Menomonie, a city of 16,000 in western Wisconsin, has been named the newest Wisconsin Main Street community.

This prestigious designation brings with it an extensive package of services, including training an executive director for the local Main Street organization, assisting with a downtown market analysis, facilitating vision planning and work plan sessions, small business consultations, hands-on design assistance, and advanced training on specific topics such as marketing, business development, volunteer development and historic preservation.

In addition, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which administers the Wisconsin Main Street Program, also recently announced the addition of 20 new communities around the state to the Connect Communities Program. Through this program, communities benefit from technical assistance, networking and connection to resources for the development of their downtown districts. The new additions bring the total number of Connect Communities to 53.

The Wisconsin Main Street Program, affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center, launched in 1987 and now includes 35 active Main Street communities.

The Connect Communities Program was created in 2013 to provide communities with some of the same benefits with a lower bar to entry. Unlike Main Street communities, Connect Communities are not required to have a full-time executive director; reporting requirements and the application process are also less rigorous for Connect Communities than for Main Street. Part of the purpose of Connect Communities is to help downtown organizations prepare to apply for Main Street designation—which is the route Menomonie followed.

“Both of these programs make crucial contributions to the health and vibrancy of Wisconsin communities,” says WEDC Community Development Director Jason Scott. “Main Street communities have thriving downtowns and a proven commitment by public and private sector partners to work together to improve those downtown areas. Although Connect Communities may not be as far along in the downtown revitalization process, they have similar goals, and we applaud their commitment to preserving historic downtown districts.”

In explaining its decision to name Menomonie the newest Main Street community, WEDC noted that downtown revitalization efforts have already been under way in the community for 20 years. The community also benefits from the presence of a “young, energetic” board of directors for the downtown organization, and exhibits solid cooperation among local government, local businesses and the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

“Main Street of Menomonie is truly honored to be named a Wisconsin Main Street community,” says Brenna Long, executive director of the city’s Main Street organization. “We are excited to showcase the unique offerings that downtown Menomonie has to offer, and we are confident that the resources and technical support that the Wisconsin Main Street Program offers will help us to continue to move forward.”

(July 2015)