Community Planning: Growth off the beaten path

Jason Valerius, AICP | with 0 Comments

Community Planning: Growth off the beaten path

Planners work to understand the challenges communities face and develop sustainable, implementable plans to guide them in overcoming those hurdles. Below is an excerpt from our Rural Work Force Development in the 21st Century white paper. The case study concentrates on the City of Westby, Wisconsin and their growth, despite the community’s location off the beaten path. 

The City of Westby is located in Southwest Wisconsin, about a 30-minute drive from the nearest freeway (I-90) and also that far from a metropolitan area (City of La Crosse, population 52,000). Home to about 2,250 people, the City population has increased by more than 20% since 1990. While modest by some standards, this growth runs counter to the trend for rural America, which has been shrinking due to migration and smaller families.
Westby’s success has multiple storylines. The community is known for its Scandinavian heritage, which it celebrates with a three-day event each May known as Syttende Mai, featuring cookouts, a parade, a troll hunt, and more (Google it!). The City also attracts visitors and generates excitement with the Snowflake Ski Jumping Tournament. Founded in 1922, the Snowflake Ski Club offers a 118-meter Olympic-sized hill, to which it attracts national and international competitors.
The pillars of the business community are co-ops – organized by and for the benefit of consumers in the area. Examples include Westby Co-op Credit Union, a financial institution that now boasts nine branches across the region, and Accelerated Genetics, a company that has supported livestock breeders across the region for nearly 75 years. The City is also home to two other agricultural co-ops, and it manages its own water and electrical needs through the locally-owned Westby Utilities. Consistent with this cooperative habit, the City has an active and involved Chamber of Commerce.
These are likely the keys to the City’s success in attracting and retaining residents – celebrations of cultural heritage that make the place interesting and unique, and a cooperative spirit that drives involvement in community affairs.
Economic development plans and downtown revitalization plans work in tandem with rural workforce development plans.  Read more case studies in this free white paper download on how other communities are succeeding.
 For more information on community planning, contact MSA’s Jason Valerius.

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