Home ยป 'We need something to feel good about': Appleton business leaders tell Gov. Tony Evers about pandemic struggles – Appleton Post Crescent

'We need something to feel good about': Appleton business leaders tell Gov. Tony Evers about pandemic struggles – Appleton Post Crescent

by Arifa Rana

APPLETON – Gov. Tony Evers made an appearance in the Fox Cities on Monday. 
Evers, along with the Wisconsin chapter of the Main Street Alliance, hosted a discussion with local business owners at Acoca Coffee in downtown Appleton, where Fox Valley entrepreneurs told Evers about the challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Participants discussed topics including small business grants, child care, health care and other COVID-19 pandemic-related issues with Evers. 
“I thought it was great,” Evers told The Post-Crescent following the event. “All very good influential people that are trying to do their best to survive this pandemic, financially and otherwise. It was a good mix of people, too.”
Present at the roundtable were Bill Wetzel, owner of Acoca Coffee; Yee Lee Vue, co-owner of Bowl 91 and Little Siam; David and Jane Oliver, owners of Mondo! Wine Bar; Michelle Tressler, vice president of Hinterland Brewery; Oliver Zornow, executive director of Building for Kids Children’s Museum; Robin Janson, president at Urban Evolutions; Jill Swenson, CEO at Swenson Book Development; Wendy Bolm and Eric Schultz, executives at CommitChange; Kimyatta Ratliff, owner of Universal Designs Salon and president/CEO at ColorBold Business Association; Ramona Hallmon, owner of RamonaVation and vice president at ColorBold; and Mia Ljung, community development educator for Outagamie and Winnebago counties. 
A central theme of the discussion was that Evers should communicate more with business owners. Janson encouraged Evers to publicize progress being made by small businesses around the state. She urged Evers to “hit us over the head” with that kind of positive information. 
“I think people just need something to believe in right now,” Janson said. “We need something to feel good about, because it’s tough.”
Evers said he was pleased to hear several people mention that federal or state support helped keep their businesses afloat.
“But in addition, it is clear that some more (support) is needed,” he said. “We’re still fighting hard to make sure we get through this pandemic.”
Wetzel said he was honored that Evers chose his business, Acoca Coffee, for the discussion. 
“I think it was fun to have some opportunities for people to share some of their thoughts in person with the governor,” Wetzel said. “I mean, how many times do you get to meet the governor of your state? And then literally have his ear about topics that are meaningful to you and your business — I think that’s incredible.” 
The event was co-hosted by the Main Street Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country. Based in Washington D.C., the Main Street Alliance expanded into Wisconsin in 2020.
“So much of our state is dependent upon Main Street businesses, and this is a group that was really out there advocating for them exclusively,” Evers said. “When the pandemic hit, it became clear that the Main Street Alliance is a real core player in the field nationally and statewide, so they’ve been very helpful with us and thinking through what sort of use of federal and state funds can we access to help all Main Street businesses.” 
More: After the pandemic year, Deloitte ranks Wisconsin’s 75 largest privately and closely held companies
More: Pierce Manufacturing is adding more than 200 jobs with expansions in Fox Crossing and Neenah
Contact Brad Star at bstar@postcrescent.com. Follow him on Twitter at @byBradStar.


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