Better City Superior Planning for Success | Explore Superior

Superior is Ready for Growth


Superiorites Overwhelmingly Support Better City

Submitted by BCS Board of Directors

In the November 2016 election, Superior voters approved the Better City Superior referendum by a wide margin: 75.47% versus 24.53%. Moreover, the referendum results indicate bipartisan support for the Better City Superior Exposition District.

The YES vote for Better City Superior received substantially more votes than either Presidential candidate (Clinton 55%, Trump 37%).

The results of the Better City Superior referendum indicate that the City is ready for growth. But, we need the tools to help us get there. We ask that you help Superior by authorizing the exposition district that our residents want – and need – to grow and prosper.

This is our chance to send the message to Madison that we want the tools to help Superior grow and prosper. Superior voters – you, your friends and your family – approved an advisory referendum asking lawmakers in Madison to allow us to create an exposition district in Superior.

Better City Superior, an economic development group of local business leaders, is proposing and championing this initiative to help Superior grow. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR CITY’S FUTURE.

What is an exposition district?

An exposition district is an area allowed to collect its own taxes on tourism-related spending – restaurant food and beverage, lodging, and rental cars. This money is used to fund development projects that increase visitors to Superior and spending in the city, like stadiums, convention centers and movie theaters.

An exposition district would:

  1. Create jobs and reduce unemployment.
  2. Increase recreation and entertainment options – venues like a theater, a convention center and an indoor recreation center. Exposition districts have proved effective in other communities, including Milwaukee, which has successfully used an exposition district since 1994 to support and build the city’s tourism industry (including opening around 1,500 new downtown hotel rooms), create and sustain jobs, boost the regional economy, and stimulate community pride.
  3. Keep tourist dollars in our own community.
  4. Ensure that tourist dollars help build the community through tourism-related business (a half-percent sales tax on prepared food and beverage and rental cars, and a higher tax on lodging). For locals who don’t spend money on lodging or rental cars, we’re talking a nickel for every $10 you spend at a restaurant. The majority of the costs would be borne by tourists.
  5. Boost Superior’s economy and improve our overall quality of life by keeping young people in the area and attracting visitors and new business.

In this article we hope that you’ll read the opinion pieces below that were published before the election. However, before getting into that, we’d first like to list the organizations and groups that have come out in support of Better City Superior.

Better City Superior is Supported by the following Groups

APEX JCC Services Duluth Superior Assoc. of Realtors
Benson Electric Kari Toyota Superior B.I.D.
Blaine Business Center Kiwanis Club SCCU
BMO Harris Bank Kosta’s Superior City Council
Campbell Lumber Krech Ojard & Assoc. Superior-Douglas Cty Chamber of Commerce
Capstan Corporation Kwik Trip Superior-Douglas Cty Visitors Bureau
Center for Muscle & Joint Therapy Lakehead Constructors Superior Federation of Labor
Charter NEX LHB Architects & Engineers Superior Glass
Douglas Cty Brd of Supervisors Manion’s Wholesale Superior Optimists
Douglas Cty Tavern League Mark Carlson Golf Superior Rotary
Douglas Cty WI Towns Assoc National Bank of Commerce Superior Telegram Editorial Board
DSC Communications No. WI Bldg & Construction Trades Council SWLP
Duluth News Tribune Editorial Board Northland Foundation Superior Young Professionals
Duluth-Superior Community Foundation Northwest Outlet Telephone Associates
Enbridge Plumbers & Steamfitters #11 The Development Association
Engwall Florist Port Enterprises, Inc. Joint Brd of Housing Brd of Directors
Erberts and Gerberts REMAX1 Trends Salon
Exodus Machines Rep. Nick Milroy UW-Superior
Four Star Construction RSM McGladrey Vintage Italian Pizza
Great Lakes Office Solutions School District of Superior WITC
Halvor Lines, Inc Sen. Janet Bewley WI Manufacturers & Commerce
Holden Insurance Stack Bros. Mech. Contractors WI Realtors Association
Ironworkers Local 512 S.A.H.A. WI State Council of Carpenters

On Election Day, dream big, Superior


By News Tribune Editorial Board Oct 25, 2016

This election season in Superior, big dreams are being dreamed.

Yes, in Superior, a city largely left behind by the nation’s economic recovery from the Great Recession, even as developments and optimism grew and continued to grow across the harbor in Duluth.

“What Duluth has done is remarkable with their tourism industry. We feel Superior really hasn’t held up our side of the bargain in complementing that and in making this a really strong region overall,” one of Superior’s lead dreamers, Bruce Thompson, president of the National Bank of Commerce, said in an interview last week with News Tribune editorial board members. “We’re sitting on the porch, watching Duluth flourish, and that’s exciting, but, ‘Why don’t we get with it here?’ ”

Thompson and a smattering of other business, economic development and community leaders are asking voters on Nov. 8 to join them in getting with it and dreaming big, even dreams of unprecedented and transformational things.

Voters in Superior are being asked to support what right now is still an idea. Maybe call it an initiative. It’s “Better City Superior,” and, with the designation of an exposition district, it has an end goal of a grand, 10- to 12-acre, downtown redevelopment featuring indoor soccer, a Wisconsin Dells-quality water park, a convention center, hotel rooms, housing, retail and more, all beautifully bordered by the new streetscape along main-drag Tower Avenue.

And it’s not just a dream. It easily could become reality with a 0.5 percent food and beverage tax, a 2.75 percent hotel-motel tax, and a 0.5 percent tax on rental cars. Those taxes — which would barely be noticed by Superiorites and taken in stride by Twin Ports visitors already accustomed to such tack-ons in Duluth — would raise millions, enough, the dreamers hope, to attract the investment of a big-time developer. And that could lead to private/public partnerships that would help to start turning Superior from afterthought to awesome, from forgotten to featured, and from distant to destination.

“Why don’t we get with it here?”

“We are the gateway to Wisconsin from the Twin Cities market up in this direction, and we can’t afford to be perceived as a low-income industrial park next to a thriving, quality-of-life area,” Thompson said.

“We have to grow. If we don’t, the alternative is what you fear. We will continue to lose population and have higher taxes with continued decline in real estate values. So we want to try to head that off and stop the slow drip of decline and get the flywheel going in the other direction.”

There’s really no reason for voters not to dream big and not to support the initiative at this point. The vote Nov. 8 won’t create the new taxes, but an overwhelming show of support will go a long way in Madison toward legislation that would allow the city to designate an exposition district and create the new funding streams. A binding referendum would be held in April before anyone starts paying more for restaurant meals, hotel rooms or rental cars.

“It’s time to go big (to) change our future,” Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce President Dave Minor and Superior City Councilor Warren Bender wrote in a commentary Friday in the Superior Telegram. “Let’s come together on Nov. 8 to support the Better City Superior Exposition District referendum and send a message to Madison that we want the tools to help ourselves grow.”

With the success of this, Superior stands to attract families, millennials and others eager to live near prosperity. A boost in population — after a 16 percent decline between 1960 and 2010 — would give Superior a ready workforce, and that could help to attract new employers, both large and small.

“We’re getting just constant reinforcement that, ‘Yes, we really need to do something, and this sounds like a good way to go.’ So we’ll see on the vote,” Thompson said. “I’m hoping for a big win, the citizens speaking loudly that yes, they would like our downtown to be redeveloped, and they would like Superior to start to grow.”

A big win is what Superior voters can deliver on Nov. 8 — for a big dream, for optimism, and, finally, for a plan that’s proactive and promises a transformative future.

Go Big; Vote ‘Yes’ For a Better City

By Superior Telegram Oct 14, 2016

High taxes. Low wages. Youth moving away, leaving behind a city in decline.

Superior’s lost about 6,000 people — nearly 16 percent of its population — between 1960 and 2010.

Those are just some of the misfortunes a group of business leaders are hoping to turn around when voters are asked: “Should the Wisconsin State Legislature pass legislation authorizing a Local Exposition District Tax to further economic development in the City of Superior … by implementing a Local Exposition District Tax on lodging, food and beverage consumed at local establishments and car rentals for the purpose of acquiring and managing exposition center facilities and other development related to the Better City Superior Plan?”

We emphatically urge voters to say “yes.”

The money would be used to encourage private investment to develop a dynamic entertainment district that would include such amenities as a theater, 800-seat convention center, indoor recreation facility and possibly a water park to draw and keep people in our community and businesses — assets we could use to improve our quality of life.

It’s a win-win.

Like Bruce Thompson, president of community banks for National Bank of Commerce, said — loosely translated — “you can’t launch a business with an idea and the bank’s money if you don’t have any skin in the game.”

The skin in this proposal is nothing; it’s merely the first step that could cost local residents a nickel for every $10 spent in local establishments for prepared food and drinks if we’re successful. It doesn’t cost property owners anything if it doesn’t work.

What we like about the plan:

  • Our skin in the game is quite limited — dine out, rent a car while yours is repaired — that’s a nickel on $10 spent. You’ll spend 27.5 cents on $10 when dining out in Duluth.
  • The people it draws to our community leverage the capital needed to implement the plan — it keeps them here, draws them here and they pay for it.
  • It’s a plan developed with great thought and in consultation with experts that offer proof it works.
  • All anyone needs to do to know it works is drive across a bridge to Duluth, where 3.5 million visitors provide more than $10 million in taxes annually to reinvest in the community. Some of those visitors come to Superior for overflow hotel space, but have no reason to stay.

For three years, business and economic development leaders in our community have been working to develop a long-term strategy for growth — consulting experts who demonstrated what can be accomplished when you decide to go big.

Working with Better City USA, a consulting firm that helps communities like Superior develop projects, expand industry clusters and recruit jobs with limited resources, Better City Superior was born.

Before Matthew Godfrey launched Better City USA in 2012, he served as mayor of Ogden, Utah. Like Superior, Ogden is an old railroad city, and was ridden with drugs, crime and blight.

Godfrey turned that around with a plan — one that leveraged $1.2 billion in new investment, 6,000 new jobs and redeveloped 130 acres of blighted downtown in just 12 years.

But more telling about Ogden’s turn-around is the impact it’s had on the community — median household incomes rose 20 percent and the city’s population has grown by more than 6,500 people between 2000 and a 2014 census survey.

That’s a lot more people to share the cost of local property tax levies. And Ogden residents are people invested in their community. While only a little more than half of Superior’s residents are property owners, 4-in-5 Ogden residents own their home, census figures show.

Superior continues to decline — another 1 percent lost since the 2010 census, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey, and its median household income lags behind the state of Wisconsin by more than $13,000 per year.

It’s time to go big. Say “yes.”

This referendum will advise tax-wary legislators that we’re willing to take a risk to invest in our future. It won’t cost anyone a nickel more; it will start us on a path that could change our fortune.

But we’ve got to start somewhere, so vote “yes” Nov. 8 for a better city, Superior.

Business & Labor Come Together for Better City

By Dave Minor* and Warren Bender° Oct 21, 2016

Dave Minor, President of Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce

Dave Minor, President of Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce

In today’s toxic political environment, it’s important for Superior voters to know that our business and labor communities are united in our support for the Better City Superior Exposition District advisory referendum. We encourage Superior residents to vote yes on Nov. 8!

The Better City Superior Expo District advisory referendum is the first step in a multi-step process to give Superior the tools it needs to help ourselves grow. If the referendum passes, then we will need to work to change state law to create an exposition district in a city the size of Superior. Finally, voters will have the last word in a binding referendum next year on what the district will look like and how it will work. Voters hold the key to our future.

The Better City Superior Expo District will give Superior an opportunity to:

  • Create jobs and reduce unemployment.
  • Increase recreation and entertainment options for residents and visitors.
  • Keep tourism money in our own community.
  • Build the community through expanded tourism dollars.
  • Boost Superior’s economy and improve our quality of life.
Warren Bender, Superior City Council for the 3rd District and Labor Representative

Warren Bender, Superior City Council for the 3rd District and Labor Representative

The Exposition District will be funded by consumption taxes paid for by everyone who lodges, eats or drinks out, or rents a car in Superior. It will not be funded by property taxes.

With so many folks divided over the current political choices, this is one issue we can all agree on. The Better City Superior Exposition District referendum has the support from numerous business organizations in Superior including the Chamber of Commerce, Development Association, Business Improvement District, the Superior City Council, the Douglas County Board, the Douglas County Tavern League, Superior School District, University of Wisconsin-Superior, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Superior Amateur Hockey Association, and the following unions and associations — Carpenters 361, Cement Masons 633, IBEW 242, Laborers 512, Duluth Builders Exchange, Insulators 49, Ironworkers 512, Laborers 1091, Operating Engineers 139, Painters 106, Sheet Metal Workers 10, Teamsters 346, Associated General Contractor of Minnesota, Minnesota LECET, NECA Twin Ports Arrowhead, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 11 and Northern Mechanical/Plumbing Contractors.

As the Superior Telegram editorial said, it’s time to go big! The Exposition District referendum will advise tax-wary legislators (in Madison) that we are willing to take a risk to invest in our future. It will start us on a path that could change our future.

Let’s come together to support the Better City Superior Exposition District, and send a message to Madison that we want the tools to help ourselves grow.

*Dave Minor is president of the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce
°Warren Bender is a city councilor, and corresponding/recording secretary for the Superior Federation of Labor.

The above content provided by Better City Superior Board of Directors, and edited for publication by Doug Dalager

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