An economy keyed to creativity

Strategic plan unveiled at Friday event

A city known for its beautiful lakefront and thin-crust pizza is about to get a lot more creative.

The Kenosha Creative Economy Strategic Plan unveiled its four objectives — business partnerships and philanthropy, community marketing, neighborhood revitalization through the arts and downtown revitalization and entrepreneurship — through an interactive presentation Friday at the Gateway Technical College Horizon Center for Transportation, 4940 88th Ave.

The group unveiled its nine-month study, identifying the steps needed to use the arts and other creative endeavors to fuel the local economy.

“I’ve been in Kenosha for 10 years, and I’ve wanted nothing more than to have the same type of creative outlets in Kenosha as there are in Milwaukee and Chicago,” said Matt Monroe, one of the plan’s steering committee members and assistant vice president at Tri City National Bank. “This project here, with all four of these objectives, is how we’re going to get there.”

Each objective had its own work station and presenter to explain its goals and initiatives. About 75 attendees mingled in the lobby and visited each station while being entertained by live music from The Oscillators.

Fostering creativity

Gateway president Bryan Albrecht and Snap-on Chief Innovation Officer Ben Brenton, the keynote speakers, discussed their vision for the city and shared some of the strategies they’ve applied to help make their businesses successful. They ended their speeches with a casual question-and answer-session with the audience.

“We’re doing anything we can do in the community to help foster creativity and innovation,” Brenton said. “For us, creativity leads to innovation. If we can have more creative individuals coming out of the community, the better for us, the better for everyone else.”

The Kenosha Creative Space project is focused on the rehabilitation of the old Kresge building, 5722 Sixth Ave. Renovation is expected to begin in June, with occupancy as soon as October, according to Amy Greil, chairwoman of Kenosha’s Commission on the Arts.

Greil served as the moderator for the event. She struggled to hold back her emotions as she thanked the speakers and the many partners involved in the collaborative effort.

‘Forging new ground’

“It is so moving to know this community is truly willing and able to come together and reinvent itself,” Greil said. “We are forging new ground as a community.

“It’s so gratifying to know I didn’t do this alone. There are so many people that have come together. I’m thrilled. I’m truly thrilled and gratified and so appreciative of everyone who made this a reality.”

Monroe is also very passionate about the project. He said there were plenty of naysayers along the way.

“It’s not going to be one click of a mouse or push of a button that changes the creative economy in Kenosha,” Monroe said. “I’ve heard a dozen people tell (Kenosha Creative Space executive director Francisco Loyola) it’s not going to work.

“The Creative Space is going to be the cultural hub of downtown Kenosha. There are some incredibly smart people working on this project that are going to make that happen.”

This article originally appeared in the Kenosha News

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