There has been much discussion recently about changes in the types of businesses downtown, including a perceived increase in restaurants and bars and a perceived decrease in retail stores. The 2015 State of the Downtown Report recently released by Downtown Madison, Inc. includes a wealth of data and information on downtown issues, including the mix of downtown businesses.

The report concluded that since 1998, the percentage of food and beverage establishments has remained consistent around 40%, retail has decreased to 25%, and service businesses have increased to 35%. The report also concluded that the percentage of locally owned businesses downtown has remained consistently around 84% over the past five years.

That last figure is a remarkable number that often gets overlooked in discussions about the current state of downtown businesses—84% of downtown businesses are locally owned. That figure underscores the importance of supporting our downtown businesses, especially as we enter the busy holiday shopping season.

Capitol Neighborhoods has enjoyed a good working relationship with the Central Business Improvement District over the years and has increased our coordination with the BID in recent years. The BID is a regular supporter of and contributor to the Capitol Neighborhoods newsletter, and the BID also includes Capitol Neighborhoods membership materials in bags it distributes to new downtown residents.

You may have heard that BID Executive Director Mary Carbine recently left to become Managing Director of the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Alumni Park. The BID is in the process of hiring a new executive director. The change in leadership comes at a time when the downtown business environment continues to evolve with the increased growth of the downtown over the past few years and the changing demographics of the downtown population.

At the city’s annual neighborhood conference at the Warner Park Community Center in October, one of the roundtable discussions focused on building collaboration between neighborhood associations and businesses. The values of collaboration are perhaps more pronounced downtown where residents and businesses share close quarters on the isthmus.

As a neighborhood association, we are seeking additional ways to reach out to and partner with our downtown businesses. One of those ways is the creation of new membership levels for businesses—Community Partners and Neighborhoods Partners—which allow businesses to provide additional support to the neighborhood association and to be highlighted more prominently on our website and in our newsletter. Thank you to Madison Gas & Electric for becoming our first Community Partner. We will continue to work to achieve mutual benefits to be shared among downtown neighbors and businesses.

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