Downtown and Business District Economic Development


  • Market Analysis Toolbox provides research to support informed economic development decisions.  The toolbox provides downtown development leaders with proven techniques for conducting commercial district market studies.
  • Downtown Economics Topics offers ideas on how to create a vibrant downtown in a small city.  The publications analyze the benefits and difficulties of downtowns on topics ranging from coexisting with Big Box Stores to planning the optimal business mix.
  • Innovative Downtown Businesses provides examples of how businesses are attracting people back to the heart of the town.  These case studies are designed to provide local economic development leaders with innovative ideas for their planning efforts.
  • Downtown Storefront Improvements provides research, information, and analysis to help make decisions about whether or not to improve the appearance of a downtown building.  This guide aids in assessing the feasibility of projects based on the experiences of others.
  • Small-Town Downtown Forms are annual events that bring together business and community leaders working in communities of fewer than 1,500.  Forum participants to learn from each other through case studies, roundtables and discussion groups.
  • Extension Downtown Revitalization Educational Resources is a web-based inventory of U.S. Extension resources related to downtown revitalization.  It is intended for both educators and downtown professionals.
  • Downtown Research Reports provide information to help your community compare itself to other places in Wisconsin. Reports include an analysis of business mix, downtown employment, downtown residents, and more.


Has your small town found a creative use for a vacant building?

WEDC and UWEX are seeking your examples. WEDC  and UW-Extension, are working together to identify creative uses for vacant downtown buildings in small towns. The purpose of this project is to provide Wisconsin’s small communities with research and case studies highlighting different ways to meaningfully occupy vacant properties. They are looking for examples that showcase […]

5 Keys to Small Town Success

It’s About Resilience, Not Growth. A power point presentation for the Small Town Forums, 2015, by Gary Becker.

For downtowns, the future is now

Talk to anyone of a certain age — say 50 and older — about the downtowns in Wisconsin’s villages and small cities and the conversation is liable to turn nostalgic.
Whatever happened to the world of communities of 5,000 with three or four hardware and shoe stores, a couple of jewelry stores, drug stores with soda fountains, multiple grocery stores and even a few national or home-grown department stores?


Artistree Gallery Cooperative and Land O’Lakes Area Artisans, Inc. Land O’ Lakes, WI Wendy Powalisz, Kelly Haverkampf, Dayna Sarver             In 2007, the Land O’Lakes Chamber of Commerce Community Development Committee participated in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s (UWEX) First Impressions community exchange program with the town of Phelps.  First Impressions is […]

Downtown Storefront Improvements: Analyzing Return on Investment

A team from University of Wisconsin-Extension and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation examined 24 case studies of storefront improvement projects in Wisconsin over the past 15 years.  These case studies ranged from rural Wisconsin to urban metropolitan areas.  The types of capital improvements were just as vast, ranging from less than $2000 to well over $300,000. […]

An Analysis of Downtown Storefront Improvements

We invite you to delve into the latest report on state case studies taken from restaurants, retail stores, and personal and professional services. Business and property owners, as well as public sector officials, require sound research, information, and analysis when making decisions about improving the appearance of downtown buildings. This guide aids in assessing the […]