When Wisconsin businesses were hit by the pandemic, we knew we had to do the right thing and support their recovery. Our entrepreneurs are innovative and resilient, and with the right support from the state, they could overcome these challenges to not only survive, but thrive.
Today, the success of our small business programs can be seen across Wisconsin.
Starting in the summer of 2020, our “We’re All In” grant program invested in Wisconsin small businesses to help them get back on their feet by rehiring or retaining workers, keeping the lights on, or stocking their shelves. We also took steps to help the restaurant and lodging industry recover stronger than before. These investments alone directed over 125,000 grants to Wisconsin small businesses.
For our communities to grow, we also need to revitalize Main Street and help entrepreneurs open up new storefronts. That’s exactly what my Main Street Bounceback grant program has done all across Wisconsin. This program has delivered grants to nearly 3,000 small businesses who have opened new brick and mortar locations in downtown areas across the state—not only creating new jobs, but revitalizing downtown areas and priming economic growth for surrounding small businesses.
We’ve prioritized our small business recovery. I’m proud to say that, as a share of the federal aid our state has received, Wisconsin ranked second in the country for aid we’ve directed to economic development, and we ranked first in the country in aid we’ve allocated to businesses.
Terry Bauer, the executive director of Downtown Mainstreet, Inc., said “the catalyst for this downtown explosion of new entrepreneurship is the Governor’s bounce back program.”
Joel Fawcett, store manager of the Wisconsin Clothing Company in La Crosse, said that Gov. Evers’ Main Street Bounceback program has “helped a lot with getting the space together and being able to employ.”
Kevin Abercrombie, a small brewery owner in Waunakee, likened Gov. Evers’ Bounceback efforts to a “set of jumper cables, it kind of got the car going again.”
“The grant has been incredible,” said artist John Hopkins, who opened an art gallery in Washburn. “That is an engine of growth in a community that was essentially a drive-thru thru [sic] community. We have something wonderful here … Washburn is more than anyone ever thought of us.”
“We had a lot of vacant buildings, a lot of empty space (before the grants),” said Melissa Martinez, the executive director of the Washburn Area Chamber of Commerce. “It says a lot about our community that businesses are willing to open in such uncertain times.”
Gov. Evers’ Main Street Bounceback program has helped artist and photographer Jamey Penney-Ritter move her studio from her basement to a previously vacant commercial space. The Milwaukee Independent reported that the “Main Street Bounceback grant has allowed her to purchase new equipment for her business and prepay her rent.”
Gov. Evers’ Main Street Bounceback has helped bring a record-breaking 30 new small businesses to downtown Racine. Kelly Kruse, executive director of Downtown Racine Corp., said that small business owners “can cover rent with that, merchandise, whatever to get their feet on the ground (with) how fragile the first year of a small business can be. And then in addition, it’s filling up our Downtown.”
Kruse also said that this “grant will allow our downtown to become more dense and robust with businesses. It’s thrilling to have the dollar amount be significant enough to truly inspire small businesses to open that brick-and-mortar store they always dreamed of.”
Katie Anhalt, owner of the Twisted Thread in downtown Fond du Lac, said, “It’s fantastic. To have this support is wonderful, because it’s super scary to start something new. I really wanted to be here so this is wonderful that it’s happening. This is a dream come true.”
Dusty Weis, the founder of Podcamp Media, opened a new podcast studio in downtown Milwaukee with help from Gov. Evers’ Main Street Bounceback. “The renaissance taking place in downtown Milwaukee is something of which we’re proud to be a part,” said Weis.
Crystal Priebe, owner of The Sweet Tooth in Prairie du Chien, said that she’s grateful for Gov. Evers’ Main Street Bounceback program. “We’re very very grateful for them for the support and the help that they’ve given us because there was a couple of times that we ran out of funds so without them we would not be here and we’re very appreciative of them,” said Priebe.