Frank talk about Cedarburg business climate
Mayor’s panel discusses pros and cons of running a business in the city

By Denise Seyfer - News Graphic Staff

June 10, 2014

Business owners, developers, economic development officials and county representatives were among those who attended a Cedarburg mayor’s forum last week on doing business in the city.
Photo by Denise Seyfer

CEDARBURG — If running a business isn’t challenging enough, navigating through Cedarburg’s various committees and commission may prove more difficult and discourage businesses from setting up shop in the city, at least according to many who participated in a business forum in Cedarburg last week.

But Mayor Kip Kinzel, who hosted the roundtable discussion of city business leaders at the Cedarburg Cultural Center last Thursday, has offered his support.

When Kinzel took office in 2012, he streamlined the number of committees, making it easier for businesses to work deal with the city processes. In addition, the city launched a new website for residents, visitors and businesses to reference.

“I wanted to give our committees more purpose, more topic they could delve into,” Kinzel said, "helping items move quicker.”

He noted the residential development, which is on an “uptick,” he said, “about $15 million of new development has hit the books.”

Kip Kinzel
Photo by Denise Seyfer

The city offers financial options to help businesses secure funds.

The Revolving Loan Fund was established in conjunction with the county. Currently the funds help three businesses and $600,000 available although it is tied to job growth.

The city offers a business loan program through Port Washington State Bank. Nine businesses have used those funds, ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. The maximum annual allotment is $350,000, which is frequently reached.

Ryan Olsen, owner of Piggly Wiggly, started the panel discussion by addressing the challenges of owning a business in Cedarburg. The city should try to be more aggressive in attracting business, he said.

“There’s this bad rap (coming) from outside businesses … not wanting to deal with the process of going through the landmarks commission and the common council,” Olsen said. “I hope long term we are able to bridge that gap and those commissions are able to embrace businesses a little more openly.”

Kathleen Schilling
Photo by Denise Seyfer

Jim and Karen Lillie, owners of Lillies and Weeds, commented on the unavailability and inconvenience of parking, along with the lack of public restrooms and signage. Karen, specifically, mentioned the ill placement of the visitors’ center, lack of benches and bike racks.

“People come in the counter all the time to ask for information,” she said.  “Even if you direct them to the visitors’ center, it’s out the walking path so they miss all that.”

Jim Lillie expressed people underestimate what the historic downtown brings in dollarwise, and the money tends to stay in the town.

Jerry Edquist, president of Carlson Tool, praised the city for its upkeep of the historic downtown.

“What’s good about Cedarburg from a business standpoint, we bring customers in here every week,” he said. “They’re staying overnight and (eat in) restaurants. It’s the look and appeal of the community. They enjoy their time here and it’s a pleasant place to bring them.”

One objective of the city staff and the economic development board, Kinzel said, was to develop the land on Cardinal Avenue and Pioneer Road – a south-end business district, which serves as a gateway to Cedarburg's business district. The city remains optimistic to gain other businesses in that location.

Mary Sheffield
Photo by Denise Seyfer

Mary Sheffield, the city of Cedarburg’s economic coordinator, pledged to attract and to retain businesses. She helps interested owners find space, loans and navigate the various commissions.

“(I want) to help businesses with their marketing and with the (reworking) of their business plan … on a free basis,” Sheffield said.

2011 - 30 businesses opened - 18 closed
2012 - 28 businesses opened - 6 closed
2013 - 14 businesses opened - 7 closed
2014 to present - 8 businesses opened - 7 closed.

Denise Seyfer can be reached at dseyfer@conleynet.com.