Celebrating Downtown revitalization efforts, Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown coming to Wisconsin Rapids and volunteers and sponsors needed for innovative STEM Scouts program

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Celebrating Downtown revitalization efforts, Wisconsin Rapids to host Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown and New, Innovative STEM Scouts program launches here

Celebrating Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for State downtown redevelopment program

I continue to be inspired and energized with our progress. To celebrate the latest phase in our Downtown redevelopment process, citizens and local public officials gathered this past Wednesday at Wood County Courthouse for a formal announcement and information-sharing session on Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Connect Communities program.

IMG_2157Naleeta Burr, our community account manager for Economic and Community Development for the State of Wisconsin, discussed how Connect Communities will help us to leverage the unique assets of our Downtown district, by providing access to resources and networking opportunities to assist and enhance our revitalization efforts. Program services include: on-site assistance to identify needs and offer assistance; multiple online and face-to-face training and networking opportunities; and access to resources and materials developed for Wisconsin Main Street communities.

Following the brief presentation, Burr joined us for a walking tour that highlighted recent private investments in our Downtown, featuring stops at Whiskey Rapids, the Flat Iron Building, 340 West Grand’s new residential lofts and Karen’s Wine & Stein.IMG_2197

During her presentation, Burr pointed out that while the State can assist communities in their revitalization efforts, the local communities themselves must take the lead. She listed eight guiding principles for successful downtown redevelopment:
• Comprehensive – an ongoing series of initiatives is vital;
• Incremental – small projects make a big difference;
IMG_2191• Self-Help – only local leadership can breed long-term success;
• Public-Private Partnership;
• Identify and Capitalize on Existing Assets;
• Quality – from storefront design, to promotion, to special events;
• Change – in community attitudes and habits; and
• Action Oriented – frequent, visible changes in the downtown’s “look” and “feel.”

Recognizing that a vibrant Downtown area is key to reigniting the Wisconsin Rapids community, local residents, government leaders, business people and nonprofit organizations have all helped to drive a strategic plan of action that acknowledges decades of past business and residential planning and redevelopment efforts, while incorporating current private investments and City property sales transactions in the waterfront district. I am pleased and proud that our community’s collaborative efforts have been recognized by the State of Wisconsin.

By acknowledging how downtown’s and historic commercial districts play an important role in community prosperity, the Connect Communities program reinforces our own local vision of how the Downtown waterfront district can serve as a commercial-residential-recreational-historical centerpiece.

Wisconsin Rapids to host State summit on downtown revitalization

Our community’s progress toward achieving our vision of a vibrant and prosperous Downtown district will be on full display, Wednesday-Thursday, October 21-22. That’s when Wisconsin Rapids has the honor of hosting the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown, the 2015 Summit on Downtown Revitalization, at Hotel Mead.

“Destination Downtown” celebrates innovative ways to strengthen and grow downtown areas – many of which we have incorporated right here in Wisconsin Rapids, including: quality-of-life initiatives (Supermass Redesign), collaborative action (Tribune Building)  and entrepreneurship / private investment.

150701_WRB_Public_Meeting_1_Boards_Page_8The summit will feature inspiring speakers; enlightening panel and public engagement on topics such as master planning, public arts, tourism and market expansion; and best practices and resources from Wisconsin and beyond. Economic development professionals; local and state elected officials; small business owners; and arts, business and civic leaders will be on hand.

The Summit kicks off on Wednesday night with a special tour of Glacial Lake Cranberries, one of central Wisconsin’s oldest cranberry marshes; and a reception at Karen’s Wine and Stein in downtown Wisconsin Rapids.

I encourage everyone who is interested in the health and well being of our Downtown district to attend. Not often do we get to play host and this opportunity is sure not be missed! For more information and to register, go to www.wisconsindowntown.org.

Volunteers and sponsors needed for innovative STEM Scouts program

I am thrilled to share exciting news about an innovative program from the Boy Scouts of America that will be available to youth in our community, beginning now.

STEM Scouts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is a new coed pilot program designed to focus on the exciting opportunities for youth in science, technology, engineering and math. Through weekly meetings and four-to six-week modules covering a variety of disciplines, STEM Scouts will show youth how to apply STEM in their everyday lives and encourage them to develop these experiences into future careers.

After a resounding response to the original pilot program by Scouts, leaders, parents and school officials in Knoxville, Tennessee, STEM Scouts selected the Samoset Council, our local Council as one of just 12 more councils in the nation to participate in the expanded program.

I strongly urge adults who have a STEM background to sign up as volunteers to help mentor STEM Scouts, lead special labs and host field trips. Plenty of volunteer positions are available for adults without STEM experience, as well. To make your mark, please email stemscouts@samoset.org, or give Amanda Flannery a call at 715-409-6690.

Sponsorship opportunities also are available for local clubs, parent organizations, businesses and other organizations. Some of the Wisconsin Rapids organizations already involved include Verso Corporation, Renaissance Learning, Mead Charter School, Lincoln High School and Woodside Elementary School. For more information, check out the STEM Scouts website at www.stemscouts.org/Weston.

Let us, as a community, give our utmost support to this unique program and help our area’s youth expand their interests and career potential!

Have a great day and thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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