Another Step Forward For An Even Better Superior

After securing crucial support from one of my Republican colleagues, Senator Terry Moulton, the Better City Superior project took a significant step toward making an innovative vision for our communities a reality. Senator Moulton and I formally introduced a bill this week with a bi-partisan list of co-sponsors to enable Superior, and Eau Claire, to move forward with a plan to allow these two cities to make use of an economic development tool currently available only to the City of Milwaukee.

Overwhelmingly supported by Douglas County voters just over a year ago, this plan would allow both Superior and Eau Claire to establish Exposition Districts to spur economic growth, attract new businesses and tourism and add to the job opportunities for local residents.  

We are all aware of the enormous commitment the state made to another development in Southeast Wisconsin last fall. Our proposal for Northwestern Wisconsin will allow the people of our communities to tap into the tremendous tourism and business potential of the area to both spur and support economic development.  Under the bill, a district created by the City of Superior or the City of Eau Claire may collect a .5 percent food and beverage tax, and may collect a room tax at a maximum rate of 2 percent.

Those resources would support development projects that increase visitors and spending in the city, like stadiums, convention centers and movie theaters. Importantly, our bill also gives voters the ultimate say because the exposition district can only be created if approved by a referendum on either the spring or fall general election ballot. 

After the overwhelming support the Better City Superior Initiative received in 2016 (nearly 80% support in a high-turnout election) Rep. Nick Milroy and I pledged to reach across the aisle and craft separate legislation if the proposal was not included in the state budget. With Sen. Moulton, Sen. Vinehout and Representatives Warren Petryk, Kathy Bernier and Dana Wachs as co-authors, we are working in the traditions of Northern cooperation to bring resources and opportunities home.

By engaging Eau Claire in the discussion, we were able to craft a bill to allow two key communities in Northern Wisconsin to use the Exposition District model in ways that make sense for our part of the state. It’s time for Northern Wisconsin to have the same opportunities as Southeast Wisconsin.  (And yes, those of us lucky enough to call the North home know that Eau Claire isn’t really that far north, but many of our colleagues in Madison believe it is.)

We start the New Year with an opportunity to reward the hard work of business leaders, economic development experts and citizens in Douglas County. Formed out of a commitment to a bright and prosperous future for Superior, this grass roots coalition has shown unparalleled commitment to the Northwestern gateway to our great state.  The tireless work and effective advocacy of community leaders brought this coalition together and Rep. Milroy and I will do everything we can to make this vision a reality for Superior.