In 2015, Cassville, Wisconsin, received some troubling news: due to two electric plant closings, approximately 60 local families faced job losses or relocation outside the region. Uncertainty hovered over Cassville. However, as a resilient river town on the Mississippi, Cassville regrouped and refocused on looking at the future of the community.
Several Community Leadership Alliance (CLA) graduates are helping to lead that renewed focus on community development in Cassville: Joe Ploessl, Peggy Rewey, Don Zahurance, Lon Spooner, and Chantel Hampton. The CLA graduates organized a series of preliminary planning meetings in downtown Cassville. The CLA graduates helped the community to begin prioritizing issues and soon identified the downtown as ready for redevelopment.
While still beginning, the well-attended meetings led to three new projects in Cassville: 1) a collaboration between Cassville High School students and faculty and graduate students and faculty at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture (Taliesin) in Spring Green, 2) a downtown redevelopment organization, and 3) a revolving loan fund dedicated to improvements in Cassville’s Downtown.
The Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SWWRPC) with Troy Maggied (CLA graduate) and Katrina Hecimovic, helped facilitate and lead the Taliesin Project—contributing significant time to helping assure the success of this project. The project directly involves Cassville High School students in an architectural revisualization of the Cassville community. Students, with excellent support by Superintendent John Luster and business teacher, Alisa Oswald, developed community logos, are working with Taliesin graduate students, and are doing community presentations about the project.
After careful assessment and research, Cassville CLA, business, and community leaders decided to explore creating a new organization to focus on implementing downtown revitalization projects in Cassville. Daniel Glass, area attorney and now a 2016 CLA participant, is providing legal guidance to assure proper setup and function of the new organization. While still forming, the organization provides leadership, structure, and resources for implementing innovative projects in the Cassville downtown.
The preliminary meetings identified a key gap: are funds available to implement downtown revitalization projects? After research and consultation by CLA graduates with regional communities, the new Cassville downtown organization will also manage a Cassville-specific revolving loan fund. The revolving loan fund will likely provide much-needed funds to downtown property owners and to downtown businesses to rehabilitate the downtown and continue to enhance downtown vitality.
CLA graduates continue to lead these initiatives. With assistance from the Cassville School District, the Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture School, the SWWRPC, the Village of Cassville, Cassville Economic Development, Daniel Glass, Attorney, Ed White with the Platteville Business Incubator, and the University of Wisconsin Extension, the emerging Cassville projects demonstrate how CLA training directly benefits communities. Rather than crisis, Cassville was able to start looking at solutions and at a revitalized future.