By Lauri Lee
Northside Economic Development Coalition
The Dane Buy Local Foundation, in coordination with the Northside Planning Council (NPC) and Northside Economic Development Coalition (NEDC), developed a Connect Northside bus tour held Thursday, Sept. 7. “Developers, business and economic leaders, and community members who chose to ‘get on the bus’ learned about Northside assets, economic development opportunities, and what makes the Northside a great location for businesses looking to start, expand or relocate to this community,” said NEDC Chair Lauri Lee.
The Northside tour started at Heritage Credit Union on Shopko Drive with a continental breakfast and brief program. The 20-plus participants boarded a commercial bus to take a two-hour guided tour of the Northside to hear about opportunities to contribute to the growth and prosperity of the Northside of Madison. The City Economic Development Division staff shared about Oscar Mayer, the Madison Public Market and the City of Madison’s Center for Industry and Commerce property. Developers spoke about their properties and representatives from the Dane County Regional Airport and Madison College gave updates on their community impact. Opportunities for minority-owned businesses were pointed out, as well as vacant property, retail and office space, and affordable housing.
The food innovation corridor that pulls together the many Northside food assets (FEED Kitchens, Northside Farmers Market, Willy Street Co-op, Community Groundworks), was highlighted. A tour of FEED Kitchens allowed the group to get off the bus to see the commercial kitchens in full use by FEED members, the FEED Bakery Training program and Healthy Food For All. “It was a great opportunity to bring this particular mix of community leaders in to FEED to witness the diversity of businesses, organizations and individuals that are hard at work there every day,” said NPC Executive Director Abha Thakkar. “I think it also highlighted some of the economic development opportunities for our local food system, such as the need for more food-grade storage.”
The Connect Northside bus tour provided a unique opportunity to directly experience the “Northside brand” and community vision. The campaign goal was to:
- provide a vision for future development of the Northside of Madison.
- Address underdevelopment and show economic development potential
- connect NEDC, NPC, Dane Buy Local and the City’s Economic Development Division with developers, as well as business and neighborhood leaders to help the Northside create a more thriving business community.
- promote racial and economic equity by identifying opportunities for multicultural businesses to participate in the revitalization of the Northside.
Dane Buy Local, located at 2801 International Lane, “helps strengthen the local economy where a dollar spent at a locally-owned, independent business returns three times more money to the local economy than one spent at a national chain,” said Executive Director Colin Murray. “The organization helps shape the distinct character of our community, revitalize our commercial district and create jobs through direct employment and use of local business service providers.”
The mission of the Northside Planning Council is to improve the quality of life and foster equity on the Northside through community organizing and economic development, dovetails nicely with the mission and goals of Dane Buy Local. NPC represents the 22,500 residents and businesses on the Northside and works with diverse community leaders.
The Connect Northside economic development bus tour was funded in part by the City of Madison Neighborhood Grant Program to bring awareness to the potential for growth to enhance the Northside business community in order to revitalize the commercial district as well as create jobs through direct employment and use of local business service providers. Sponsors included WWBIC, Heritage Credit Union and Communication Concepts.