Many small, rural city businesses throughout the Midwest are having a tough time surviving in these hard economic times.
For years, business owners in these cities have seen area residents trek to one or more major metropolitan areas for their shopping.
Several Manawa business owners are trying to reverse that trend.
Several months ago, these Manawa business owners and City Hall began discussing ways to reverse the trend and find ways encourage local spending.
“In the beginning, we had to air some frustrations and once that was done, we looked at a number of different issues having a direct impact on business development in town,” said Leslie Stamborski, owner of Tools & Treasures. “We soon realized that what affects us most had more to do with increasing communication and to find ways to promote our local assets.”
The group is known as the Manawa Business Revitalization Group. The business owners include: Stamborski, John Smith (Manawa Steakhouse), Tim Trull (Lindsay Bed & Breakfast), Lori Ferg (The Flower Pot), Steve Levezow (Steve & Michelle’s Midtown) and Matt Beyer (Keglers Bowling Alley).
“When it came right down to it we’re all in this together,” Smith said. “Right away we realized this wasn’t about how to make more money or economic survival – it was about re-uniting the community; connecting to the long-lost community spirit that used to thrive here years ago. Chief Dave Walker facilitated our meetings and kept us focused and moving forward.”
Smith added that from the outset Chief Walker got the group to think more positively about the city of Manawa. For example, high gas prices are often thought of as nothing more than detrimental. The Revitalization Group saw high gas prices as an opportunity to get residents to shop closer to town.
“One way to do that is to create more local attractions like a Saturday morning Marketplace,” Smith said. “It’s also a way for the businesses to support one another.”
Smith added, “One of our goals is to influence local residents to get into a ritual, so to speak, where you come here to Manawa on Saturday mornings to find fresh, locally grown produce and other items, have breakfast or enjoy some snacks and coffee, plus be encouraged to visit and shop at the local downtown businesses. At the same time, you’ll be saving on your gas bill by not having to drive out of town to do your shopping. You’ll also support and contribute toward your local community; something everyone needs.”
Over the course of several weeks, the Manawa Business Revitalization Group discussed local and regional economic development, local media and advertising methods. It also discussed farmer markets in other cities and ongoing initiatives headed by Waupaca County Economic Development.
“We invited David Thiel to update us on the Regional Tourism Project, which will eventually be of great benefit throughout the county,” Trull said. “David was a great source of inspiration to the group. We also touched upon the larger picture – things such as career opportunities for our high school graduates. The group discussed the dilemma of Wisconsin manufacturers who want to hire people, but with the shortage of “skilled workers” and specialty manufacturing positions, vacancies are going unfilled. We need to provide local alternatives to the traditional college path. There’s a definite lack of “career paths” for young people interested in the trades or skilled manufacturing field.”
Thiel gave the group an overview of the “School to Work” program, a successful student and manufacturing partnership active at Walker Forge in Clintonville. The Revitalization Group would like to explore installing the program in Manawa at one or more major businesses.
Thiel also discussed farmers markets.
The Revitalization Group held its first Marketplace on Saturday, June 2. The Manawa Marketplace will be held each Saturday through October, except the Saturday of the Mid-Western Rodeo.
Those interested in setting up at the Manawa Marketplace should contact Taren Reddmann at 920-596-3576 or stop in at Tools & Treasures and speak with Stamborski.