Superior is ready for change.
That was evident Nov. 8, 2016, when voters turned out en masse nationwide to elect a new president, and Superior voters also overwhelmingly supported a measure that would give the city tools for economic development.
More than 75 percent of voters in the high-turnout election said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to improve a city — their hometown — that has been in decline for decades.
A nickel on a $10 bill at the local eatery is a small price to pay for a better quality of life. After all, those collective nickels will be combined with the nickels and dimes of visitors to our fair city and those visitors would multiply as amenities improve, largely paid for by outside development dollars the local incentives would attract.
Turning around Superior’s fortunes has traveled a long road since a group of business leaders first sat down five years ago to devise a plan to improve the city’s economy.
After decades of declining populations and growing poverty, business leaders came together to devise a plan to reverse the 50-plus year trend that’s led to higher taxes, lower home values and prompted people to leave for places that offer a better quality of life.
The Better City Superior initiative board did its homework — market studies, surveys, focus groups. They worked with consultants to learn how other communities turned around their economies and communities successfully. After all that work, they developed a strategy to start to rebuild.
The problem was the toolbox was empty of kind of incentives that encourage development.
Getting the tools — an exposition district that allows tourism-related sales taxes to be charged for economic development efforts — has been a 2½-year journey of educating the Legislature on what we’re willing to do to invest in ourselves.
"When we started the initiative to get in the budget, we were told that was the quickest way to get something like this done," said Bruce Thompson, president of Better City Superior. "With a two-year budget, they had just passed a budget … so we had lots of time to position ourselves for that, which went exceedingly well. We had done everything we needed to do. It was perfectly teed up, and then not brought up."
In addition to Superior’s vote in 2016, the effort garnered the support of 21 units of government and endorsements from about 10 organizations with more expected.
Now the Better City Superior initiative is onto Plan B — freestanding legislation that would allow Eau Claire and Superior to create an exposition district for economic development.
It’s time to deliver a Hail Mary pass for Superior and get the whole team on the field. Call legislators and tell them Superior wants to decide its own fate — after all, that’s good for the whole of Wisconsin as the state’s northern gateway.
Let them know: Tourism taxes worked to rebuild and grow Duluth, which has been good for Minnesota — and the extra nickel here is still nearly a nickel cheaper than our neighbors across the border pay.
Tell legislators that we should be able to invest in ourselves if we so choose — and we did, overwhelmingly, Nov. 8, 2016.
And isn’t that what democracy is about — deciding our own future and fortune.
By Superior Telegram