MADISON- The villages of Eagle and Butler
were accepted to the Wisconsin Economic Development
Corporation’s Connect Communities Program earlier this
The program, created in 2013, is an
effort to redevelop downtown areas and communities
throughout the state.
Some specific programs available to the
communities in the program include training for the
downtown director or board president, roundtable
discussion groups, access to WEDC’s downtown development
online library, and access to WEDC’s Wisconsin Main
Street communities training materials.
The statewide communities also benefit
from networking with other similar villages or towns.
Areas with small or rural downtowns often look at
examples of what other communities have done with little
money or resources, but big ideas.
“We’ll be able to communicate with
others in the program; we won’t be so isolated,” said
Alli Chase, member of the Eagle Business Association.
The Connect Communities Program more than
doubled this year, its second full year in operation,
adding 22 communities to its existing 19.
Mark Maley, public information manager
for WECD, is confident that its existing resources will
be able to accommodate the increase in communities.
“It is our intent to continue to accept
up to 20 communities each year as we feel we have the
capacity to accommodate a larger program,” Maley said.
Hartland and Menomonee Falls were a part
of the first group accepted in the program.
“It has been a positive relationship,”
said David Cox, Hartland village administrator.
“Not only do we get the ability to go the
the various seminars, but it has also been useful for
connections,” Cox said.
Through WEDC’s program, Hartland
connected with students from the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee to work on downtown innovations. The
village and students are developing ideas to create a
river walk that connects with the Ice Age trail in the
officials plan development
Eagle officials are currently working on
a plan to renew the downtown square off Main Street. The
village planted new shrubbery and will update the gazebo
near the corner of Main and Grove streets.
Other future goals include developing a
shopping center at Main Street and Markham Road. The
officials also want to convert a mix of small business
and older residential dwellings in their downtown area
to have business uses on the first floor and residential
apartments on the second floor.
Eagle officials are also taking advantage
of the resources given to them by hosting a webinar in
the Alice Baker Library on July 16.
“This is a great opportunity for the
communities of Eagle,” said Eagle Village President
Richard Spurrell. “Having resources and expertise
available to help revitalize the downtown area will
benefit the whole community and its residents.”
Butler also is excited to be a part of
“Butler is looking forward to moving in a
positive direction,” said Susan Hesselgrave, member of
Building a Better Butler.
“(We are) bringing together the Chamber
of Commerce, local government, business owners and
residents in an effort to build the foundation for a
strong, vibrant, positive village,” said Hesselgrave.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to network
with WEDC and the other Connect Community participants
as we develop a program that will enhance our downtown
and increase the quality of life for our residents.”