Originally published in the Post Messenger Recorder.
In 2017, the Village of Belleville and its partners conducted a market analysis to better understand how to drive economic development in the community. Results of the analysis have included increased interorganizational communications via the formation of a supercommittee, the development of a new branding strategy, and, most recently, the creation of a new administrative position dedicated to economic development and marketing.
With this new position, which was filled by Kyle A. Knott, a graduate student from Northern Illinois University’s top-ranked Master of Public Administration program, Belleville has been able to ramp up their economic development and marketing efforts and is now on the track to establish themselves as an up-and-coming community in the region. Projects the Village has planned for 2019 include the implementation of an improved economic development strategy, the redevelopment of their website, a revitalization plan for their downtown, a new student recreation plan, and the restoration of their train depot.
They are beginning their new economic development strategy with the development of a comprehensive business retention and expansion (BRE) program. BRE programs are cornerstones of great development programs. The Village and key regional leaders will be scheduling confidential meetings with local businesses to show them appreciation for being in the community, identify means to improve the area or their businesses by connecting them to regional resources, and understand the outlook of their businesses so they can begin preparing to facilitate any necessary developments.
The Village has already begun efforts to update their online presence by joining Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor last month. They will continue their initiatives by putting out a Request for Proposals (RFP) in the next four months to have their website redone, making it more user-friendly, visually appealing, and in accordance with their new branding efforts. Also, in addition to the redesign of their existing website, they will be developing a website dedicated to economic development. This will include an inventory of their available properties, information about new developments, and testimonials from local business leaders.
The downtown in Belleville is an important asset to the community. Located right next to Lake Belle View, it has great potential to be a wonderful central location for families, and next year the community is looking to capitalize more on that. The plans to revitalize the central district will begin with the implementation of new lighting, will move into the development of a more consistent theme, and will end with the development of a landscaping plan. Meanwhile, the Village hopes to attract new restaurants and services to the area by increasing their networking efforts in Madison.
The student recreation plan is being conducted in partnership with the Green County Development Corporation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s UniverCity program. Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will be analyzing Belleville’s maps, plans, and other resources to identify how the Village might create more to do for teenagers in the area, improve community health, and further sustainability. The project will be complete in December.
Lastly, Belleville’s Village Board just approved emergency funding to stabilize the train depot adjacent to the Badger State Trail. After the building is stabilized, Belleville will begin efforts to restore the building so its move-in ready for potential businesses interested in restoring the location. To fund the efforts, Belleville plans to take advantage of historic tax credits. They are already in talks with potential investors.