the Interstate, quality customer service and a website that keeps potential business owners, and residents, informed, Flanigan said.
City staff spends time and energy going out and talking with business owners to see how they're doing and what the city can do to help. That has, on top of the businesses' quality, contributed to companies' decisions to expand, Flanigan said.
"Those kinds of relationships I think are important," she said.
Online shopping isn't just for clothes or kitchen supplies. It's for summer vacations and business space, municipal representatives repeatedly said.
Having an up-to-date, informative and easy-to-master municipal website makes it easy for developers and tourists to find places that fit their needs, said Denise Pieroni, Delavan's city manager.
The city of Delavan launched visitdelavan.com last year as part of a larger marketing campaign to bring people to the city and expand its social media presence and advertising reach.
In Walworth County, where tourism is its crutch and all municipalities compete, a good website is critical to promote local attractions and small businesses, Pieroni said.
Besides using a website as a marketing tool, the city partners with businesses and real estate agents to attract consumers as well as business partners.
The expanding downtown is an example, Pieroni said.
"For a small community, it has, to me, a positive diversity in terms of our industrial base, a commercial base, historic downtown, and putting all those amenities together makes us a great lace to live, work and come visit," she said.
The city is also partnering with area businesses to promote community activities such as the mural paintings coming in June. Artists from the Walldogs project will use buildings as their canvases to paint murals across the city.
The city council has a three-pronged strategic plan to attract both residents and businesses, said Sandy Decker, Evansville's mayor.
It includes: providing quality of life for residents; maintaining and improving infrastructure; and focusing on good customer and resident services.
When combined, they attract residents who invest in the community or developers who eventually become residents, Decker said.
"We've seen a lot of small new businesses, and we often have seen people move into the community and then want to make an investment in the community," she said.
Over the years, the focus has been to improve the parks and restore the lakes. Evansville has added a disc golf course and bought 25 acres for soon-to-be expanded public sports facilities on the west side.