This past spring, Community Development Educator, Steve Chmielewski, and Community Business Development Specialist, Bill Ryan, engaged in discussion and diagnosis with the City of Waupun on challenges facing their downtown area. As a result, Waupun city leaders and UW-Extension staff identified key goals (i.e., explore buildings and spaces, determine how consumers are being served, and identify gaps and opportunities) and developed a Downtown Market Analysis in response to these challenges.
When launching the project, Waupun’s economic development staff further engaged with community and business leaders to provide a community-led approach by researching ways to increase business activity and create more reasons for residents and visitors to go downtown. The Waupun study group then brought in Steve and Bill to assist with education and technical assistance around downtown market research. This process builds on a recent visit, where they explored several blocks of the downtown, looking for evidence of complementary clusters of businesses, and examined the overall atmosphere of the downtown area.
Now, halfway through market analysis, the study group is actively gathering additional data, meeting with local business leaders, visiting comparison communities, and asking residents what they would like to see downtown. The study group plans to finish its work by the end of 2021.
The Community Economic Development program plays a central role in providing Wisconsin communities with the most current approaches to research in topics ranging from housing, business mix, placemaking, and many other aspects of creating a vital downtown. The Extension model is purely educational and research-oriented and designed for the community being served. Those communities prepared for this Extension program typically have a clear purpose in mind for the research and have a volunteer network eager to assist and learn about their community.