Sheboygan, WI, A Success Story

"Soon after Bert Stitt entered the picture, things began to happen in our community. Through his innovative "retreat process" all interested parties were able to freely discuss and plan a course of action. I recommend his unique skills to any business or group needing specialized consulting services." Richard J. Schneider, Mayor of Sheboygan (1975-1987)

Sheboygan River Walk
In 1986, Sheboygan had already tried a number of revitalization schemes. This city of fifty thousand still looked so depressed that one longtime resident wrote to the city paper and said that the downtown looked like Slumsville, USA. Sheboyghan called in Bert Stitt to offer a new approach. Instructing them in the value of public participation, a group of concerned citizens planned an all-day "think-tank." Any member of the community could attend, and the event drew 144 participants.

Among the issues raised, citizens said they wanted to replace the city's negative attitude with a positive attitude among consumers, business people, the city government and media. They were frustrated because the City was slow to implement change. They wanted to improve the downtown's appearance and develop a comprehensive plan to attract jobs and integrate the lake front and the river areas into downtown development. The think-tank participants turned these concerns into goals.

A thirty-member group, the Greater Sheboygan Forum, was created to coordinate the revitalization effort. Ten smaller work groups formed and developed specific action plans to move forward with the work. By 1989:

  • Sheboygan had attracted six million dollars in private and government investment for revitalization.
  • That planning investment purchased 100 million dollars of new projects.
  • Three former shoe factories were converted into mixed economic household, up-to-date apartments.
  • The river front was redone, including construction of a 464-slip marina on Lake Michigan.
  • The revitalization scheme was capped off with a 20-million-dollar addition to Sheboygan's Kohler Art Museum.

"Sheboygan would never have been able to achieve this kind of bottom line success if they hadn't shifted the culture of their community." says Bert Stitt , and the community seems to agree.