Shullsburg, a city of 1,200 in southwest Wisconsin, has been named the newest Wisconsin Main Street community.

Wisconsin’s downtowns and historic commercial districts are the centers of commerce, government, banking and social life for their communities. By preserving and revitalizing these traditional town centers, communities can distinguish themselves and set the table for economic development.

The prestigious Main Street 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.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which administers the Wisconsin Main Street Program, also recently announced the addition of 15 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 67.

The Wisconsin Main Street Program, affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center, launched in 1987 and now includes 34 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 is 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.

“Both of these programs make crucial contributions to the health and vibrancy of Wisconsin communities,” says WEDC Regional Economic Development Director Jason Scott. “A vibrant, thriving downtown area is crucial when it comes to fostering economic development in Wisconsin, and Shullsburg is one of dozens of communities we are working with to achieve that goal.”

In explaining its decision to name Shullsburg the newest Main Street community, WEDC noted that Shullsburg’s historic downtown was largely intact, signifying the city’s commitment to historic preservation. The Wisconsin Main Street Selection Committee was also impressed by the support expressed for downtown revitalization efforts by a broad cross-section of the community.

“Main Street of Shullsburg is truly honored to be named a Wisconsin Main Street community,” says Cory Ritterbusch, president of Advance Shullsburg. “We are eager to showcase the unique offerings that downtown Shullsburg has to offer, and we are confident that the resources that the Wisconsin Main Street Program offers will help us to continue to move forward.”