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Economic Development looks to grow county through new website
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SHULLSBURG – The Lafayette County Economic Development Committee (EDC) met on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at The Burg in Shullsburg. The committee meets in different Lafayette County cities every month with the idea to promote economic development.
    The committee discussed the inadequate Lafayette County website and a dire need to update or replace the website. A letter was penned by the Economic Development Committee and the Lafayette Development Corporation (LDC) and will be presented to the Lafayette County Board.
    The letter stated that the new website should be mobile user friendly and search engine optimized, meaning it will attract tourists, business owners, site selectors. The website should benefit the county in terms of tourism impact by displaying the multiple tourism friendly events the county has. This will include interactive maps of attractions such as the ATV/UTV trails, restaurants, taverns, etc. It should show what business properties are available and map them.
    Bob Jones, Executive Director of the Lafayette Development Corporation and Vice President of Prosperity Southwest Wisconsin, pointed out the current website is lacking. Jones said, “The current website is not attracting tourists and business owners. Site selectors are not going to find Lafayette County and our tourist sales reflect that. There is no tourist function on it. We can do better.”
    Bob Boyle, committee and county board member, said, “I think there is a correlation between the amount of new business you have and a successful website – and that applies to tourism also. We’re trying to get a level playing field, with other counties.” Jones said, “If someone wants to bring a business to Lafayette County, we don’t tell them what business parks are available in the county, what commercial buildings are available, basically we don’t tell them anything – except to go somewhere else.”
    Abby Haas, Lafayette County Economic Development Coordinator, said “I think most county board members think we need a new website, but we have to pay for it. We have to show what level of priority it is, in the county.” The cost of the new website is estimated to cost between $20,000 and $40,000. The lifespan of the website is expected to be around five years. Haas pointed out, “We already have $10,000 budgeted for the 2018 budget.”
    The committee believes the new website will be the face of Lafayette County to the outside world and feels the benefit to the county are numerous. The committee is asking the county board for funding of the undertaking in the 2018 budget.
Revolving loan fund
    It seems there are issues with the revolving loan fund (RLF) that the EDC manages and maintains.  The attorney who administrates the fund has not been returning emails or phone calls from the EDC. The committee thinks there is a need for a new attorney. It puts the EDC in a bad position because the attorney has the files of all correspondence. Committee members that know the attorney will contact him. Filing with the state needs to be done in Nov., 2017. The RLF committee hasn’t met in two years. It was thought it needs to be disbanded and a new committee created.
    Other items:
    •Priorities: Broadband infrastructure (grants are going to be very competitive, we can’t depend on them); strategic planning; website; marketing of the county; tourism; revolving loan re-organization; LDC operations; business retention and expansion; business attraction efforts and partner networking.
    •Finances for EDC - should have a surplus of $9,400 at the end of the year.
    •Townships meeting was discussed. We were well received and good connections were made. Broadband was discussed at length.
    •The proposed new fairgrounds - Haas and Jones had a meeting with Joe Wedig and Steve Carpenter and talked with them about what the EDC and LDC can do to help them with this project. A feasibility study and a business plan are the next steps. The fairgrounds group has money in the bank, an option on the property and business partners. It sounds like a great project.