Strong Towns heads to Wisconsin

Chuck Marohn shares the Strong Towns message for audiences across the continent on a weekly basis during our busy seasons (spring and fall). In fact, he’s on the road right now. (Take a look at our event calendar to get an idea of the diverse range of towns and cities where Chuck will be speaking in the coming months and make sure to sign up for our email list to get notified when he’s speaking near you.) However, if you aren’t attending these events or tuning into our weekly update podcast where we discuss them, you probably don’t give them much thought.

The message of incremental growth and bottom-up action to build financially resilient places is applicable everywhere. We’ve hosted Curbside Chats in Burlington, Vermont; Vancouver, Canada; San Marcos, Texas and everywhere in between.

Below, you’ll get a taste of one of the many sorts of places where Chuck Marohn speaks—a rural region made up of agricultural communities, vibrant small towns and natural beauty, with plenty of challenges to address. Jason Duba, a Strong Towns member who’s organized this event in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, shares about some of the ways that he hopes the Strong Towns message will impact his community.

Strong Towns events in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

by Jason Duba

A Wisconsin dairy farm (Source: WCWRPW)

A Wisconsin dairy farm (Source: WCWRPW)

The West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (WCWRPW) is excited to host Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn in Eau Claire next week. The seven-county region that the WCWRPW serves is largely rural, consisting of thriving smaller communities and larger economic and cultural centers. From before settlers arrived to the present day, the Region has relied on agriculture and natural resources. More recently, universities and colleges, health care centers, newer industries, and Interstate Highway 94 have all impacted the Region.

The Region is experiencing challenges that Strong Towns, with its message of development that fosters financial strength and resiliency, can speak to:

  • Our aging population is changing the demands for housing and services.
  • Out-migration of many younger people has resulted in limited workforce numbers in some areas.
  • Increased service demands and aging infrastructure are making it increasingly difficult for local governments to meet expectations given budget limitations.
  • From 1990 to 2007, the Region lost 500,000 acres of assessed farmland, which is approximately 1/8th of the entire area of the Region.
  • Increased intergovernmental cooperation is needed to protect valued resources and plan for land uses in the urban-rural fringe areas.
Main Street, Barron, WI (Source: WCWRPW

Main Street, Barron, WI (Source: WCWRPW

Our 2010 West Central Wisconsin Comprehensive Plan envisions a future where local communities work “cooperatively and globally with strong social, physical, and economic linkages.” We want successful small towns where our rural character and resources are preserved.

Strong Towns complements this vision with many of its principles and approaches. We have recognized that at our agency and we are encouraged that so many others in our Region have, too. Attendees at our event come from each of our seven counties. They come from our largest city, Eau Claire: population 67,545, to our second-smallest village, Curtiss: population 209.

The diversity of conditions across our Region mean that a cookie-cutter approach will not work everywhere, but the scalable principles of Strong Towns can speak to larger municipalities trying to determine how to manage their growth and smaller communities striving to grow at all. The message that growth and prosperity start from within a financially-solvent community that collaborates with its citizens resonates from Rice Lake to Menomonie. The principle that a community’s prosperity is built and sustained on its land rings true from Osceola to Fall Creek. The concept that a transportation system is a means to create prosperity makes sense from New Richmond to Owen.

We are hopeful that the elected officials, government staff, local leaders, and active citizens who attend our events will help foster Strong Towns all across West Central Wisconsin, and in that effort, we look forward to working with them to achieve prosperity across the region.

(Top photo of Eau Claire by Michael Hicks)

Is your region facing challenges like this one? Is your community in need of fresh ideas for addressing its financial and development-related challenges? Maybe it's time to bring Strong Towns to the table. Visit this page to learn more.

Related stories