La Crosse trying to help small businesses succeed

Only 50 percent of new small businesses survive more than five years in the U.S., according to the nation’s Small Business Administration.

But in La Crosse, local efforts are putting more emphasis on helping these small businesses thrive.

It is National Small Business Week, and according to the SBA, 51 percent of the Wisconsin workforce is employed by a small business.

But not all those small businesses are successful long term.

In La Crosse, the city is trying to reverse that trend, and businesses say so far it’s working.

After being open for less than a year, River City Hobbies in downtown La Crosse realized it needed to expand.

“So when we came over into this side, we were able to add able to add in a lot of things we weren’t able to add before,” said James McCauley, owner of River City Hobbies.

McCauley said several different factors led him to believe downtown La Crosse is the only location his business would be successful.

“The downtown association that they have here is really good. There’s a lot of programs they have planned to try and keep people downtown and looking around,” McCauley said.

La Crosse City Council member James Cherf said the city is trying to make La Crosse a better place to live, and one way of doing that is by making sure businesses stay open. He says there are a number of local organizations offering assistance to business owners and constantly trying to attract new business to the area.

“Downtown La Crosse is a wonderful place to try to start a small business. Number one, it’s affordable. Typically, the properties that are available are available in a variety of sizes. It’s accessible. We have public transportation, sidewalks, lots of bodies,” Cherf said.

McCauley said the number of people walking through downtown La Crosse everyday seems to be enough to keep him in business, and he is very thankful of that.

“Moving into this side was probably, I guess, the key to our success right now,” McCauley said.

McCauley said one hurdle he faces is parking. He says he knew parking would be an issue when he opened his store, but that he traded the lack of parking for having lots of foot traffic outside his door.

In 2013, the Small Business Administration reported Wisconsin having more than 440,000 small businesses.