Mayor reflects on local economy after news of ShopKo’s closing

By Brianna Stubler

Jan. 25, 2019

A patron is seen walking into Shopko on Tuesday afternoon in West Bend. It was announced Shopko will be closing multiple locations, including the one in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

WEST BEND — Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said he thinks the local economy is doing well; despite news of ShopKo closing in West Bend, other new businesses show promise.

The company is closing almost four dozen stores, so West Bend is not the only location going out of business, reflecting a struggle within the company, not the city.

Residents shared their thoughts on what business they’d like to see replace ShopKo. Target, Costco and specialty grocery stores were popular responses, but the mayor said he doesn’t have any specific retailer in mind as a replacement.

Sadownikow said he knew of ShopKo’s corporate struggle but was not informed of the closing ahead of time. So far, no retailer has expressed interest in taking over the space. “The mid-large box retailers are, nationally, having a tough time navigating increased competition within the brick and mortar space as well as online shopping,” Sadownikow said. This type of turnover and transition is natural, he said, and while he does not like to see empty stores, he is confident in the local economy.

“While we do have some vacancies, in general, they are not vacant very long,” Sadownikow said. “I believe West Bend is well positioned to continue to be the central hub of regional economic activity.”

There are other available locations without interested buyers, including two stores on Washington Street. But the expansion of thriving businesses like Fleet Farm are positive indicators. Companies that have either broken ground or moved into a new space, including Meijer, West Bend Medical, Delta Defense, Russ Darrow, Froedtert and Morrie’s Auto, are also good signs to the mayor.

 “I am confident they would all speak highly of their approval process, the speed with which our staff responds and the business friendly atmosphere we have recently nurtured in West Bend,” he said. “Our staff ‘gets it.’” The great residents and high quality educational opportunities together make West Bend thrive, Sadownikow said. But the community support does not lead the market, he said — it is companies that react to opportunities within a community where they find a niche. It is then reasonable to believe that a strong local economy, like the mayor believes exists in West Bend, is a good indicator to potential businesses, that would be drawn to offer their products or services to residents.

“Historically in West Bend manufacturing, tourism and various service industries have driven the market,” Sadownikow said.

His job, along with other city government employees, is to assist in this process to the benefit of both the community and corporations.

“I believe our role is to operate at the speed of business, to facilitate requests and conversations when they arise and stand prepared to respond immediately to the needs of existing or prospective entities,” Sadownikow said. “West Bend helped facilitate several significant developments the past couple of years that validate our internal philosophies.”

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