Located within the Upland District, the Gays Mills Community Commerce Building is comprised of the Kickapoo Culinary Center, Village Office, Gays Mills Public Library and an extraordinary meeting space overlooking a stunning pond and bluffs, which is home to an impressive array of wildlife.
The purpose of constructing this building was to assist getting important services out of the way of potential flooding and to provide a way to develop the local economy. Through the support of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency, the facility is intended to attract and host larger groups within the area and develop food-related enterprises. The idea is to create new products and organize new events.
What does this mean to you? With the success of the plans for the Community Commerce Center, your local businesses will have more activity and your local services are enhanced. When that happens, more people will want to make this very special place called Gays Mills both their home and their place of business. Your local school will do well as enrollment is maintained, your taxes will stay low with moderate growth, and all ages will have more opportunities to be active, healthy, and connected with one another.
Behind the scenes, you may not see the efforts of Brad Niemcek volunteering to make the Kickapoo Culinary Center a success. However, Brad’s efforts and those of the Gays Mills Economic Development Association will translate into new businesses launched, as well as the bills paid and more money flowing into the community to help develop Gays Mills. You won’t necessarily see me working to connect activity and business to others that are interested in locating into the town, but that is what I am working on. My goal is to somehow connect and develop what exists with what could be—to work with everyone to help make Gays Mills a vibrant, connected, interesting place to be for all ages, and all types of stakeholders.
The Gays Mills Community Commerce Center is not quite completed. The details to finish it are being put in place by the efforts of Olympic Builders, the general contractor. I can sincerely compliment the contractor for working very well with the village through the challenges of a tight budget, as well as the strains and challenges of public funding. Still, we have created something with ‘good bones’ for the long haul, a structure that is well built to conserve on energy and a mechanical system that is highlighted by using renewable energy such as a geo-thermal heating and cooling system. This will keep operational costs low and lessen the impact upon this beautiful environment.
The goal to build as we go forward with a conscious effort is sustainability. It will become the hallmark of Gays Mills, part of a growing commitment within the Kickapoo Valley and within this southwest Wisconsin region to live more lightly upon the land.
Eventually, the Historic River District and the Upland District will be connected. A sidewalk following along Highway 131 will help all ages take that walk. The stunning proposed trail that needs development and support will run from the dam all the way to the Community Commerce Center via a connecting boardwalk. From there, it will run to the northern edge of Gays Mills. Eventually, it will reach North Crawford Schools and Soldiers Grove. When completed, the trail will offer a beautiful and healthy way to stay connected to the Kickapoo River—and to each other.
As for me, this village has become a new home for me in a number of ways. I am working to help all of Gays Mills get to the next stage—far beyond flood recovery to find a way to economic and community sustainability. It has been a challenge, but one worth pursuing. The next stage is upon us—and I believe it looks good.
Julia Henley was hired to serve as Gays Mills Flood Recovery Coordinator by the village board in September of 2009 at the suggestion of the village’s Long Range Planning Committee. The position was initially funded for one year through a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Service. Henley continues to serve in the position, which has been re-funded through another grant.