Robert B

UW Extension's Center for Community and Economic Development has transformed our collaboration project in Cottage Grove, WI, which includes nonprofits, chamber of commerce, village board, town board and area residents. Our community was facing rising public debt, an imbalance in the ratio of business and residential property taxes, and the substantial leakage of local dollars being spent outside of the community. Without an abundance of in-house staff, small communities often outsource to private planning firms for economic development plans. However, the effective implementation of such recommendations remains very difficult. For success, the broad, active participation by all stakeholders is needed in a collaborative planning process focused on an inspiring vision, which meets the needs and goals of all. The professional knowledge, leadership skills, and highly respected reputation of the UW Extension staff has been key in developing better communication between our public, private and nonprofit partners. Improved communication has led to the creation of not only more effective community-based solutions, but also to the unified understanding and commitment to the operational steps necessary for successful implementation.