In 1982, a small group of business, professional and community leaders formed the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council to address the serious problems plaguing the state’s downtowns. Once the hub and heart of their communities, by the early 1980’s Wisconsin downtowns were deteriorating. Commercial districts, no longer the center of commerce, were becoming wastelands of vacant stores and shabby buildings. Something had to be done.
Dedicated individuals organized workshops and seminars, where state and national experts would advise communities on how to market, manage and revitalize their downtowns. WDAC was instrumental in spearheading legislation to create Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), one important factor in Wisconsin’s success stories: today there are over sixty BIDs in Wisconsin, managing and rebuilding downtowns.
Along with state legislators, WDAC was also a key player in the development of the Wisconsin Main Street Program, an initiative providing technical assistance to downtowns. This is one of the most successful state programs in the country, with currently assisting more than thirty communities.
WDAC is also an avid supporter of the Smart Growth initiative. Effective and sensible community planning can lead to revitalization of downtown areas. WDAC champions downtown as a key component of smart growth; provides a toolbox for local/regional comprehensive planning and helps communities develop a quality downtown plan; educates developers on the benefits of downtown; works to identify and remove barriers to downtown development; and coordinates with other organizations to promote smart growth for downtowns.
WDAC continues to evolve, aided recently by strategic planning with UW-Extension. We have re-evaluated who we are, who we serve and our capacity for providing assistance. We are confident in our mission and we look forward to putting our plans into action. We invite you to join us!