It is not a problem that a lot of us face, but lets say that you have a big pile of money and you would like to do something with that money to put your hometown "on the map." And of course, your hometown is Wausau. Well, if you have that kind of problem (I sure don't!) here are a few ideas that might help you out.
Now it seems to me that there are a few things that aren't much use for putting Wausau "on the map." We already have a great library, our art museum is nationally famous and we have a music conservatory, and Artsblock seems to be humming. So you might need to look somewhere else. And building or making the "best" or "biggest" whatever "between Milwaukee and Minneapolis" seems to me to emphasize our podunkness more than putting us on the map. So how about some positive suggestions? OK, here goes.
Wi-Fi the town. Bring the information superhighway to everyone in town — free. Like a public utility. Wausau becomes a super hi-tech town and folks can surf and shop, surf and eat and so on. Not only that, but perhaps all kinds of new community outreach sites will grow. If people can surf everywhere and anywhere, it makes sense for your business to be on the web. And your not for profit and even your homemade radio station. Wausau would be a much cooler town if it was one big hot spot.
Localize the media — nationally. How about fund a media center that produces programming about Wausau, Wisconsin, the Midwest that can be broadcast everywhere? Some funding to buy some equipment and support journalists and story tellers of all kinds to make radio and TV stories and documentaries. Long, in-depth looks at life here in the Midwest. "This American Life" may be based in Chicago, but the stories are from anywhere. We can make and tell those stories from here just as easily. Wausau is the American life too. Maybe even more than Chicago.
Feed the mind. Small presses in this country often have a tough time and it would be nice to have a secure foundation. In addition to publishing regional books, perhaps you could also set up a "word farm," with writers' retreats, workshops and writers in residence. This literary effort would then match Wausau's commitment to the visual and performing arts. A wonderful match indeed.
Food for the body. There is a sustainable energy center to east of us and a sustainable agriculture center to the west, why not combine both? A sustainable farmstead which demonstrates both low energy for living and sustainable farming in one location. Fund a "Master Farmer" program where people can learn organic and sustainable techniques, and perhaps even a "New Farmer" program, where people who want learn organic farming techniques spend a summer on the farm actually doing what they are learning.
Go high tech. They build supercomputers in Chippewa Falls for goodness sake. Surely we could attract some brain power here to do research on high speed networking or something along those lines. Maybe if the whole town was Wi-Fied we could attract those kinds of people. Or maybe we could build a wireless network like no one has seen before.
I am sure there are many other ideas of things that would actually expand opportunities around here and build the community and economy that somebody could come along and dump some money into. The way to get onto the map is doing something different, something different, but useful. Not doing the same old thing just a little bit bigger. That's my two cents anyway, but unfortunately, that is all I got.