Each year, WEDC honors the hard work, dedication and countless hours that go into revitalizing and promoting Wisconsin’s Main Streets and downtowns. Wisconsin Main Street Program leaders and volunteers from across the state came together virtually through dozens of socially distanced “watch parties” on April 21 for the annual Wisconsin Main Street Awards, which celebrate success stories in business and community development, historic preservation and downtown revitalization.
During fiscal year 2020, despite suffering one of the most dramatic economic declines in recent history, Wisconsin Main Street communities were responsible for the creation of an estimated 245 net new jobs and 71 net new businesses in the state. More than 30,000 volunteer hours were dedicated to improving the quality of life in communities around the state. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every Main Street community provided some type of cooperative marketing, financial incentives, or resources to help businesses and residents.
“All across the state, those involved in the Wisconsin Main Street Program demonstrate the innovative ways businesses are adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mary Gage, vice president of business and community development at WEDC. “The Main Street Awards ceremony celebrates the hard work, vision and dedication of those who are working tirelessly behind the scenes each day to preserve and promote Wisconsin’s Main Streets and communities.”
Despite the pandemic, downtown business districts across the state continued to see economic growth. During calendar year 2020, 114 new businesses were started and six expanded, resulting in 67 net new businesses and 136 net new employees across Main Street communities. In the small village of Tigerton (pop. 780), Graham’s Sweet Shoppe, a new ice cream parlor, opened in the first new building built downtown in decades. Watertown had an underutilized train depot transformed into a beautiful auto showroom. Overall, Wisconsin communities didn’t let the pandemic dampen their spirit or their passion for their downtowns.
Since the program’s inception in 1987, Wisconsin Main Street community projects have resulted in the creation of more than 2,800 new businesses and more than 15,000 net new jobs. In addition, more than $2.1 billion in public and private investment has occurred in Wisconsin Main Street communities.
Also represented at today’s virtual event were members of WEDC’s Connect Communities Program, a companion program to Wisconsin Main Street created in 2013 to provide access to resources and training to help communities pursue revitalization and redevelopment efforts. Over the years, 115 participating communities have added 455 net new businesses, welcomed more than 1,773 net new jobs and attracted more than $2.8 billion in public and private investment.
View the recording of the Wisconsin Main Street Awards ceremony here.
View a full list of the 2020 Main Street Awards winners.