Planning ahead

Written on sign, "Open during construction: Cingular Wireless, Einstein's Bagels, FedEx Kinkos. Thank you for your patronage!"Many highway construction projects have a design phase of five or more years. This is the time when WisDOT engineers, in cooperation with local government officials, plan the project, define what will be accomplished, study available alternatives, evaluate community impacts, and design the project's plans.

Throughout the design phase, WisDOT holds periodic meetings with local officials and citizens to hear their suggestions and concerns. By the time construction crews come onsite, all of the design decisions have been made. Therefore, it is important for the business community to get involved early in the design phase and stay involved during construction.

The key to survival is bringing businesses and affected stakeholders together early and working together to survive economically during construction. A local chamber of commerce or business association often becomes the focal point as businesses get organized.

A leader can be identified to represent the business community to keep business concerns in mind, channel questions or suggestions to WisDOT, and carry information back to the businesses. Sometimes, a smaller group or committee is formed to specifically represent those who are most impacted by the project.

Working collaboratively as a group has advantages. Together, a business community can accomplish more than its individual members could on their own. Resources and ideas can be pooled for the group's maximum benefit, saving time and money.

However, sometimes preparing for construction means planning to move off site for awhile (such as motor vehicle dealers) or shutting down for some long needed repairs or remodeling. Ultimately, businesses need to look at their marketing strategy and what they would like to accomplish.

How others did it

A chamber of commerce is commonly the organization to bring affected businesses together. Some communities have Main Street programs to revitalize their downtown area.

One community's Main Street program director served as the liaison between businesses and WisDOT. They formed a special committee to coordinate its promotion. Sometimes, a new organization or association needs to be formed.