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The Downtown Racine Corporation was recognized Tuesday as one of Wisconsin’s newest Main Street communities by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). It joins a select group of communities that have demonstrated a sustained commitment to revitalizing their commercial districts, according to WEDC.

Also recognized on Tuesday was Mayville. Downtown Racine Corporation was established in 1984. They become the state’s 33rd and 34th Main Street communities, and the only organizations in Wisconsin to earn the designation in 2018.

The groups received the designation at separate events on Tuesday, which was proclaimed Wisconsin Main Street Day by Governor Scott Walker. As part of the day, state officials joined local leaders in eight communities around Wisconsin to highlight the important role downtown business districts play in economic development.

WEDC Secretary and CEO Mark R. Hogan was on hand for the announcement of Racine’s selection to the state’s Main Street program.

“We congratulate the organizations in Mayville and Racine for earning this designation, and thank the staff and the many volunteers and businesses that have helped make both downtown areas so successful,” Hogan said, who was on hand for the announcement in Racine. “The support and resources the groups will receive from the Wisconsin Main Street Program and WEDC’s downtown team will enable both organizations to build upon the many achievements that have led them to this point.”

The Downtown Racine Corporation also has many tools already in place that complement what the Wisconsin Main Street Program offers, the WEDC noted. It cited the city’s white box grant program, strong partnerships with the city and county level, and tax increment financing districts that support new development. The DRC also plans to work with WEDC staff to ensure that future downtown improvements are consistent with the state’s new heritage preservation plan.

Racine officials also say that the $10 billion Foxconn advanced manufacturing campus, which is now under construction in Racine County, also had an impact on their decision to pursue Main Street designation.

“As a newly designated Main Street program, Downtown Racine’s commitment to preservation and revitalization efforts will flourish,” said Downtown Racine Corp. executive director Kelly Kruse. “We are truly excited to be a part of a program that has a proven track record of developing and cultivating successful downtowns for over 30 years.”

Kruse said the application process for the Main Street program was no small task. DRC sent a letter of intent to apply late last year. That was followed with an application of nearly 100 pages, which Kruse said took several months to complete.

“We’ve got great momentum, but we can’t do it alone,” said DRC chairman Jim Venturini. “We want to thank the WEDC for recognizing our efforts, but also recognizing what is (planned for the future). We want (downtown) to be recognized as the place to shop, dine, live, be entertained and conduct business.”

In addition to Racine and Mayville, the Wisconsin Main Street Day tour included: Ashland (Ashland County); Hillsboro (Vernon County); Little Chute (Outagamie County); Menomonee Falls (Waukesha County); Platteville (Grant County); and Wisconsin Rapids (Wood County).

The Wisconsin Main Street Program, administered by WEDC, is a revitalization program designed to promote the historic and economic redevelopment of traditional business districts in Wisconsin.

After a thorough application and review process, WEDC selects communities to join the program, which is part of a nationwide program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. These communities receive technical support and training needed to ensure that their downtown districts continue to thrive as centers of community activity and commerce.

Communities selected to participate in the Wisconsin Main Street Program receive free technical assistance aimed at enabling them to professionally manage their downtown or historic commercial district to better compete with alternative commerce centers.

Since the program’s inception, WEDC notes that Wisconsin Main Street communities have created more than 2,600 net new businesses and nearly 14,000 net new jobs. They also have generated more than $1.7 billion in public and private investment since then, and are renovating more than 250 buildings per year.

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Rex Davenport

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.