Charming community in the heart of America’s dairy country
Fast-growing but keeping its small-town charm, Suamico looks to the future
Already blessed with a unique name that is hard to forget, Suamico, Wisconsin is also charmed with its idyllic location that is not lost on residents and those that may be passing through.
The city’s name can trace its origins back to the indigenous Menominee Amerindian tribe, “Suamico” and it has been translated in various ways over the years. One of the most popular proposed meanings is “the beaver’s tail,” perhaps because of its location near the peninsula that juts out into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan.
Located near Green Bay and situated on some 36 square miles in Brown County, the Suamico’s population now hovers at around 13,000, according to the United States Census Bureau.This charming place is still officially classed as a village, and with its small-town feel, it’s easy to see why.
We recently spoke with Suamico’s village president, Sky Van Rossum, village trustee Michael Schneider, and village administrator Alex Kaker. Here, all three men tell us what makes their beautiful community so special.
“The unique challenges we manage are related to maintaining the quality of life residents and businesses have come to expect,” Van Rossum says, citing lot sizes, good infrastructure, a supportive administration, access to Green Bay, and coordination with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the best management practices for local wetlands and shorelines.
He cites the Village of Suamico Comprehensive Plan, which provides a consistent element against which village leaders can weigh decisions on the development of the village and the use of limited resources. This can also be a catalyst for change when the needs of the community are seen as changed with time or circumstances.
Van Rossum also mentions the business landscape. Suamico is known for its historic downtown, he adds, which boasts an array of entertainment, businesses, restaurants, and shops, as well as access to outdoor activities, all in a single location.
“Our environment and support of local businesses have never been better,” he says. “The stress of the last few years fostered investments by the village to support existing businesses, and this has proven attractive to others with an entrepreneurial spirit of and vision for incorporating our unique environment with their business approach.”
Suamico continues to become more urban, with options abounding for shopping, dining, entertainment, investments, and growth.
“Our population is growing quickly,” Van Rossum reports, “as is the demand for services, and the village has proven itself supportive of those businesses with a vision and desire to participate and support the community, its needs, and values.”
He extols the new Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo; kayaking and sailing upon or hiking around Lake Michigan; and a wide range of shopping and dining options available that needn’t take curious travelers long hours away.
Staying focused on growth
Schneider says Suamico is a place that keeps its collective eye on the ball of what matters most.
“Overall,” he says, “we as a village have kept our focus, and we continue to focus on not only keeping our citizens safe, as through COVID and taking proper safety protocols, but also providing a solid infrastructure for sustained growth, such as working with and looking for opportunities to grow our village, both economically and in terms of quality of life.”
Schneider acknowledges that it can be a difficult balance, bringing in new homes whilst at the same time trying to maintain that village charm.
“I think we’ve been receptive to new housing developments,” he opines. “It’s just trying to find large enough plots of land for those developers to start with. We’ve seen smaller plots coming up for development, but we’re still hoping to see more major home developments.
“As with any government agency,” he adds, “we have to be good stewards with our residents’ tax dollars, and this can be very challenging at times with inflationary costs, weighing needs of the present versus the future services and ensuring growth both from a business standpoint and a population one as well. It’s difficult to be sure that we’re fiscally responsible and yet provide services for our residents today, as well as planning for tomorrow. To this end, we invest in our infrastructure, our businesses, and recreation services. It’s hard to make everyone happy, but we do our best by keeping an eye on the present, as well as the future.”
Coming through the other side of the pandemic
Kaker notes that carrying on in the face of government-mandated pandemic restrictions only served to make Suamico stronger and even more of a close-knit community.
“COVID forced us to re-imagine certain areas in our village, in terms of how our commercial spaces would be maximized,” he opines.
“A good example of this is the Urban Edge development. Recently, a former department store that was more than 80,000 square feet was repurposed into indoor storage units and a child-care facility. The village board also approved multi-family units adjacent to that building, which will help to support existing retail businesses in the area and draw other ones in. We’ve seen an immediate impact, with several fast food chains and a new grocer (German-based discount grocery giant Aldi) moving into the development.”
A growing trend over the past 35 years has been the explosion of microbreweries across North America. Suamico is no exception to this sudsy effort, as it has seen the Ahnapee Brewery and the Station 1 Brewing Co. both located within municipal limits in just the past three years, as Kaker points out. The latter purchased a former fire station, located downtown and belonging to the Village of Suamico. The new business opened its doors in September 2021.
Commercial mowing company RC Mowers also recently built a new facility of some 36,000 square feet. The company made the move from a previous site, located just next door, that its leaders had leased, as Kaker revealed.
He returns to the topic of COVID and its restrictions, citing this as a real crucible for his community.
“COVID was the ultimate test in patience and figuring out what we all could do to support one another,” says Kaker. “As a village, we did everything from lowering license fees and covering billboard advertising for our businesses to using tax incremental districts to encourage development. We have come out on the other side a stronger and more prosperous community.”
Kaker also cites a sewer main extension project along Suamico’s local highway frontage.
“This project will be completed by the end of the year,” he reveals, “and it will unlock a lot of potential for growth in the industrial and manufacturing market. We are also in the process of constructing a new well and have plans for adding another water storage facility (a water-storage tower) shortly.”
Kaker cites Suamico’s position as an outer suburb of Green Bay as a distinct advantage. The village benefits of course as well from the economic powerhouse that is the Green Bay Packers football team franchise.
“Suamico provides a unique place for businesses to set up shop and flourish,” Kaker declares.
“Whether you are looking to live in an area with small lot sizes next to convenient shopping locations, or you prefer to live on a five-acre lot where you can hunt and fish in your backyard, we have it all. We have a great school district, competitive tax rates, and opportunities through our multiple tax incremental districts that can support new business growth in our community. With direct access to a major US highway, you can connect quickly with the larger markets in our region.”
He adds that Suamico boasts six miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan; hundreds of acres of public land available for hunting, fishing, and hiking; and access to the Suamico River for any boat and kayak enthusiasts. The riding of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles is another popular recreational activity within the village of Suamico. Further, the new zoo, in addition to its many animals, also features zip lines, rope courses and mountain biking opportunities, all located on one site.
When asked what the future may look like he made some positive projections about Suamico’s future.
“Strong residential growth is expected over the next decade,” he says, “and we will be able to support future business development. We are looking forward to welcoming a variety of businesses to the area as we strive to maintain a family-centered community while balancing growth and preserving our village’s rural character.”
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AT A GLANCE
the village of Suamico, Wisconsin
Where: just outside of Green Bay in the heart of America’s dairyland