Transforming unseen infrastructure into community assets


Too often, community enhancement conversations start with a conversation about elements that are perceived to be missing. For example, discussions might center on how to fund a new pool, splash pad, bike rack or parking lots—but seldom do these conversations include an assessment of the utility of existing infrastructure: How are the existing streetscape and built infrastructure performing? What is the potential for past investments to evolve and reflect current needs? Can we get more use out of these items before we add something new? It is all too easy to overlook the existing infrastructure, but as the examples below prove, examining it with fresh eyes can result in unexpected and impactful projects.

Fond du Lac’s Amy Hansen among first class of Main Street America™ Revitalization Professionals


Even after 10 years as executive director of Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership, Amy Hansen still found herself wondering if there was something else she could do to increase the breadth and depth of her downtown revitalization knowledge. As she tells it, the workshops and webinars offered through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC’s) Wisconsin Main Street Program do a good job of offering skills developed in a targeted area once a quarter, but Amy thought she lacked the “whole picture” knowledge of the many facets of historic commercial district revitalization.

Co-working has been a trendy topic the first spaces opened in 2010. For most of this time, the trend has been concentrated mostly in larger cities. The movement has continued to gain steam, with nearly 14,000 co-working spaces now operating worldwide, and about 2,500 new spaces per year being added. No longer just for high-tech workers, co-working spaces now come in a variety of forms – there are spaces that cater to artists, makers, remote workers, the self-employed professional and startups of all types.

As the number of downtown residents and pedestrians increases, the desire for pet friendly spaces has also grown. This has created a conflict in many communities, where downtown green space is at a premium, and not everyone agrees that pets are a welcome user group for these spaces. However, several trends point toward pet-friendly community policies as a potentially vital element of future downtown revitalization.

Nonprofit boards play a crucial role in the sustainability of organizations. They are expected to be forward thinkers, policy makers, and resource managers—yet board development, a vital component to successful boards, often happens as an afterthought. So just how should our organizations maximize their efforts to create engaged, passionate boards?

Whether a business begins when a husband-and-wife team goes into business together, or with a parent-child partnership, family-owned businesses often have close ties to the community and can be powerful advocates on behalf of the community. However, 70 percent of all privately owned businesses will change hands in the coming decade as Baby Boomers retire, and only one-third of family businesses successfully make this transition. Businesses can significantly improve their odds by undertaking three critical initiatives.