February 25, 2020

Superior Days 2020 Recap

On February 11, about 120 hardy northwest Wisconsin residents and students representing Douglas, Ashland, Bayfield and Iron counties descended upon the Capitol in Madison to lobby for initiatives important to our region.

The Superior Exposition District was a top presentation to lawmakers – with considerable widespread documented local support and prior bi-partisan legislative hearing success in Madison. The request for support once again pointed to the vast opportunity Superior has in the Twin Ports market to complement Duluth’s annual tourism success. The narrative for creating a bridge of modern assets that strengthens the region and brings modern quality assets to Superior and the state of Wisconsin was carried to every legislator. Our message emphasized local commitment to pay our own way – without the need for state taxpayer assistance.

The Superior Exposition District would provide a net increase to state sales tax revenue. The Expo District bond debt would be supported by the tax increment spending generated by new public/private partnership assets and existing prepared food and beverage and lodging activity.

This initiative is now being granted a hearing before the Senate Committee on Economic Development, and we hope to receive a full Senate vote on our bill late in this session. The Assembly has already been dismissed for the remaining calendar year, so our companion bills in the Senate and Assembly will die for lack of passage through both houses once again. We have never been this far in the process and we will be well positioned to request inclusion in the upcoming bi-annual budget discussions beginning in January 2021.

To affirm continued local support, we were encouraged to sponsor another voter referendum to include in our package with our request for inclusion in the next bi-annual budget. The Expo District referendum will be before the voters for a second time on November 3, 2020. We need your help once again to vote in favor of a Superior Exposition District!

View the current Fact Sheet shared during Superior Days 2020.

January 27, 2019

Outlook for 2020

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 167 and Senate Bill 157 representing the Superior Exposition District effort through Better City Superior is once again one of three major legislative asks for support at the 35th annual Superior Days on February 11, 2020.

In late 2019 AB 167 successfully passed through the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on a bi-partisan 8-2 vote and a 10-0 vote in December on two amendments requiring another (this time binding) public referendum and limiting the potential bonding to $20 million. The bonding limit ensures a sunset on the consumption tax associated with prepared food and beverage and lodging within the city. We are asking that AB 167 is acted on by the full legislative body prior to the end of the current session, likely in March 2020. During a Senate hearing in the 2019 legislative session, SB 727, an exposition district bill, received unanimous bi-partisan support but did not get to a full vote as the session expired shortly thereafter.

We are once again both excited and grateful that the community embraces the concept of a Superior Exposition District. Formal support for this powerful economic development tool to create new and attractive assets in Superior that add quality of life, enhance our economy and complement the efforts in Duluth to make our region stronger continues to be our strength.

Continued calls, letters, resolutions and appearances in front of our northern representatives and downstate representatives show our will and commitment for the legislative permission we seek to help ourselves grow.

There is no negative impact to Wisconsin taxpayers – in fact an exposition district would grow the tax base in Wisconsin through a complement of public/private partnerships, private investments and value-based spending derived from growth in visitors and residents.

The full history of legislative action on AB 167 is available here.

October 31, 2019

AB 167 clears the Ways and Means Committee

On October 30, Assembly Bill 167, as amended, successfully passed through the Ways and Means Committee with an 8-2 vote!

The next step for AB 167 is scheduling for a full Assembly vote and we are working to garner support for this to happen. In the Senate, a hearing for companion Senate Bill 157 is also being worked on for scheduling in November or early December.

It's been six years from initial planning and concept to the doorstep of permission to create a Superior Exposition District. Through it all, we are thankful for the continued community support this initiative has received. We wouldn't be where we are without it!

Creating a Superior Exposition District will allow us to unlock a unique economic development tool for Superior, and make us an appealing community for public/private partnerships to create some of the quality assets missing in the region that Superior can capture.

April 26, 2019


Earlier this month companion bills to create an exposition district in Superior were introduced in the state Senate and Assembly. The Senate bill has been referred to the Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Trade; its first reading was April 11. The Assembly bill has been referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, the first reading was April 15.

The bills, Senate Bill 157 and Assembly Bill 167, were co-sponsored by 14 lawmakers: Sens. Bewley and Carpenter and Reps. Milroy, Meyers, Quinn, Anderson, Considine, Mursau, Ohnstad, Skowronski, Sinicki, Subeck, C.Taylor and Vruwink. The bills' required fiscal estimate has been completed, clearing another hurdle for the bills to progress through the respective committees and any public hearings.

Rep. Quinn (R) will be in Superior on May 10 to meet with the Better City Superior leadership team. Rep. Quinn plans to attend the Development Association’s Annual Meeting that same day. If you’re attending this event, we hope you take a minute to thank him for his support.

We are hopeful that committee hearings will take place in late May or early June. We’ll continue to provide updates on the bills’ progress as they become available and look forward to the continued community and business support that we are so proud of. Let’s continue our working together to make Superior a Better City!

February 20, 2019

Superior Days 2019 update

February 11-13, a contingent of 140 delegates from Superior and the counties of Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, and Iron overcame challenging snow conditions to bring the message of Superior’s need for an exposition district to Madison during Superior Days.

LRB 0808

Just prior to Superior Days, Sen. Janet Bewley (D) and Rep. Nick Milroy (D) introduced our new bill, LRB 0808, and circulated it seeking bipartisan sponsorship. Prior to our attendance most all legislative offices had reviewed it. I am very happy to report that during Superior Days we secured co-sponsorship from Rep. Romaine Quinn (R) of Rice Lake. In offering his support, Rep. Quinn stated, “Something this transformational for the north is something I can support.”

Legislative Director for the Governor Stephanie Hilton, J.D., described Gov. Evers’ interest in supporting bills with bipartisan sponsorship. (She understood Superior’s challenges after spending her undergraduate years in Superior as a UWS student.) In the governor’s address to our delegation, his mindset of returning a certain amount of control and resources to the local municipalities and decision makers was made clear.

Our delegation once again met with all the senate and assembly legislators or staffers and provided them with summary material of our Better City Superior Exposition District effort to date. The common objections were raised and met with reason, results and full disclosure. Our meeting with Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan and Deputy Secretary Chris Patton also yielded a positive vibe for initiatives that have received community support and cooperation.

While there is still some objection, the overall reception to LRB 0808 was more positive than previous years’ efforts – demonstrating that continued education and awareness has certainly paid off. We can now move forward with a bipartisan sponsored bill in a more favorable environment. LRB 0808 remains open for comment until Feb. 28, unless extended, after which it will receive a permanent bill number, final form and be scheduled for hearings.

What’s Next

We will likely be testifying again before legislative committees to get our bill before the full houses for vote, and with success, on to the governor’s desk where we should be welcomed. There will be an opportunity – and need – for citizen action to ride the bus to Madison (free of charge) to show support and testify on behalf of the exposition district. Please watch for this update and participate if you’re able to spare a long weekday.

Superior Days 2019
2019 Superior Days delegation
Superior Days 2019
Better City Superior booth
Superior Days 2019
Better City Superior booth
Superior Days 2019
Our state capitol
Superior Days 2019
Gov. Evers addresses our delegation
Superior Days 2019
Sen. Feyen and Bruce Thompson


January 24, 2019

The Path Forward – Superior Expo District 2019

As our Superior Days delegation heads to Madison February 12-13, 2019, delegates will be carrying a message of support for this initiative.

Since 2013, Better City Superior has been singularly focused on stimulating economic growth in Superior to benefit Wisconsin. We’ve conducted extensive market and project studies and developed an integrated strategy that will boost workforce development, maximize underutilized assets and increase property values without impacting the fixed tax burden on residents.

We’re asking legislators to include the Superior Exposition District pilot program in the 2019-2021 state budget.

Exposition districts are public/private economic development tools. They are a proven method for boosting local economies, benefiting the quality of life for residents and providing increased revenue for the state. Milwaukee’s exposition district has been successful for more than 20 years.

No Required Fixed Tax Increase

Public funds are generated through consumption-based taxes paid on services such as prepared food and beverage and hotel/motel visits. The Superior Expo District would not impact state or local fixed taxes.

A Minimal but Worthy Investment

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue estimates the total administrative cost to establish the Superior Expo District at just $21,330.

If established, the Superior Expo District could qualify for an estimated $8-10 million of private 40-year bonds to be used in conjunction with existing local funds and private capital.

The combined public/private investment is estimated to create $100 million in community assets.

Competitive Necessity

With state support, Duluth has fostered a robust tourism economy – attracting 6 million visitors annually with total spending estimated at $1 billion, according to an independent study by Longwoods International.

Superior and the state of Wisconsin can benefit from the proximity to a well-known tourism destination, but it must establish new and attractive assets to be competitive and remain relevant into the future. Economics dictate that public/private partnerships such as those created through the Superior Expo District are the best path to develop those assets.

Overwhelming Local Support

In the November 2016 election 76 percent of Superior voters approved a referendum to create an exposition district. Residents and businesses overwhelmingly support this path forward as shown in independent focus groups, a countywide online survey, financial support, resolutions and endorsements by local governments, associations, and education institutions, and at the ballot box.

Download a print-ready version of this update here.

November 2, 2018

We made great progress in 2018 and as the Joint Committee on Finance begins work on the state budget in January we will be renewing our efforts to establish a local exposition district. Support for the Superior Exposition District is critical in the legislative process and the outcome of the governor’s and Senate District 25 races are crucial to the success of this initiative. As you cast your vote this election season please consider your candidate’s position on the Superior Exposition District and contact them to find out where they stand on this important issue.

Governor: races/governor

Major party candidates

Scott Walker (R)

Tony Evers (D)

Senate District 25: races/senate-district-25

Janet Bewley (D)

James Bolen (R)


March 16, 2018

Progress on expo district legislation to continue next year

We made progress on the Superior expo district (SB 727) this legislative session, but more work needs to be done.

On March 14, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism passed SB 727 with a strong 8-1 bipartisan vote. Republican Sens. Terry Moulton (committee chairman), Tom Tiffany, Jerry Petrowski and Patrick Testin supported SB 727 along with Democrat Sens. Mark Miller, Kathleen Vinehout, Chris Larson and Lena Taylor. The lone “no” vote was GOP Sen. Devin LeMahieu.

Senate GOP rules require the support of at least 17 GOP Senators for a bill to be added to the Senate calendar. SB 727 cannot meet that requirement now so the bill will not be brought to a full Senate vote this session. But we have begun meeting with key members of the GOP Senate caucus to help them understand why this tool is so important to Superior, so they will be familiar with it next year. We’ve found that one of the most persuasive arguments is the overwhelming 75.5% support the expo district received in the 2016 citywide referendum. Local support really does make a difference in Madison and we’ll continue to need your help.

We navigated many twists and turns this session. Circumstances prohibited us from getting the expo district in the state budget last year. However, with assistance from Sen. Janet Bewley and Rep. Nick Milroy, we drafted the expo district language as a separate bill. We knew we needed some GOP support to advance our bill as Republicans control the legislature and the governor’s office. We worked with Eau Claire because they expressed interest in potentially using an expo district approach if they build a new downtown convention center. Adding Eau Claire to the bill attracted key GOP support and ensured the bill would get a public hearing. Superior expo district supporters chartered a bus to Madison, waited nearly seven hours, and then made a compelling case at the public hearing on Jan. 30. It was an important step to have our voices heard.

The expo district was also the top item on the list during the 33rd annual Superior Days in Madison on Feb. 20-21.

Ultimately, Eau Claire stakeholders were not fully aligned on the expo district concept for their community and asked to be removed from the bill. Moulton, who represents Eau Claire, worked with Bewley to amend the bill to remove Eau Claire and clarify what type of projects could be constructed in the district. Moulton could have easily walked away when his community decided not to participate, but he didn’t. He gave his word to Better City Superior President Bruce Thompson that he would move the Superior-only bill forward and he delivered on that promise.

Policymaking isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and time. Superior fought for more than 30 years to get the terminal tax payments they were promised in the ‘70s. Former Mayor Dave Ross, Councilman Denny Dalbec and Jeff Vito made countless trips to Madison over several years to get this done. The terminal tax payment finally passed in 2005 and has generated nearly $23 million to the City of Superior since it was adopted. Because of recent upgrades at Enbridge, the terminal tax now generates more than $5 million annually. Clearly, it was worth the effort.

Bruce Thompson has made a similar effort regarding the expo district on behalf of the Better City Superior board of directors, labor groups, businesses, government and citizens of Superior. Bruce is an articulate and persuasive salesman for Superior, and he has received strong support from Mayor Jim Paine. We didn’t get as far as we had hoped in the legislature this session, but we aren’t giving up!

-- Submitted by Bill McCoshen, former Superiorite and lobbyist for the City of Superior & Better City Superior

March 09, 2018

Making Progress in the Senate

We’ve had a busy few weeks in Madison as we continue forward momentum to gain Senate approval for Superior’s exposition district.

On Feb. 28, Sens. Janet Bewley and Terry Moulton introduced an amendment to SB727, making Superior the only applicable entity for the proposed exposition district as part of the legislation. Expo district supporters in both Superior and Eau Claire approved of this amendment.

We connected with members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism to encourage their support of the amended bill. We also continued to engage with committee chairman Sen. Terry Moulton, who has provided great leadership for this bill.

Many of you also called and emailed committee members to request their support of SB727 and Superior’s exposition district. Individual calls and emails truly make a difference to legislators and, due in part to your active roles in this process, we are optimistic that the committee will pass SB727 to the full Senate. Thank you for your ongoing efforts!

The next step will be to convince key Senate leaders to schedule SB727 for a full Senate vote. We need everyone’s help in letting them know that Superior wants, deserves and NEEDS an exposition district to take control of our own future. With their approval of SB727 we can attract workers to our community, grow our economy and improve the quality of life for everyone in northwest Wisconsin.

February 22, 2018

Superior Days brings expo district supporters to Madison

Superior Days 2018

Senate Bill 727 was the top item of discussion during the 33rd annual Superior Days Feb. 20-21 in Madison. More than 100 northern Wisconsinites made the trip through treacherous winter weather conditions to the Capitol to request the support of legislators for the bill, which would give Superior permission to establish an exposition district.

SB727 was recently modified to remove Eau Claire as an exposition district city so that local supporters could spend more time educating Eau Claire community members on the issue. By removing Eau Claire from the bill to give them more time for local discussions, we were able to retain legislative support for SB727. Superior Days participants spent much of their time updating legislators on this development and urging them to move forward with the Superior-only version of the bill.

Participants also used the opportunity to educate our state legislators on the many reasons to modify existing exposition district legislation to include Superior. Among them, the opportunity we have to capitalize on the tourist activity already drawn to the area by way of Duluth.

Leaders felt the trip was successful, and ongoing political feedback indicates that awareness and support for Superior’s exposition district has grown throughout the state and that the value of this tool for Superior is broadly understood. We are optimistic that SB727 can be brought to the Senate floor for a vote in the final full session of 2018, scheduled for March 20. For that to happen, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism must first approve the Superior-only version of SB727 and pass it to the Senate floor. While we achieved some headway in the Assembly, it is most likely that a companion bill will not be introduced in that house of the legislature until the next Assembly session in January 2019. By bringing the bill to a Senate floor vote this year, we will be well positioned to convince the Assembly to vote on the issue next session and get it to the governor’s desk for a final signature.

Your continued emails and phone calls to members of the committee are critical in getting SB 727 to the Senate floor. Watch for our social media updates to take action and please do! Input from voters is taken seriously by legislators and can often be the most important factor in achieving success! Thank you for your continued support and effort in making this happen for our community.

February 9, 2018

Committee Considers SB727

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism has until Feb. 16 to pass our bill to the full Senate. We are greatly appreciative of Chairman Terry Moulton’s leadership in bringing SB727 before the committee and thankful to committee members for the positive responses to our testimony. Now it’s time to take the next step.

Please contact committee members and ask them to pass SB727 to the full Senate. We’re not asking for a hand-out or other state taxpayer support. We just need their permission to move forward with a local exposition district in Superior.

Please take a few moments to voice your support. Visit our Take Action page for legislators’ contact information and email messages that are available for you to send committee members. With just a few days to make our voices heard, every email and phone call matters.

Thank you for sharing your passion with legislators!

February 2, 2018

Updates on Legislative Progress

An impressive cross-section of our community joined Better City Superior in Madison on Jan. 30 to attend and provide testimony in support of SB727 at the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism hearing. The bill, introduced by Sens. Terry Moulton, R – District 23, Janet Bewley, D – District 25, and Kathleen Vinehout, D - District 31, would allow expo districts to be created by the cities of Superior and/or Eau Claire.

While we were encouraged by the bi-partisan support from Senate members who introduced this legislation, we felt it was crucial to have a strong community presence at the hearing to illustrate Superior’s desire for creating an exposition district. With only a few days to recruit participants, we received an exceptional response from community members willing to share their input. In addition, more than 150 emails were submitted to committee members from area residents in favor of passing the bill.

Our combined testimony and presence was well-received by the Senate committee. We provided insight into the unique Duluth/Superior market and the disparity in modern life and tourism amenities that currently present barriers to our economic growth. I believe the committee learned a great deal because of our efforts.

The Senate committee is currently considering passing the bill to a full Senate vote. Efforts are ongoing to bring a companion bill to a vote in the Assembly.

We need continued local input from community members to let legislators know Superiorites support the creation of an exposition district. On Feb. 20-21, 150 residents will travel to Madison for Superior Days, where they will meet with members of the Senate and Assembly to reiterate that Superior needs them to approve SB727 for community to move forward.

We’ll continue to post updates on social media and this website for future opportunities to send your voice to Madison!


January 2018 update

Legislative Action Shows Promise for 2018

The 2018 legislative session is quickly showing signs of positive momentum for Superior and our combined efforts to gain approval for creating an exposition district.

Sens. Terry Moulton, R – District 23, Janet Bewley, D – District 25, and Kathleen Vinehout, D - District 31 have introduced Senate Bill 727, a stand-alone bill which would allow expo districts to be created by the cities of Superior and/or Eau Claire. We have also received bi-partisan support from Representative Warren Petryk, R - Assembly Dist 93 who led companion bill in the Assembly. On Tuesday, January 30, 2018, a hearing will be held on SB 727 in the Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism.

As you know, by allowing the cities of Superior and Eau Claire to create exposition districts, the legislature will create a locally funded economic development engine that will create exponential growth through mixed-use developments that retain and grow the workforce and improve the quality of life for residents. Public funds will be generated by those who use the amenities, primarily tourists and visitors to the community, and not the state of Wisconsin. A similar exposition district has been in place in Milwaukee for 20 years, providing an example of how this type of tool can be effectively used.

It’s early in the session, but with the bi-partisan support we have already seen, we are optimistic that legislators will agree an exposition district is an economic development tool that can help Superior grow. We continue to actively engage with legislators to educate them on the benefits of an expo district for northwestern Wisconsin and the state and Superior’s overwhelming support for this approach.

The exposition district will also be the topic of discussion during the 33rd Superior Days, Feb. 19-21, 2018, in Madison. If you are attending this valuable event – thank you for advocating on behalf of Superior and the expo district.

The first few months of this year will be critical to the future of Superior and our exposition district. We’re making headway in penetrating Madison to make Superior matter to our legislators, but we will need your continued support to convince them that this issue can’t wait another year. We will post updates here and keep you abreast of developments through social media and email as we move forward. Thank you for your support and we look forward to a productive 2018!

September 9, 2017

Superior Exposition District update

Thanks for all your recent support – we’ve made great strides!

I’d like to share an update on our request to include the Superior Exposition District in the state budget: Our efforts to include it through the Joint Committee on Finance were strong but unsuccessful, leading us to our Plan B. We will immediately begin the process to introduce a stand alone bipartisan-led bill in the Senate.

The Joint Committee on Finance reached a conclusion to the long overdue state of WI budget on September 6. Leading up to that, Better City Superior had considerable efforts underway, which resulted in direct letters of endorsement for a Superior Exposition District from:

  • The Wisconsin Bankers Association
  • Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce
  • Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association
  • North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters
  • Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local Union #10
  • Joint Superior and Eau Claire Chambers of Commerce
  • Joint ALLETE, SWL&P and Dairyland Power Cooperative

In addition to these letters of endorsement, results of previous efforts and materials presented to the committee include:

  • Professional Growth Plan
  • Focus Group and Community Survey results
  • 20 official Resolutions of Support
  • Superior Days lobbying efforts
  • 8,891 bipartisan citizen referendum votes

This was amplified by more than 400 letters, emails and calls to all members of the Joint Committee on Finance in which citizens requested permission to use existing Exposition District legislation through the budget approval process.

As you’ll recall, an Exposition District creates no burden on the state budget. It allows us to create new assets for Superior through minimal additional and local taxation on existing and future tourism-based value spending. We see how well it works in Duluth with more than $11 million (and growing) in annual dining and hospitality taxation paid predominantly by those who visit. Duluth has raised the bar on its attractiveness as a vacation destination and community as a result of the appropriate use of the dollars raised.

We will continue our efforts to educate representatives 325 miles from us about the opportunity in our regional market and explain why this is the perfect application for a small market version of the existing Exposition District legislation. Superior needs to grow!

We will continue to need your voices through email, letters and calls as our bill moves through the Senate, so watch for opportunities to help. Thanks again for your support.

June 27, 2017

Exposition District for Review in State Budget

The culmination of many visits to the state capitol with members of the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has yielded bipartisan support for the creation of an Exposition District in Superior. We have been diligently working to convince the governor and lawmakers to include our proposal in the 2017-19 state budget.

Lawmakers are working to pass the new biannual budget, and although progress is being made, state officials will not make the July 1 deadline. Lawmakers are meeting right now, which means that our project is in front of key decision-makers, an achievement that can be attributed to the commitments and leadership of Republican Senators Tom Tiffany and Sheila Harsdorf, supported by the citizen voices from our highly successful referendum, Superior Days lobbying, the business community, our local governments and our state representatives.

While lawmakers are in session, we ask you to tell legislators how important this economic development tool is for Superior. We are hopeful your voice will encourage lawmakers and the governor to do the right thing and back a growth strategy for Superior.

Exposition District Lobbying Underway

Better City Superior has been diligently working to convince the governor and lawmakers in Madison to include the enabling language in the 2017-19 biennial state budget to authorize the exposition district in downtown Superior.

We have been meeting with key decision-makers in Madison to seek support. Better City Superior is working with lobbyist and former Superiorite Bill McCoshen to get our provision inserted into the state budget.

The enabling legislation will likely have a condition that asks Superior voters to approve the expo district in a future binding referendum. We support the binding referendum provision, and last fall we told voters they would get a second chance to voice their opinion.

If we succeed in getting the expo district passed and signed, fall 2017 would be the earliest we would have a binding referendum.

March 1, 2017

A Tool to Start Superior Growing Again

A delegation of 155 from Superior and Douglas, Ashland, Bayfield and Iron counties returned February 22, 2017, from a very productive trip to the state Capitol to lobby for needs in the north. For the second year, one of our issues was a proposal for Exposition District Legislation in Superior, which would enable us to create an economic development tool to partner with private development and make an impact to start Superior growing again. This initiative has been the focus of Better City Superior for over three years, including focus groups, a countywide survey, public presentations, resolutions from major leadership groups, financial support from the business community and groups, as well as a citywide referendum success.

Setting the Stage for Bipartisan Support

This year we were rewarded for all of our preparation and study as Senator Tom Tiffany committed to support an Exposition District for Superior during his keynote address to our delegation on February 22. (Watch Senator Tiffany’s remarks.) This support includes efforts to get the proposal in the state budget or a separate legislative bill, whichever will bear success earlier. Senator Tiffany (R) stated that because of the thoughtfulness, study, preparation and community support, it makes sense to pursue this for Superior. Our Senator Janet Bewley (D) and Representative Nick Milroy (D) wholeheartedly support the initiative as well. This sets the stage for a bipartisan result rare in today’s political climate. Our referendum result of 75.5 percent support also represented bipartisan support from our residents and opened eyes in Madison.

A Community on the Rise

The alternative to growth is what we have experienced over the past 50 years. Our citizens recognize that they are being overburdened with fixed living expenses, poverty and declining value and that the size of our government for a declining population is unsustainable. As unpopular as authorizing or implementing any taxes is, our leaders are beginning to recognize that consumption-based taxes can bring value (i.e., bonding through an Exposition District) and that value can bring new assets (through public/private partnerships) and subsequently bring discretionary spending to our city. Discretionary spending is driving Duluth’s tourism economy and those folks coming to Duluth predominantly from the Twin Cities can help us out of our situation through their spending. Discretionary spending by Superior citizens is being spent in Duluth because we lack the retail variety available across the bridge. We must create the assets in Superior that will draw tourists and be attractive to our residents to keep their money in Superior. Our existing businesses need more support to stay with us.

The benefit will be a community on the rise with modern quality of life and quality of place amenities that will attract young families, keep major employers here and attract others. More citizens sharing a fixed tax burden reduces the per capita cost of living, and government can then function from a position of strength rather than weakness.

December 15, 2016

Overwhelming support for exposition district fuel’s Better City Superior

In the November election, Superior voters approved the Better City Superior referendum by a wide margin: 75.5 percent versus 24.5 percent. These results indicate that Superior is ready for – and wants – growth!

Following this resounding victory, a group representing Better City Superior and downtown Superior investors met with Wisconsin State Capitol representatives Heather Smith (policy director), Matt Maroney (chief of staff) and Waylon Hurlburt (budget and finance administrator). Our purpose was to fully inform them of the project, describe community awareness and support, and request that Governor Walker make the exposition district a governor’s entry into the state budget this winter.

We were also invited to a listening session with the governor on December 16, giving us an opportunity to describe firsthand Superior’s need for growth and the approach we have developed to help ourselves with the state’s permission.

Upcoming Superior Days

Should the governor not include an exposition district for Superior in his budget, we are poised to take the legislative angle. We are one of three topics for Superior Days and will again be spreading our message to all senators and representatives and seeking leadership and lobbyists to get this in the budget with bipartisan support.

Registration for Superior Days is now open, and we encourage everyone to join us this February. Register at the Superior Days website. We have ample statewide lobby support as well as support from other communities, such as Janesville and Eau Claire, encompassing the south and mid-section of Wisconsin.

Looking Forward

Positive change and legislative action can take a long time. Wisconsin and Superior’s economies depend on forward-thinking strategies and innovative resources. Most of all, we need a constant, engaged and united voice of support for prosperity and growth to change our fortunes in Superior. We are encouraged with the change in attitude “Can Not and Will Not” to “Can Do and Want to.” So many want a better and viable future for Superior and want us to again strive for our potential as we did more than 100 years ago. Onward!

Gaining Momentum With Strong Community Support

The Better City Superior initiative has been in the making for more than three years, and we are at an exciting place – a turning point for Superior and all of Wisconsin. Below is a brief recap of how we got to where we are today, as well as our plan for moving the exposition district forward.

A Collaborative Community Effort

Over the past three years, we have been working with business leaders, economic development experts and citizens to brainstorm and research ideas to help Superior grow. We held open community input forums and interviewed nearly 100 people, including city councilors, county board members, community leaders, business owners, citizens and developers. We also conducted a survey that more than 1,100 Superior residents completed. Overwhelmingly, respondents agreed with the direction being taken and said they support partially funding development through a hospitality tax, such as the exposition district would allow.

Feedback from the community helped provide us with a clear direction regarding development strategies that could boost Superior’s economy and support long-term revitalization plans.

The Plan: Exposition District

Based on research and community input, we devised a plan: Establish a large-scale mixed-use development in Superior’s downtown area, which will be funded through public-private partnerships. An exposition district has been identified as the best option to provide public funds to support the development of projects necessary to grow Superior’s economy.

Establishing an exposition district would allow Superior to collect taxes on tourism-related spending to fund development projects that would attract visitors, increase spending and fuel the economy. The exposition district would increase jobs and revenue across the entire state and decrease Superior's reliance on state funding, providing more financial support for other communities and initiatives.

Existing exposition district legislation has been used to drive development in Milwaukee, but it’s never been done in a smaller city like Superior. To create an exposition district in Superior, state legislation must be modified.

Successful Superior Days at the Capitol

Last February, Better City Superior leaders traveled to Madison for Superior Days. They urged legislators to allow Superior to establish an exposition district to support large-scale redevelopment in Superior.

Bruce Thompson, president of National Bank of Commerce and Better City Superior, pitched the exposition district proposal to legislative staff. The presentation went extremely well, with legislative staff listening, taking notes and even offering suggestions on how to expedite the process. Legislative staff was receptive and excited about what the Superior exposition district could do not only for the City but also for the entire state.

Unanimous Support From Labor and Community Groups

In the past months, Better City Superior has garnered support from nearly every major organization in Douglas County, including:

  • City of Superior
  • Superior City Council
  • Douglas County Board
  • Superior Business Improvement District
  • Development Association of Superior-Douglas County
  • Superior Amateur Hockey Association
  • Douglas County Land Development Committee
  • Superior Douglas County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau
  • Superior Young Professionals
  • School District of Superior
  • Douglas County Board of Supervisors
  • Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College
  • University of Wisconsin-Superior
  • The Superior Area Association of Realtors
  • Northern Wisconsin Building & Construction Trades Council
  • Ironworkers Local 512

November 8 Referendum

Via a nonbinding referendum on the November 8 general election ballot, citizens of Superior get to decide if they want to ask the legislature and governor if existing exposition district legislation can be applied to a smaller market city like Superior. A vote YES is a vote to ask the state legislature and governor to change existing legislation. While it doesn’t guarantee they will change the legislation, it tells the government that this is what Superior wants.

The referendum is the first of several steps to get support from the governor and legislature to create the exposition district.

Next Steps Forward

Assuming Superior voters approve the referendum in November, below is an outline of the process to implement the exposition district:

  1. Wisconsin state legislature changes legislation to allow smaller communities like Superior to establish an exposition district.
  2. Superior holds an election in April 2017, where residents approve a binding referendum to create the exposition district in Superior.
  3. The governor adds the Superior exposition district to the state budget.
  4. The City of Superior has the final decision about how and when to establish the exposition district and how to allocate money raised. At this point, we will ask the community for input to help prioritize project development before determining a final long-term development plan.

Superior has embarked on an exciting path of growth. We are grateful for our engaged community and eager for what the future holds.

Message from the President - March 2016

Better City Superior: Superior Days Recap

Our message to the representatives and the executive branch of Wisconsin government during Superior Days was that Growing Superior represents a Stronger Wisconsin. Exposition District legislation is a key tool for Superior’s economic growth and future prosperity. An Exposition District will build success for Superior, and all of Wisconsin. It will allow a public-private venture to fund mixed-use development. It is desired by residents and businesses by virtue of independent focus groups, resolutions of support, financial support and survey data. It poses no additional fixed tax cost to the citizens of Superior or the State of Wisconsin. It avoids liability to our local government as the district is authorized by city government to transact its own debt.

Tax Increment is achieved by creating wealth and income through new features and benefits the community cannot attract otherwise and is utilized by the target markets it is designed to attract. It is paid for by patrons as they enjoy and value the new assets and the experiences that they create.

Growth takes investment and wise investment attracts discretionary spending and spending grows communities. We are at a unique juncture in Superior’s history to chart a growth course and create quality of life that will attract and keep the upcoming generations interested in living here. This works to everyone’s benefit by driving up prosperity and driving down the tax burden per citizen.

Meetings with elected officials and lobbyists are ongoing to educate and enlist their support. Our target is to be relevant in the next state budget.

Message from the President - January 2015

Better City Superior: Background and Concept

Superior, Wisconsin is a town with a current population of 27,000 dating back to the 1850's that had great promise when founded. Superior's geographic location and natural resources were promoted and reported as far east as New York as a true land of opportunity. Superior's growth was dramatic between 1885 and 1909 as rail and water born transportation provided access to and shipment of its natural resources fueling the industrial age east and west. It had shipyards that supported two world wars and became a world port for commodities. Its sister city across the bay is Duluth, MN which grew out of the wave of prosperity in Superior and ultimately passed it by with higher population density, broader industry groups and wealth from the mining industry of the Iron Range. Nonetheless, Superior maintained blue collar industry and its residents continue to have a fierce loyalty.

Superior has had an industrial rebirth with many modern manufacturers over the past 15 years and is very proud of its modern schools, government facilities, road and utility infrastructure as well as its extraordinary natural resources and easy quick access to outdoor activities year-round. However, with its very old housing stock and deteriorating downtown our population is not growing, despite the jobs created, while our tax burden is troublesome. Duluth, MN has achieved a better housing environment and much of the good work our town has done to develop new employment is not fully benefiting our city, county or state as property taxes, sales taxes and enrollment in schools is across the bridge. We are at a tipping point to prosperity or deterioration and the Better City: Superior Inc. idea was born in the fall of 2013.

Our City Mayor, Development Association Director, Business Improvement Director, Chamber of Commerce CEO, and County Administrator all agreed that we need to go on offense. Through our Development Association Director we were exposed to Matthew Godfrey and Better City US of Ogden, Utah. Matthew Godfrey is the Chief Executive Officer of Better City US, an economic development company. He served as Mayor of Ogden, Utah for 12 years and was the youngest full-time mayor in the country. He recruited more than two dozen outdoor company brands to Utah for sports and revitalized more than 150 acres of downtown, attracted more than $1 billion of private investment and brought in more than 8,000 jobs. His last year in office, his community led the nation in job growth. His company now works on a contract basis to help other communities turn around their fortunes by creating public/private partnerships for growth, value and transformation of the community dynamics of living and working in the modern age.

Better City Superior Inc. was conceived as a private-sector driven 501c6 economic development entity to contract with Matthew Godfrey and chart a path for Superior recognizing that a downtown district with mixed use modern urban living, retail, service and entertainment could be a catalyst to then modernize the whole of our extended housing problems and grow the community to effectively lower the tax burden and create a clear modern living advantage. Our local businesses greatest concerns are that of the future availability of labor.

Better City Superior Inc. was formally created in March 2014 and funded to $166,500 in 2014 by 40 businesses, public entities, grants and foundations. The real spark in the initiative came from National Bank of Commerce with a two year commitment totaling $60,000 and the commitment for their Market President, to lead the initiative. Bruce Thompson (NBC Market President) assembled a 5 member Board of Directors including representation from downtown retail, construction and transportation businesses as well as the city planner and raised the financial support.

The Better City Superior Inc. Board of Directors meets quarterly while the Superior Development team and Better City: Superior Inc. leadership have bi-weekly conference calls with Matthew Godfrey to continue the progress of our initiatives with clear communication. Matthew Godfrey and staff member Adam Hughes have made many trips back to Superior to lay the ground work for our initiatives.

The following premise for successful communities was defined and agreed by all:

  • They have a clear vision
  • High Expectations
  • Quality of life brings jobs
  • Successful communities are communities of choice
  • Successful communities invest in themselves

Last year the work included identifying market changing strategies, large scale redevelopment and driving regional traffic to Superior.

Specifically the following actions were taken:

  • Interviewed nearly 100 people encompassing city councilors, county board members, community leaders, business owners, citizens and developers
  • Examined dozens of concepts
  • Performed six market feasibility studies
  • Analyzed similar communities and their redevelopment projects
  • Developed eight project strategies
  • Recommended six major projects

Results of these actions were:

  • Hosted an East Coast developer and secured interest with a LOI to undertake 3 of 6 projects
  • Interest from a second developer for a fourth project
  • Committee established and meetings are in process for the 5th project
  • First meeting with a developer for the 6th project

Funding for these actions are as follows:

  • Self-funded through the tax revenue they create
  • Public/private partnership: 45/55 for the first project
  • Identifying legality of a Food and Beverage tax while maximizing available Lodging tax
  • Corporate revenues from redirecting existing tax


Better City Superior: Next Steps and Ongoing Challenges

The next steps for the initiative include the following:

  • Securing public funding with a complete package of the research and revenue based taxing strategies submitted to the city's bond council for review and determination in late 2014.
  • Securing political support for a public investment in growth and future value of our community
  • Educating the general public and seeking their support through forums and seeking a referendum
  • Signing agreements with developers
  • Continuing to build momentum

Project identified and validated through market studies were:

  • Hotel, Convention Center and Indoor Water Park. The water park component has since been eliminated from consideration for lack of support by the city
  • Multi-use indoor field house has received the key catalyst designation by the city as a compromise to abandoning the water park catalyst
  • Multiplex movie theatre concept perhaps including a live theatre component
  • Large accommodating corporate campus for one of our largest local industries
  • Downtown urban housing and retail mixed use redevelopment of existing historical structures
  • Total of 10 acres of downtown redevelopment and $140MM of investment

Ongoing challenges:

  • City government appetite for utilizing its bonding capacity
  • Rallying the vast majority of citizens to the cause
  • Believing in ourselves and a future this bright
  • Conveying the belief that investment for growth and value is no more risky than bonding for ongoing and growing expenses in a deteriorating and non-growing municipality
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