(Re)Open for Business: How Evers’ Grant Program is Revitalising Main Streets Across Wisconsin

Inside Ambition Center MKE, owner Marcell Jackson, keeps a reminder of how far he's come.

Inside Ambition Center MKE, owner Marcell Jackson, keeps a reminder of how far he's come.

By Cherita Booker

September 28, 2022

Since 2021, the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program, championed by Gov. Tony Evers, has helped more than 6,200 small businesses in all 72 Wisconsin counties. 

In May, Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) announced they’re investing an additional  $25 million in the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program, bringing the program’s total  to $100 million. 

The grant program was first announced in April 2021 and to date has helped more than 6,200 small businesses and nonprofits survive and thrive. The businesses, located in  all 72 Wisconsin counties, have each received a  $10,000 grant to help them either open a new location or expand into a vacant commercial space. 

“One of our top priorities for our pandemic recovery has been supporting our local communities and Main Streets through this program,” Evers said in a statement last week. “We knew that investing in Wisconsin ingenuity and entrepreneurship would pay dividends for our state and local economies, and it certainly has.”

Marcell Jackson, owner of Ambition Center MKE, is one of the business owners who benefitted from Evers’ program. The $10,000 allowed him to open a coworking space on Milwaukee’s north side last September. Marcell learned about the grant program through an associate at the Riverworks Development Corporation. That connection led to the opening of his facility in the Riverworks Business Improvement District, in a location previously occupied by Dairyland Bus Company.

“Being a new business owner, most of the traditional banks and lenders want to see two years of taxes and profits, but I’m a startup,” said Jackson. “I don’t have all of those things.”

Thanks to Main Street Bounceback, Jackson was able to receive his grant money last October, just one month after opening his business. 

“It was able to offset a lot of operating costs and startup costs,” said Jackson. 

Eddie Hodges, owner of  Three Rivers Performance, a sports facility in La Crosse, has a similar success story. 

Hodges heard about the Main Street Bounceback program last year and quickly applied.

“Downtown La Crosse, where we’re located, is a very tight knit community,” he explained. “We really shop local, keeping these funds here.”

Hodges said that starting a new business during a pandemic, in retrospect, may not have been the greatest decision. However, the grant funding helped him survive, while he saw many other business owners close.  

In June 2021, 6.2 million Americans were out of work because their company either closed or downsized during  the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

However, a recent analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed Wisconsin is one of the best states to own a business. The Badger State ranked second in the country for aid directed to economic development and first in the country in aid to businesses. 

“Main Street Bounceback jumpstarted us to keep going forward,” Hodges said. “And it keeps us ahead for right now instead of trying to battle from behind.”

WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said not only do business owners benefit from these grants, but so do the communities they serve.

“We hear from leaders everywhere that the Main Street Bounceback grants are transforming their downtowns,” Hughes explained. 

 Own a business? The deadline for grant applications for the Main Street Bounceback program is Dec. 31, 2022, so there is still time to apply.Grants are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Click here to learn more. (https://wedc.org/programs-and-resources/mainstreet-bounceback-grants/)


  • Cherita Booker

    Milwaukee native Cherita Booker attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has worked in various roles as a multimedia journalist since 2017. She enjoys photography, dancing, and spending time with friends and family.

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