BY KATIE MATTESON
This month has once again been a fascinating journey and yielded a diverse collection of stories about the Belle City we hope you’ll enjoy. It’s also been a whirlwind of excitement around here as our community embraces its incredible launch into the center of the universe. More about that later.
To get our bearings here on Earth, we took a trip this month to the Modine-Benstead Observatory and spent a couple hours with longtime Racine Astronomical Society members Brian Jensen and Mark Schmidt.
In our short time there, we got to see the moon up close, Jupiter with four of its moons and even Saturn with its trademark rings. We were on the observatory deck at dusk when the planets began to appear as points of light in the sky and it was so cool to have knowledgeable guides tell us what we were seeing in the night sky first with the naked eye and then through the telescope.
When you read the story about Sharon’s Cleaning Service landing a contract with Foxconn, you’ll get a sense of not only the transformational nature of our economic boom to our local small businesses, but also insight into the perseverance of our entrepreneurs. We’re also bursting with pride knowing that an ad in our magazine made the connection.
In the history department, Margo Drummond introduces us to Marshall M. Strong, Racine’s first attorney, in her new column entitled “A Racininan to Remember” while Jim Mercier presents the second in his two-part series, entitled “MADE IN RACINE: AUTOMOBILES.” Both stories are reminders we’ve been cultivating hardworking innovators here for a long time.
This theme carries through into our story about Multi Products Company, a second generation local company that’s been providing electric gearmotors to diverse industries for 60 years – part of Racine’s rich history that put us on the map as the electric motor capital of the world. Another aspect of the story is the dedication that co-owners Mark and Dawn Patzke have for their community.
Center of the Universe
So, what do I mean about the center of the universe? My point, albeit a bit verbose, is to celebrate the reality that the moon and stars are definitely aligned and the spotlight is on our wonderful community for all to see.
However, since there’s so much happening at the same time, you definitely need to work a bit to keep up. Luckily, there are a number of excellent resources to educate yourself.
As both Dave Blank from Real Racine and Kelly Kruse from Downtown Racine Corporation mentioned in their columns, downtown destination guru Roger Brooks was in town in June to present his findings from “secret shopping” in Racine, Burlington and Waterford. Dave and Kelly will give you a few highlights from his presentation, but you really need to invest the time to watch the videos. You can find links to them on realracine.com.
Another very worthwhile use of your time would be to watch the video of the Resilient Communities presentation held at Wingspread on July 17. The Johnson Foundation hosted leaders from Reno-Sparks, Nevada, who shared valuable insights about their economic boom. You’ll find the video on The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread’s Facebook page.
I’m also really excited about Downtown Racine Corporation’s recent designation as one of the newest Wisconsin Main Street communities.
Soon after the announcement, I met with DRC Executive Director Kelly Kruse to learn more about the program to share with you and also to educate myself about it since I agreed to serve as chair of the Main Street Committee with other DRC board members to help support the program.
So, what is a Main Street Community and how did we get to be one?
From the fact sheet provided by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, who administers the program: “The Wisconsin Main Street program was created in 1987, and is affiliated with the National Main Street Center. The program provides technical support and training for organizations dedicated to downtown or commercial corridor revitalization activities.”
DRC’s involvement began when Kelly attended a presentation about the program last August and once the board decided to move ahead with the application, she sent an Intent to Apply Form by Dec. 15, 2017. The full application was due by April 13.
The form required that Kelly gather very detailed information to meet the following criteria:organizational capability, private sector commitment, financial capacity, need, physical capacity and historic integrity
After the application was received and reviewed, Kelly and DRC board president Jim Venturini had to travel to Madison in May to answer questions from a panel of 10 judges. A week later they learned DRC had been approved for the program.
But they had to keep the news on the downlow until July 10, when Main Street Mayville and the Downtown Racine Corporation were officially designated as the state’s 33rd and 34th Main Street communities at a ceremony held on Monument Square.
Kelly is excited to learn more about the program when she begins attending training sessions this fall. She will also attend three state conferences each year, as well as the national conference in Seattle with all expenses paid by the program.
Kelly sent me a few comments after our conversation, which will give you a sense of the breadth and depth of the Main Street Program: “The resources that they provide will be invaluable to us. They take a very personalized approach to each community they work with. They will come to downtown Racine multiple times to really understand our urgent and long-term needs for assistance. Whether that be in the form of training, façade renderings, small business consultations, branding, historic preservation planning and/or event development is yet to be determined. It is a very exciting time for downtown and the timing couldn’t be better.”
It’s a very exciting time to live and work in the Belle City!