WATERLOO -- The city of Waterloo has been accepted into the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation's Connect Communities Program, an initiative that works with communities to advance downtown and urban corridor revitalization efforts.
Waterloo is one of 18 communities around the state that have been added to the program this year, bringing the total number of participants to 52.
The Connect Communities Program, which was launched in January 2014, provides access to resources and training to help communities pursue revitalization and redevelopment efforts. Since its inception, participating communities have reported adding 175 net new businesses and more than 500 jobs, as well as $30 million in private investment.
"The WEDC congratulates the city of Waterloo for being accepted into this program," said Reed Hall, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). "A vibrant downtown is key to the overall economic health of the community and we applaud Waterloo for taking this step toward making its business district even stronger."
"We have high hopes for the success of the new Connect Communities members", added WEDC Community Development Director Jason Scott. "We have heard from communities around the state that this program has provided them with the guidance and assistance they need as they continue to strengthen their downtowns."
The chairman of the Waterloo Community Development Authority, Michael Strasser added, "The Waterloo Community Development Authority intends to partner with the state through the Connect Communities program to learn best practices for our historic downtown. Participation means we have access to more tools for arriving at the right recipe for future action. WEDC staff has learned from over 35 years of downtown development experience, that our success here in Waterloo will be directly proportional to the level of participation of interested property owners, citizens and merchants. This initiative is intended to be a citizen driven opportunity to strengthen our downtown. Success means we will harness the creativity and determination of our citizens. Success will be measured in years not months."
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 a downtown revitalization topic.
-- An on-site visit from one 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.
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.