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The Support for Business Program (SFB) is a comprehensive and responsive construction mitigation plan to help businesses thrive while we make improvements to the City's infrastructure. Our goal is to help minimize the impact on adjacent businesses and surrounding neighborhoods through SFB's main components: community collaboration, continuous communication and targeted business education. Incorporating best practices from around the country, this program provides business owners with quick access to the tools and resources needed to prepare for the construction project, address the impending challenges and create an action plan.

The SFB Program produced a video that features testimonials from businesspeople whose organizations were located adjacent to past DPW construction projects. Business owners located in future construction project areas are encouraged to watch the video to learn more about how the SFB program helped others, and how the program can provide them assistance for upcoming projects.

The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works developed the Support for Business Program in 2010 because of the need to think about road construction in a new and positive way. It was also developed because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding doubled the amount of construction projects that took place during that construction season, many of them in commercial districts. The service provided by the Support for Business program is one of the many ways the City of Milwaukee contributes to maintaining a healthy business community and providing a source of sustainable jobs for residents. 

In 2010, the Support for Business program provided extensive communication to Milwaukee's affected businesses. Communication on project development was provided through letters, emails, and the program website. Liasons also kept businesses abreast of construction via face-to-face meetings. Communication during planning was increaed as businesses and DPW staff collaborated to plan the most efficient execution of project components. Public communication was also enhanced as navigational signage was specifically produced for the Support for Business program participants. 

In 2011, at the recommendation from a study of construction mitigation programs by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, technical assistance, and business education components were offered to the Support for Business program. These additions have made Milwaukee's Support for Business program one of the most comprehensive and responsive construction mitigation programs in the nation.  

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  How is the Support for Business Program funded?

The City of Milwaukee's Support for Business program is an integrated element of project development and construction for the Department of Public Works' Infrastructure Services Division.

  How do I contact my community liaison?

You will have met your community liaison before the construction begins either at a meeting held for all businesses or during the door-to-door contact the liaison will conduct. You can always find contact information on the Support for Business website, www.city of milwaukee.gov/SupportforBusiness on the project summary page.

  How can I find out about business support webinars or classes?

Information will be posted on the Support for Business website and distributed to the businesses in the area via email and regular mail.

  How are businesses listed on signage to make the public aware that my business is open?

A list of the affected businesses is created prior to the construction of the project. Meetings are held in advance of the construction project with those businesses to discuss services and to confirm the name of the business. Businesses in each block of the construction area project are listed on A-frames and placed in a location nearby.

The Support for Business Program Participant Guidebook explains the components of the program, including community collaboration, continuous communication and information sharing, and business assistance organizations. Investment in the City’s infrastructure provides a long-term benefit to your business and the economy in general. Many business owners have found that construction projects can be challenging. The following are tactics that have been found to help support businesses when incorporated into strategic plans of action.

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Be proactive
Set short term goals, prepare a budget and devise a plan of action. 

Prepare your customers
Plan to communicate with customers before and during construction to let them know you are open for business. Advise alternate routes to reach you (if applicable) and where to park. 

Identify your most valuable customers
Track the sales revenue from each type of customer. Then segment the customers and focus the majority of your marketing strategies on the most lucrative segment. 

Develop tighter controls over billing and collections
To speed up cash flow, reduce the time between shipping your product and sending an invoice. Consider semi-monthly instead of monthly billing and send second notices more quickly. 

Build up cash reserves
The reality of construction is that walk-in sales will most likely decrease. You will need more advertising and promotions to encourage new customers and maintain existing ones. Start setting funds aside for any increased marketing needs. 

Implement new technologies
Consider where you can advance technologically. Think about expanding your web presence by developing social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. If you already utilize these mediums, make sure you are communicating the construction plans with your customers.

Communicate with your employees and use down-time for cross-training opportunities
Immediately inform your staff about the pending construction and how you perceive it will affect the business and their jobs. Make sure your high-performing employees know that value them and you want them to stay with the company. This assures them that you have a plan and their contribution is essential to the business’ success. Reassign employees to tasks that may have been overlooked in busier times. For example, create a new inventory system, update your website or revamp your menu. This will broaden employees’ skill levels, increase staffing flexibility and help you retain good employees. 

Review your accounts payables
Consider possible renegotiation of rates on your business lease, loans, credit cards and supplier terms.

Review your personal and business credit scores
Address all issues on the credit reports. Good credit provides benefits like access to capital and lower interest rates.

Encourage customers to regularly visit your business
Offer coupons, Groupons, Living Social deals and gift certificates to be redeemed during the construction period. 

Find new revenue sources
Introduce a new product to existing customers, find a new market for existing offerings or find new uses for existing products.

Expand your knowledge
Be open to new solutions. Increase your business’ capabilities by soliciting aid from mentors, front line employees and business experts.

Collect past-due receivables
Reach out to customers with outstanding accounts. If you cant collect the full amount immediately, try to negotiate a payment schedule.

Create a new way to deliver your product
Deliver your product through a different outlet such as e-commerce, using an alternative retail outlet or implementing a delivery service.

Start a generous loyalty program
If you already offer one, increase the benefits or lessen the requirements necessary for your customers to receive benefits during construction.

Evaluate product mix
Calculate the profit margins of each of your products. Give particular attention to low margin products to determine if it is still worthwhile to carry them.

Update customer contact information
Use proactive communication. It is even more important during construction than usual. You must continue with your newsletters, event invitations and coupons in order to remain relevant to customers. 

Get active in local organizations
Keep abreast of your industry, community and customers through participation in your chamber of commerce, industry association and local business district. 

Implement a cooperative marketing strategy
Team up with neighbors to participate in co-op ad. This will save money and make a stronger impact through larger ad space than if you placed an advertisement by yourself. 

Identify your key performance indicators
Use key performance indicators. They are a set of quantifiable measures that a business uses to gauge or compare performance in terms of meeting goals. Having these in place allows you to quickly monitor your business performance and identify potential problems. 



While most business owners are passively waiting for construction to end, the savvy owners are looking past the short-term and are proactively laying the groundwork for future growth.

Monitor inventory carefully
Review inventory levels monthly and make sure stock levels are appropriate for the season. 

Use this time to broaden your connections. Speak to groups, sponsor charity functions or supply goods and services to a well-publicized organization.

Implement creative, low-budget marketing strategies
Construction will impact your bottom line. With your staff, brainstorm ways to communicate to passersby that you are open for business and implement them. 

Stay informed
Attend DPW information sessions, track construction progress on the DPW website and enlist the aid of your Support for Business Liaison. Subscribe to niche small business publications to get tips and essential tools for small business survival. 

Explain to customers how construction will benefit them
Discuss benefits such as how the new street lighting will make the area safer for them or how the new intersection will make it easier for them to turn into your parking lot.

Use your advisors wisely
Keep your accountant, banker, insurance agent and lawyer informed. These professionals can help you avoid pitfalls when making business decisions. 

Plan an “excuse the dust” sale right after construction begins
Act fast. A sale quickly gets customers in the habit of coming to your business during construction, before they have a chance to seek competition. 

Avoid making across-the-board cuts
Analyze and identify which areas can be cut with the least amount of harm to the bottom line. Rarely do all areas of the business contribute equally to its success or failure. 

Track you ad spending to revenue
Know how much you are earning for every dollar you are spending. You’ll have a better understanding of where to cut or what your focus should be. Use promo codes and web analytics to help with tracking. 

Research new technology
Implementation of new technology can greatly help your business. The proper upgrades can increase your efficiency, lower your expenses and reduce down time. 

Stay positive
Construction may be the worst thing in your life, but do not complain to customers. Your feelings about construction will pass, but your customers will associate your negativity with your business long after the bulldozer leaves.

Refresh your website content
Keep your website current. It is generally the first place potential customers go to learn about your business. It’s important for the site’s appearance and themes to be current, for your information to be accurate and for your site to be easy to find and to navigate. 

Accentuate the positive
Never go to the media with your fears of bankruptcy; that rarely draws customers to your door. Always lead with your strengths. Go to the media with solutions. Show how you are using creativity and business savvy to overcome this challenge. 

Research vendors
Conduct a competitive comparison of vendors. Look for vendors with new products, lower prices or better terms. 

Acknowledge the construction
Thank each customer for visiting upon arrival. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them through the inconvenience of the construction. 

Create a strategic alliance
Find a business that serves your target market but is not your competition. Find ways to collaborate, such as creating a referral agreement or purchasing co-op advertising. 

Protect your turf
Honor competitor coupons, deploy a retention marketing campaign, maintain communications with your existing customers and don’t be afraid to target new customers. 

Create news
Use every opportunity to speak o your customers. Updating customers on the construction is a great reason to send out a newsletter. Create construction themed sales, such as get 1% off your purchase for every orange barrel on our block.

Focus on customer care
Know that customer loyalty will be tested during construction. As your customers consider your competition, ask yourself, “Do I offer the best value, quality, service and prices? What can I do to make my business more competitive?”

Resist the temptation to offer deep discounts
Discounting can hurt profit and encourage competitive matching. Consider a Free-with-Purchase deal as an alternative. It doesn’t affect margins in the way discounts do and customers see it as a valuable deal. 

Keep your customers informed
Maintain constant status updates. Inform every customer of the latest construction developments and how to negotiate detours when visiting your business. In addition to your store hours, share alternate routes on your outgoing voicemail. As a new route opens up, include a map on your website. Tweet or update your Facebook page with the information. 

Share parking lots
Make an agreement with a business down the street to allow their customers to use your parking lot while construction blocks their business, and that business will do the same when construction moves in front of your business. This guarantees that your customers will always have access to parking and introduces you to potential customers from the other business. 



Have a customer appreciation party to thank your customers for their patronage.

Take pictures
Show off your new streetscape by including photos on your website and in your newsletter.

Test and measure your advertising strategy
Use web analytics to measure the traffic to your site. Test every piece of your marketing strategy.

Evaluate your performance
Carefully analyze actual operating results against the goals and objectives established in your construction strategy.

Acknowledge your employees
Recognize employee efforts that go beyond the call of duty. There are many free and low cost ways to reward your employees for their loyalty, creativity and dedication to your business. 

Have an end-of-construction sale
Don’t assume customers will automatically return after the construction leaves. A big promotion will remind customers that it’s time to return to normal. Operationally, it’s a good way to move overstocked inventory. 

Plan for growth
If you properly planned for construction and maintained close controls on your business during construction, you now have all the information needed to create a very strong growth plan. New challenges will always be headed your way. The prepared business will always fare better than those without a plan. 


The Support for Business program offers project-specific "Open for Business" signs to inform customers that neighborhood businesses are open to serve them during construction. Businesses may be listed on a sign by name or logo. The project liaison may contact businesses for a copy of their logo in a high resolution jpg or png format. The project liaison will review traffic control and access staging to determine sign location(s) along the corridor.

Type of signs include: 

  • Directional signage to help traffic flow and access
  • Inform customers of detour route or parking availability
  • Business specific signs
Visual examples:



The Department of Public Works has created many partnerships with a variety of local organizations that can help your business with plan development, consulting, financial and technical assistance, and expanding your professional networks. 


The mission of DCD is to improve the quality of life in Milwaukee by guiding and promoting development that creates jobs, builds wealth and strengthens the urban enviroment, and at the same time respects equity, economy and ecology. We can work together to make your business and our City a success. A list of resources designed to jump-start a new business, expand an existing company, and support business relocation:


Please note the following agencies are hyperlinked to their websites and we are not responsible for the content or the availability of these sites.


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