Brennan Kane sees a strategic plan for economic development as being a roadmap for a community.
Kane, the city of Waupaca’s development director, presented a draft economic development plan to the Common Council on June 10.
“I’m receiving final comments now on it,” he said. “The draft will likely go before the council for consideration the end of July. We’re targeting the second council meeting in July.”
The proposed plan is the result of five sessions that council members attended over the past several months.
During those sessions, the council analyzed current economic data and trends, established an economic baseline and identified the city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Council members also brainstormed about achievable goals and outlined a five-year plan.
Kane also met individually with council members and with Mayor Brian Smith.
The general themes that came out of the process included the need for regular site visits, market analysis, workforce development, downtown signs, community development and tourism.
“One thing that came up was the need for a comprehensive market analysis,” Kane said.
Such an analysis would show what kinds of industrial, commercial and retails needs are in the community.
It would identify specific businesses to target, he said.
“On the business side, Waupaca County is known for agriculture, but there are different aspects of agriculture,” Kane said. “It begins to allow us to focus on who to target.”
He said 85 percent of business development in a community comes from existing businesses.
In regard to community development and tourism, Kane said there is a need for a more user friendly zoning code in Waupaca.
The workforce development discussion includes partnering with existing organizations in the city that already focus on workforce development and training, he said.
Kane said the last general theme about branding the community refers to developing a clear vision of what the community is and what direction it wants to go in the future.
The other aspect of that, he said, is about providing signage that directs people to Waupaca’s downtown.
The draft plan includes six goals, and each of those goals has specific action strategies that begin to identify how the city can achieve them.
• Maintain existing businesses and diversify the local economy.
• Develop a competitive and business friendly environment.
• Market developable land.
• Improve communication on initiatives.
• Strengthen partnerships with outside agencies.
• Increase the retail and service sector for a vibrant, livable downtown.
Kane said one of the key goals is to market developable land, which includes industrial, commercial and residential.
“A market analysis study is part of this,” he said.
Home ownership and neighborhood reinvestment programs could be part of that discussion.
Kane said there could be the opportunity to create grant or loan programs for facade improvements.
Improving communication includes being more transparent, and the goal related to downtown includes mixed use development for that area.
“One of the big things we’d like to do is reinstate the Main Street program or something similar,” he said.
He said a long-term goal is to create a Business Improvement District.
“Overall, I thought the process went well. The council was engaged,” Kane said. “You won’t see change overnight. People will see different components. I look at this as setting the foundation for the future.”