My wife and I lament the pitiable state of many building façades in downtown Madison. Too many of the storefronts have tacked up tacky plastic and metal signs over
The Lake Area Improvement Corporation mostly ignores downtown. They briefly touted, then cold-dropped a Main Street and More! program that achieved nothing. The LAIC is apparently too busy pouring money into insider deals for housing developments and its federally subsidized industrial park on the edge of town. The LAIC's only demonstrated interest in building downtown came in its involvement in the real-estate shell game that has led to big ICAP move, which is another example of Madison's reliance on government handouts and socialism.
If the LAIC can't be bothered to promote real downtown renovation and capitalist opportunities, maybe we can arouse their interest in a little virtual downtown renovation. Mike Knutson at the Rural Learning Center discovers a really cool economic development project undertaken by the smart people in Ord, Nebraska. Since 2007, the Ord Chamber of Commerce has offered its downtown businesses $5000 no-interest loans to put toward fixing up their storefronts. Now the Ord Chamber is expanding the acceptable use of those loans to support updating online storefronts.
The Ord Chamber explains the new program on their blog (their blog, Dwaine. Their blog.). The program doesn't rely on a big federal handout. It got rolling when a local bank applied for an won a $25,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka.
The LAIC loves signs and façades; our economic developers should be all over a project that makes our downtown look better on the street and online. How about we raise $25,000 for a physical and virtual storefront renovation loan program this way: For every dollar us regular folks contribute, the LAIC will match with a dollar taken out of LAIC exec's Dwaine Chapel's $100K-plus salary. We could redirect $12,500 from unaccountable salary to real Main Street improvements... and Chapel would still be one of the best-paid Brookings commuters in town.
p.s.: The Dakota Drug building, one of the best-located retail properties on Madison's main street, has been on the market for two months. $99,900 gets you two stories and 6800+ square feet of prime retail opportunity. As of this morning, the LAIC still has not added this choice property to its Available Properties webpage.