Vibrant Communities Spur Social, Economic Activity

Ribbon cutting at Pat's Foods in Hurley in June 2016

Ribbon cutting at Pat’s Foods in Hurley in June 2016

Those who work in community development know that when communities are able to mobilize people and resources, this inspires positive and substantive local development. Community development focuses on creating vibrant, sustainable and unique places—environments where people want to live and work, and which play a crucial role in helping communities attract and retain talent.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) understands that the success of Wisconsin’s communities is directly linked to quality services and infrastructure that support economic competitiveness. WEDC’s Community Development Investment (CDI) Grant Program is designed to help communities transform themselves by investing in these services and infrastructure, and establish a firm foundation for ongoing economic growth.

The CDI Program supports urban, small city and rural community redevelopment efforts by providing grants of up to $250,000 for shovel-ready projects, with emphasis on downtown community-driven efforts.

The success of a community development project provides a number of benefits for the public, including the creation and retention of jobs, increases to the local tax base and the creation of a strong commercial district to support independent and family owned businesses. In addition, vibrant downtown districts symbolize economic health, quality of life and a sense of community pride and history—all relevant factors in residential, industrial, commercial and professional recruitment.

In FY16, WEDC awarded $4.45 million in CDI grants to 18 communities for a wide array of projects that will boost economies and improve quality of life for the people who live and work in these towns. The grants included a $250,000 award to the City of Hurley to help open a grocery store and hardware store in a vacant, blighted building located in the city’s downtown. In June 2016, a Pat’s Foods store opened its doors on the site, providing a much-needed boost to the downtown and giving residents a full-service grocery store, which the city had been lacking for two years.

“Because of the funding from WEDC through the CDI Grant, this grocery store and hardware store will help attract and retain homeowners and businesses, bring jobs, and spur further economic development projects that will revitalize this area,” said Kelly Klein, coordinator for Iron County Development Zone.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, WEDC has made 58 CDI awards totaling more than $12 million. That investment by the state resulted in $194 million in capital investment and is ultimately expected to create nearly 1,600 jobs.

“Community development creates unique opportunities for economic growth and development throughout the state,” says WEDC Regional Economic Development Director Jason Scott. “WEDC is committed to investing in CDI projects to help improve the quality of life for those who live and work in those communities.”

Communities of all sizes understand that a healthy downtown is the key to a solid tax base, continued job growth and—perhaps most important—fostering a sense of place that will attract new businesses and skilled workers. WEDC is committed to keeping downtowns vibrant, recognizing the foundational role those downtowns play in economic growth throughout Wisconsin.