Western Wisconsin Towns Bet On Downtowns As Draws

Experts Say Improving Business Districts Can Boost Rural Economies

Downtown Marshfield. Jeff the quiet (CC-BY-SA)

Small towns in western Wisconsin are looking for new ways to improve their local economies. According to experts, this growth hinges on making rural downtowns a destination.

Towns like Marshfield and Sparta say cosmetic improvements to their downtown districts have lead to new growth in their local economies. By refinishing historic storefronts or simply adding landscaping, these small towns are attracting new business from both residents and visitors.

And more rural towns are looking to do the same. Steve Peterson, the economic development coordinator for Monroe County, said the biggest challenge is making development possible for every community.

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“I’ve got some villages that have like three stores and that’s it,” Peterson said. “Well how do you grow something like that? Well you’re going to have to be a destination. You’re going to have to find a niche that somebody’s going to want to get in their car and drive to you.”

Peterson said locally-made products and agricultural tourism are two of the biggest contributors to a renewed interest in small towns in his area.

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