Florence Welcomed into State's Downtown Revitalization Program

July 7, 2016

Wendy Gehlhoff

press release

The Town of Florence 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. Florence is one of 15 communities around the state that have been added to the program this year, bringing the total number of participants to 67.

The Connect Communities Program, which was launched in January of 2013, provides access to resources and training to help communities pursue revitalization and redevelopment efforts. In its first two years, participating communities have reported adding 175 net new businesses and more than 550 jobs, as well as $30 million in private investment.

“WEDC congratulates the Town of Florence for being accepted into this program,” said Mark Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “A vibrant downtown is key to the overall economic health of the community, and we applaud the Town of Florence for taking this step toward making its business district even stronger.”
“We have high hopes for the success of the all new Connect Communities members,” added WEDC Regional Economic 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.”

“Due to the efforts of a number of organizations and individuals, downtown Florence has undergone many positive changes over the last 10 years,” stated Wendy Gehlhoff, Florence County Economic Development Director. “Those changes were identified in 2007 as needed projects from a First Impressions sister city evaluation.” “We are excited to begin this state-guided Connect Community program in order to help us identify the next steps to grow and improve our downtown business district for both residents and visitors.”

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. Specific program services include:
•A ListServ group to get new ideas from staff and participating Connect Communities
•Participation in Main Street workshops focused on a downtown revitalization topic
•An on-site visit from 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 cities
•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 be responsible for carrying out activities and participating in program events and training. If you would like to volunteer to be part of this new Downtown Redevelopment effort, please call or email Wendy Gehlhoff 715-528-3294 or wgehlhoff@co.florence.wi.us.

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