A sign is seen Monday at
the window of the Centrum building in downtown West Bend
indicating there is space available.
Ralph Chapoco/Daily News
West Bend officials are considering engaging college
students to address an issue with the vacant spaces in
Economic Development Manager Adam Gitter was tasked with
establishing a system for increasing the occupancy rates
for the downtown area, and after researching the issue
for the better half of a month, presented his findings
and potential solutions to members of the Business
Improvement District during the Feb. 6 meeting.
Gitter managed to find a database of the existing
businesses, per District President Mike Husar’s request,
but with a caveat.
“This is a list of all the businesses in the downtown
broken down by category,” Gitter said referring to a
spreadsheet displayed on the monitors. “The first thing
we need to do is to complete this downtown directory.
The last time this was updated was in 2010. It is very
out of date but that is the first step. An intern could
be utilized in this project.”
Simultaneously, staff would begin formulating a plan for
attracting businesses to the available spaces. To
accomplish that, Gitter referred to several initiatives
from state organizations such as the Wisconsin Economic
Development Corp., Commercial Association of Realtors
Gitter also referenced possible assistance from
“MPTC (Moraine Park Technical College), I started
working with them, and next semester they have an
advertising and social media class,” he said. “I am
formulating a plan with the class to talk through a
project. This doesn’t come at any cost and would be
completed in the fall semester.
Gitter’s final proposal was called The Commons, which is
an organization that collaborates with students
throughout southeastern Wisconsin and presents a project
for them to work on.
proposal would require an investment between $10,000 and
$15,000, and students from local colleges and high
schools would be invited to multi-hour session where
they work on a challenge presented by West Bend
officials, like filling vacant spaces in the downtown.
would the first instance the organization would consult
with a municipality for the project.
initiative began with a request from Husar as part of
the marketing proposal for downtown businesses. During
the January meeting, Diva Group member and business
owner Jeanne Renick, along with Anna Jensen from the
Downtown West Bend Association, presented an advertising
and marketing plan and petitioned members to subsidize
the venture for almost $20,000.
Board members countered and voted to approve almost
$10,000 to be used for promoting businesses and the
downtown area during 2018.
part of that January discussion, Husar instructed Gitter
to find avenues for increasing the number of retailers
to the downtown.
would also like, as part of that proposal, to ask Adam
to come up an idea that goes along with what I proposed,
of getting an inventory of buildings, of types of
businesses, and what kinds of costs we would be looking
at to do that,” Husar said.
goal was not only to attract retailers to the spaces,
but those that would complement the businesses that
existed. To accomplish that, Husar requested that Gitter
gather information about businesses that are in the area
and take account of the available spaces.
Staff and board members can use that information to
develop a marketing proposal to entice businesses to
locate to the downtown, hoping that will lead to a more
vibrant ambiance for that section of the city.
daughter is a sophomore in college, and she has
participated in a couple of these,” Board member Anthony
Jasen said. “I will tell you, the brilliance that comes
out of that is amazing, the creativity of the youth, so
five stars. That is amazing. That is a great concept. I
would love to do this.”
next step involves inviting organization representatives
to a discussion regarding the details.
don’t we schedule a time and get them up here to talk?”