Urban League to Create a S. Park Street Business Hub:
Focused Business Development
|Dr. Ruben Anthony Jr., CEO of the Urban League of Greater
Madison, has a vision to create a synergy that will lead to the
growth of Black and other companies of color in the Park
“We are very excited at the momentum that could possibly bring,” said Camille Carter, the CEO of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce. “The gentrification that
is going on within South Madison has been a concern of the Urban League, making sure that we protect the assets within that neighborhood and actually serve, in
particularly, Black Madison. We have been talking about ways and solutions to offset that. This incubator is a really solid solution to doing just that. It’s very true
that if you do not have a solid foundation, a solid home in which you can actually develop your business and allow the time and have resources around you that will
help you to be successful and set a good foundation, just the potential to have a space along with resources will really make for some really successfully-launched
Black businesses. We are looking forward to having the space so that our businesses can have a home to start, develop and grow.”
As someone who has been trained in and earned his Ph.D. in urban planning, Anthony has a vision in how this project could develop within the geographical space
called South Madison. And Anthony has a long track record of not just imagining a project, but also making it happen.
“One of my emphases was to make sure that small and minority business got a piece of the pie,” Anthony said about projects he has managed like the rebuilding of
the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee. “And I think you have to be intentional about making that happen when you have the opportunity to do that. A lot of my
career has been spent thinking about how you move barriers and start businesses, stabilize businesses and grow businesses. I’m excited to have this opportunity.
I’ve done that for the Dept. of Transportation here in Wisconsin. I did it for the Federal Highway Administration to inform other states how to do that with
transportation projects. I’ve done it for the Washington Airport Authority on a line running from Dulles to Virginia to talk about how you utilize businesses and grow
businesses around projects. I’ve done it for the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation as a consultant. I’ve done it for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District as a
consultant. Currently I’m providing advice to SSM Health on how to do it. I went to Milwaukee County to run their Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program as a
consultant for about 18 months so we could do it In Milwaukee at the airport.”
The $100,000 grant that the Urban League is receiving from Dane County will allow it to search for a site and develop a business plan for the project.
“The money that we received from the county executive gives us the ability to search for a place along the Park Street corridor,” Anthony said. “We think the Park
Street corridor is the gateway to the city. It leads you right in to Madison College. Madison College has caused the corridor to be looked at. There is a lot of
gentrification going on where people are trying to buy up property. I just think that the people on the south side of Madison need something that they can call their
own. The businesses need something they can call their own. But as you come down Park Street, it’s a straight shot to the university where a lot of economic
activity happens. We want some of that economic activity to stop and happen on the Park Street corridor. We don’t want you to have to go down to campus before
you start wanting to spend some money. We want there to be a destination place when you come on Park Street where you can stop in and help some small
businesses and maybe get a good meal or just get a good vibe from being in the spaces.”
An important aspect of the incubator will be getting the right mix of tenants that will create an economic synergy that will attract different clientele for different
services who in turn begin to utilize the goods and services of other businesses within the complex.
“We’ll be looking for various sized businesses, some micro-businesses, some small businesses and then we’ll be looking for some anchor tenants,” Anthony said.
“We need some government anchor tenants to come in and sign a 10-15-year lease to show some confidence in this project because that is what it is going to take
to make it work. We need some banks to come in there or at least one bank to come in to make their commitment to help these businesses grow and help them
build banking relations. We need a relationship with the university. We talk about town and gown relationships. Well this is a town and gown relationship that we
must make work. We need the business school to come in and help us with entrepreneur development. We need places like WARF and other places that have
business resources. Concentrate those resources in a meaningful way along Park Street. I know the university is already in the Villager Mall. But we need them on
this site. We need the business resources on this site.”
Just as important, the incubator can create a synergy between the businesses so that they interact with each other, learn best practices and grow and succeed
“I believe that you have a multiplier effect with this center,” Anthony emphasized. “When one company moves here, they will need supplies and maybe that supplier
will move close by or move into the center. I just think that it is going to create and amazing synergy for economic development. It’s going to be a magnet for small
businesses to want to be in it. I’ve already gotten emails from 4-5 businesses that are saying, ‘I want to be one of the first ones in there.’ We’re already starting to
get inquiries from anchor tenants. If there is anything that I can stress more so than anything right now, it is that we need anchor tenants to dream along with us and
be ready to make an investment in this area. For people who really believe in investing into the African American community, this is truly an opportunity to make it
happen. Come along with us and help us think through this.”
Most importantly, the incubator will need to be accessible to minority-owned businesses so that they can grow and flourish in greater South Madison where their
natural customer base is located.
“We need to make sure that we have micro-businesses and reasonable rents so that places that do beauty and hair and all of those things can come in there and
get an affordable space that they can sustain and grow,” Anthony said. “We need to make sure that we have shared resources like a commercial kitchen. We have
a lot of Latino businesses that do trucks. We have a lot of small African American entrepreneurs who sell jewelry and things like that. They need to be able to afford
a place that they can have people come to. We need shared printing spaces. We need to have shared gathering spaces. We want this to be a coffee shop type of
experience as well where people won’t feel embarrassed to bring business clients to sit down and talk about business. It needs to be a Starbucks type of clean and
cozy experience. It needs to be in close proximity to the Villager Mall and Madison College. We need to have it be a place that will offer a variety of meals and
The incubator could be a pathway where the existing citizenry of South Madison enjoy the bounty of economic growth and not get displaced by economic growth.
The implementation of Anthony’s vision can make it so.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
For the past several years, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Urban League CEO Dr. Ruben
Anthony Jr. have been collaborating together to increase the job opportunities for African
Americans and other underrepresented people for jobs that pay a living wage like truck driving and
the skilled trades.
And so it made perfect sense that they would collaborate to go “further upstream” and look at job
creation in South Madison through the development of a business incubator that would be in the hub
of the South Madison business district.
“There is so much potential out there ready to spring forward,” Parisi said. “But I don’t think we’ve
been deliberate enough in our efforts to create an atmosphere in which they can thrive. And there is
so much potential throughout the community and on the south side. I just think this is a recipe for
success and something that is just waiting to happen. I think when you look at all of the strengths
that are in our community, when you look at the strengths of the south side, this is a really exciting
The Harvest Is on in South Madison
The South Madison Farmer’s Market is in the height of its growing and harvesting season. The South Madison Farmers Market is powered by
long-time African American farmer Robert Pierce and his daughters.
The Pierces are organic farmers who use the best techniques that urban farming has to offer. They currently have tomatoes, corn on the cob,
melons, beans and squash amongst other veg- etables and fruit.
One of their biggest bargains is their organic honey that has a smooth, distinctive taste that is like none other.
The South Madison Farmers Market can be found at the following locations on a weekly basis:
• Sunday, 11:00 a.m. -3:00 p.m., at the Madison Labor Temple on the corner of Wingra Drive and S. Park Street
• Monday, 2:00 -6:00 p.m., at the Novation Campus at 145 E. Badger Road
• Tuesday, 2:00 -6:00 p.m., at the Madison Labor Temple on the corner of Wingra Drive and S. Park Street
• Friday, 2:00 -6:00 p.m., at the Madison Labor Temple on the corner of Wingra Drive and S. Park Street
Come out and get the fresh produce while it is freshly picked and available. For more information, contact Robert Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org