It’s just business. Or is it?
It’s often much more than that. Businesses help build cities. They put food on the table. They work with local governments to find solutions to community problems, either with a product or service. And they all stem from a single thought put into action.
In Lodi and Poynette, chambers of commerce and local government officials are teaming up to bring more business into each community. They’ve also been asking themselves – what makes Lodi, Lodi? Or what makes Poynette, Poynette?
In Lodi, Tegan Krueger, Lodi & Lake Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce president and Julie Ostrander, director of administration for the city, both said some exciting projects are underway. In Poynette, Luke Walz, Poynette Auto Body owner and Poynette Chamber of Commerce president and Martin Shanks, village administrator said they are also working on long-term economic initiatives.
“The village (of Poynette) adopted its comprehensive plan in January 2017 and identified a few areas (to prioritize economically) – the downtown, the Highway 51 corridor and single-family housing,” Shanks said. “Single-family housing seems to keep rising to the top when the board discusses economic priorities.”
While no immediate projects are in the works, Shanks and Walz are working to build a residential base in Poynette – attract more people to the community first, so business and industry can follow suit.
Walz said the more the community focuses on its status as a “bedroom community,” the more residents might also start businesses in the area and be successful. He also said that depends on the $63 million Poynette School District facility study, and the possible fall referendum, since moving families look at schools in small-towns more than anything else.
But with more referendums failing than passing in the last few decades, Walz said development in particular has been an “uphill battle in Poynette.”
But they might just win that battle, as Walz said that he and Shanks sit on an unofficial committee coined as “Promote Poynette.” District Administrator Matthew Shappell is also on the committee, with other city officials, business owners and chamber members.
“It’s a way for us to… get to the nuts and bolts of things,” Walz said.
Walz said Poynette has a way to go, but good plans take time.
Shanks said if he were to promote Poynette to prospective business-owners and residents, he would talk about the area’s trails and parks.
“When people talk about living here, that’s one of the key quality of life factors,” Shanks said.
Walz would put an emphasis on the nature aspect of the village as well as its charm as a small town.
“You have the ability to converse with people on a regular basis because it’s… neighborly enough that you have those relationships,” Walz said.
Lodi goes local
Ostrander said the city of Lodi is spreading the word about a business stimulation program – a Revolving Loan Fund.
It’s a fund designated to make direct business loans. Businesses have to invest a comparable portion of funds that the city has loaned them, she said, whether they need to use their own funds or borrow the similar amount of capital from another organization. The Revolving Loan Fund doesn’t pay for a business’s full project but provides as a supplement.
“It is an opportunity to get a low interest loan for a portion of a project that you might have,” Ostrander said. “It could even just be business beautification… It needs to be something that’s going entice people to come into Lodi.”
Poynette businesses can utilize a similar revolving loan fund out of the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation.
But it doesn’t stop there for Lodi, as the city and Lodi chamber have teamed up to promote the revolving loan fund and other programs with an up and coming website. Ostrander said she has been meeting with Krueger to get the message out there.
Krueger said the Lodi chamber has also put together a shopping local campaign – not only to entice residents to shop downtown, but to encourage small-business owners to fill Main Street building spaces.
The chamber website is “undergoing major cyber surgery,” Krueger said to include information about the campaign, links to real estate offers and more. She said the campaign has a logo and comes with a pledge to shop local “instead of driving out of Lodi.”
Krueger said the next step for the campaign is, once grant money is available, targeting what types of businesses to go after – finding Lodi’s niche – and developing pamphlets and folders about the Lodi market – tax information, utilities, etc.
“We have some real support from the city right now and we are creating a really nice partnership,” Krueger said.
Ostrander and Kruger said Lodi has town charm, a good school system and many outdoor amenities.