Port Washington boasts a proud legacy as a fishing capital, but when iconic Smith Bros. Fish Market closed in 2006, a large downtown building became vacant. The downtown’s other large property was also vacant, and retail turnover increased when the recession began. Community leaders took action to ensure the downtown remained a thriving city center.
The city applied for and secured Wisconsin Main Street status in 2008. This status, along with the work of community leaders and collaboration from local businesses, led to the successful revitalization of Port Washington’s downtown. Area employer Franklin Energy moved downtown in 2011, and rugged work clothes manufacturer Duluth Trading Co. moved into the former fish market in 2012. These two businesses added nearly 90 employees to the downtown. Duluth Trading has reported strong sales, and other downtown shops have noted increased foot traffic.
After a historic paper mill in downtown Neenah closed in 2006, the 16-acre site was in danger of becoming an eyesore that lowered property values and hindered economic development.