Milton accepted into downtown development program
MILTON—Milton's mayor hopes a state development program will help the city boost its downtown, but he said it's "no silver bullet."
Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has accepted Milton into Connect Communities, a program that supports cities to develop their downtowns.
Milton is one of 21 Wisconsin communities added to the initiative, a complement to the Wisconsin Main Street program.
“The cool things is that there is such a program in the first place,” Milton Mayor Brett Frazier said.
The program connects communities facing similar problems in local economic development and revitalization. The program provides access to training, networking, roundtable discussions, an on-site assessment, webinars and an invitation to the annual Main Street program, among other resources.
The most valuable benefit of the program is the exchange of insights on best practices, Frazier said.
“To be able to work together with other communities in similar situations will hopefully give us a leg up,” he said.
Since the beginning of the year, the city has emphasized developing the downtown, Frazier said. He pointed at creation of the Downtown Development Action Committee and the small business revolving loan fund as steps in the right direction.
The action committee is business owners and managers looking for ways to connect and develop Milton's two downtown districts—Goodrich Square and Merchant Row. Downtown has many attractive aspects, Frazier said, but the committee wants to make the rest of the area pedestrian accessible and tourist friendly.
The revolving loan fund encourages private investment by giving loans to small start-up or existing businesses.
But these steps won't fix all of Milton's downtown problems, Frazier said.
Compensating for business lost because of the Highway 26 bypass is going to be a long process, and there's no magic wand, Frazier said.
“There's a lot of things that are going to have to come together,” he said. “It's going to take entrepreneurs taking big risks to really start to build more businesses to get people to come back to Milton.”
The program will help the city maintain a thriving downtown, Frazier said.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. admitted all of this year's applicants to the Connect Communities program, which is in its second year.
Milton considered applying for the Wisconsin Main Street Program three years ago, but it wasn't the right fit at the time, Frazier said. State aid was being reduced and the city would have been required to hire a full-time director to be considered.