Monticello Receives AARP Community Challenge Grant

Monticello Selected as a 2024 AARP Community Challenge Grantee!

The village of Monticello, along with the Monticello Chamber of Commerce, Green County Development Corporation (GCDC), and the Green County Leaders are thrilled to announce that Monticello has been selected to receive a 2024 AARP Community Challenge grant. Monticello was one of only 343 grantees selected (out of 3,300+ applications!) from across all 50 states, Washington D.C, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

At the request of the village, a 2023/2024 Green County Leaders group provided a first impressions report along with detailed recommendations for community improvements to enhance downtown foot traffic. This report provided support for the application to AARP for the Community Challenge Grant which was awarded $13,700 to Monticello.

With this quick-action grant and additional funding support provided by Toyota Motor North America, Monticello will be able to increase pedestrian safety by improving walkable areas, creating vibrant pedestrian infrastructure and engaging community members. The grant award will provide funding for benches, signage and landscaping that will be installed along key areas of the community and recreational trails to direct people through downtown Monticello.

“We are incredibly proud that AARP selected us for this investment to make Monticello more livable for residents of all ages,” stated GCDC executive director Olivia Otte. “AARP is a nationwide leader in making communities more livable and we are honored that they see the tangible value this project will bring to our area.”

This is all part of AARP’s nationwide work on livable communities, which supports the efforts of neighborhoods, towns, cities and counties across the country to become great places for all. AARP believes that communities should provide safe, walkable streets, affordable and accessible housing and transportation options; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents to participate in community life.

To learn more about the projects being funded by the AARP Community Challenge across the nation, including all 343 granted projects this year, visit An interactive map of current and past AARP Community Challenge projects and AARP’s Livable Communities work can be viewed at

For questions or comments regarding the project, please contact GCDC at 608-328-9452, the Monticello Chamber at, or the Village of Monticello at 608-938-4383 or

Green County Small Business Series Ends with Business Pitch Contest

For the second year, Green County Development Corporation (GCDC) and The Bank of New Glarus hosted the Small Business Series & Pitch Contest, a training program for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. The event culminated with participants ‘pitching’ their business idea to a group of judges for a chance to win a cash prize.

Beginning April 3rd, 17 aspiring Green County entrepreneurs participated in weekly sessions that included information on developing their business plan, connecting with a mentor, understanding financing and how to market their business. Each session allowed time for entrepreneurs to network within the group, creating valuable connections and support. Participants were also able to connect 1:1 with Nora Roughen-Schmidt, business consultant for the Southwest Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “This series is an economic development driver that empowers participants with education, resources, consulting, and relationships. It is exciting to participate and assist in developing new businesses in Green County.” Roughen-Schmidt said.

Ron Schaaf, President and CEO of The Bank of New Glarus stated, “The Bank of New Glarus is proud to partner with GCDC on this program. The entrepreneurs who attend have many great ideas, and we wish them all the best as they move forward with opening businesses across Green County.”

The Pitch Contest, sponsored by The Bank of New Glarus provided cash prizes to the top three pitches. Judges ranked presentations on problem identification and solution, target market, competition and unique selling position, business viability, and pitch quality.

Eleven (11) Green County entrepreneurs pitched their business, and included:

1st Place Kindred Spirits Meadery (Stephen Ilzenhuiser): custom mead producer

2nd Place Arrow Acres (Susan Anderson): custom woodworking, hobby farm

3rd Place Small Business Owners Coaching (Marechiel Santos-Lang): group and 1:1 coaching for small business owners

Daisy’s Axe Box (presented by Todd & Brenda Coy): an entertainment company providing axe throwing for private parties and community events

Bellebrook Botanicals (Monica Pastrana): wellness support with small batch herbal products

Whole-Hearted Apothecary (Lula Miller): master herbalist, educational speaker and events

Heidi’s Happy Acres (Heidi Kent): specialty produce, pumpkin and sunflower patch, corn maze and family activities.

Plan to create safer, people-friendly spaces in downtown Albany wins AARP’s Small Dollar, Big Impact grant

VILLAGE OF ALBANY, WI – A proposal submitted by the Green County Development Corp. (GCDC) to beautify and create safer people-friendly spaces in downtown Albany has been selected to receive this month’s AARP Wisconsin “Small Dollar, Big Impact” grant.

AARP Wisconsin is awarding $1,000 grants each month throughout 2024 to projects across the state that are designed to make communities better places for everyone to live, work and play as they age. Judges selected this project after reviewing dozens of proposals submitted from all over the state.

Olivia Otte, Executive Director of GCDC, said the goal of the project – called the “Advance Albany Initiative” – is to ‘create a spark that allows us to build excitement and growth in the community.”

The grant will be used to buy reflective crosswalk signs, high-visibility crosswalk paint, and solar-powered LED cross walk lights. The funds will also enable the group to install new flowerpots with native plants in crosswalk islands and put small trees in sidewalk planters. Brochures and flyers about pedestrian safety will also be created and made available in the downtown library.

“By doing this, we will help to enhance the identity of the community and create a space that people want to go to,” Otte said. “This simple addition will serve as a catalyst for community engagement and social cohesion.”

The GCDC was created to serve small communities like Albany. This project, Otte explained, holds a distinctive character as it unfolds within a community characterized by its rural setting and aging population. The village, with a population of approximately 1,200 residents, exudes a sense of tight-knit community spirit.

One year ago, GCDC collaborated with community leaders to conduct first-impression tours of Albany. Key initiatives were identified, and a primary focus emerged: to enhance the downtown area by creating a more welcoming and aesthetically pleasing environment. Because of this community involvement, GCDC has collaborated with the Albany Chamber of Commerce to pursue grants and local donations to turn this vision into reality.

The group used the AARP Walk Audit Toolkit and the AARP Creating Community Gardens resource to help in their planning. “These invaluable tools played a crucial role in helping us refine our focus and identify the top priorities within our community improvement project. By leveraging these toolkits, we gained a clear understanding of the specific areas that required immediate attention and improvements,” Otte said.

Furthermore, she said, “both toolkits facilitated the development of a sustainability plan for our project. Collaborating with community groups and organizations not only diversified our resources but also fostered a sense of shared responsibility and collective ownership for the project’s ongoing success.”

Otte said the AARP grant money will help contribute to the creation of excitement and energy throughout the village.

“We deeply appreciate the AARP grant that GCDC has received, which will contribute significantly to enhancing Albany’s downtown area through beautification and safety initiatives,” she said. “This support not only aligns with Albany’s goals but also generates positive momentum, benefiting both local residents and visitors alike.”

Darrin Wasniewski, Associate State Director of Community Outreach for AARP Wisconsin, said, “We are pleased to see how Green County Development Corp. and the Village of Albany utilized AARP’s Walk Audit Toolkit and Creating Community Gardens in planning this pedestrian safety improvement.

“Older adults are disproportionately affected in traffic crashes involving pedestrians leading to serious injuries or death. We applaud all those involved for focusing on the safety of people walking as they work to create a Livable Community for all ages and all abilities,” Wasniewski said.

AARP Wisconsin’s launched its “Small Dollar, Big Impact” grant program in 2020 and is now in its fifth year of helping proposed projects move forward in rural and urban parts of the state. For more information, visit


AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment security and retirement planning. We advocate for consumers in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP VIVA, a bilingual news source.  AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates.  The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at

GCDC Awards Nominations Open through February 26th

GCDC is seeking nominations for the 2023 Business Awards.  Award categories are listed below.  Please use the Attached Form and fill out a separate form for each nomination. Submissions are due no later than February 26, 2024.

The GCDC Executive Committee will review and select recipients, which will be announced at the Annual Dinner event on the evening of March 21, 2024 at Turner Hall in Monroe.


The Outstanding Business of the Year Award – honors an existing business that has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the county’s economic growth through innovation, job creation, new investment, and/or extraordinary long-time interest in supporting others in business.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award – honors an entrepreneur who leads the way for their business, demonstrating a growth mindset, a strong work ethic, a willingness to learn and find solutions to challenges, and a hunger for opportunity.

The Richard B. Schmied Leadership Award – commemorates Richard B. Schmied, remembered for the characteristics of leadership he exhibited.  The winner of the award exemplifies the character of a true leader.