Welcome to the Eau Claire Chamber Blog
Licensed clinical social worker Eric Strom recently joined Behavioral Health as a psychotherapist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. Strom holds a master’s degree in social work from St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has worked as a clinical social worker for six years. He is level II certified in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) by the EMDR International Association. Strom’s professional interests include anxiety, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, running anger management and men’s groups, and trauma. A U.S. Marine veteran and Minnesota National Guard member, Strom has a special passion for working with military personnel. He currently serves with the Minnesota Army National Guard’s 134th Brigade Support Battalion as a behavioral health officer.
At its May 22 Legislative Session, the Eau Claire City Council took action to revise food truck rules, approve a zoning change for a Princeton Valley area development, receive DNR funds for residential lead pipe replacement, grant a liquor licence for a planned reopened Gordy's Market on Clairemont Ave., approve a five-year Park, Open Space, & Recreation Facilities Plan, and accept a donation for lighting the new Haymarket pedestrian bridge.
Haselwander Brothers: Development of 27 Single Family Lots in Princeton Valley
The Council approved a rezoning request that will allow for the development of 27 single-family residential lots along Gooder St., LaSalle St., and East Princeton Ave., by Haselwanter Brothers, Inc.
(Above: Preliminary plot provided to the Plan Commission at its May 14 meeting)
City staff noted that the proposal is consistent with the City's Comprehensive Plan for low-density residential development, and the surrounding area is mostly the same R-1 single family zoning with existing single family homes in the vicinity of Princeton Valley Golf Club. However, at Monday evening's public hearing, two nearby residents complained about the added development near their homes. Developer Neil Haselwander, who himself lives in the area, said the homes are intended to fill demand for more affordable housing, especially senior citizens looking to downsize.
Food Truck rules revised to encourage more licenses
After a lengthy discussion and consideration of amendments, the Council approved revised rules and license fees for food trucks to encourage more of them to set up in city parks and along city streets. Among the changes were lowering the license fee from $250 per year to $120 and increasing the allowable length of time open on a city street from four to six hours. The Council continued restrictions related to trucks open in proximity to existing restaurants, and deleted a proposal to allow daily food truck parking on the Schlegelmilch Lot at Farwell and Lake streets. Much of the discussion centered around the balance between encouraging food truck businesses while avoiding unfair competition with brick-and-mortar restaurants who have higher licensing and operating expenses. At Monday's public hearing, restaurant owner Lisa Aspenson raised concerns about lowering license fees for food trucks after health inspection fees charged to restaurants were increased significantly last year.
Donation enables decorative lighting on new Haymarket pedestrian bridge
The Council will accept a donation of $110,000 from Jamf co-founder Zach Halmstad to pay for lighting on the pedestrian bridge currently under construction between Phoenix Park and Haymarket Landing.
By paying for the Haymarket lights, the donation makes it possible for the city to also illuminate the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge, currently being rebuilt across the Chippewa River.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, the Council agreed to accept $300,00 from the DNR to continue a program to assist residential water customers to replace existing lead pipes, approved a liquor license for Gordy's Market, which plans to reopen its location on Clairemont Avenue in the Shopko Plaza (the former Ron's Castle Foods), and approved a five-year Park Open Space & Recreation Facilities Plan. The plan was updated with one amendment to include investigating the feasibility of an additional trail between downtown and the East Hill Neighborhood.
EC City Council loosens food truck rules (Leader-Telegram)
Gordy's Market works to reopen Eau Claire location (WEAU TV 13 News)
The Eau Claire City Council meets twice a month. The agenda is released the week before, with a Monday session at 7:00 p.m. to receive public comments, and a Tuesday session at 4:00 p.m. to take legislative action on business items and ordinances. Meetings are streamed live at Community Television/Valley Media Works and available to be viewed on demand within a couple days later. The next meetings will be June 11 and 12.
Posted by: Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director
Last week, 36 area high school juniors graduated from the Chamber’s Youth Leadership Eau Claire (YLEC) program. In its 15th year, the program gives students a chance to enhance their knowledge and development leadership skills. During the nine-month program, the students learn about the community and future career opportunities.
In order to graduate from the program, students must complete community service projects. This year, the class divided into four groups to complete the projects for the Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity, Clear Vision Eau Claire Food Security Team, Prairie Ridge Early Learning School Fight Against Hunger Project and Triniteam.
The following is the list of 2018 graduates:
Altoona High School
Fall Creek High School
Memorial High School
Paj Ia Moua
North High School
Gao Sue Vang
Regis High School
YLEC Executive Committee
Chair Michael Strubel, Marshfield Clinic – Eau Claire Center
Vice Chair Jenna Ziegler, Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire
Past Chair Jason Craig, Mayo Clinic Health System
Jim Schmitt, Eau Claire Area School District
Laura Volbrecht, Fall Creek School District
YLEC Curriculum Committee
Andrea Finn, Royal Credit Union
Travis Ida, Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Chippewa Valley
Nicole Lasker, Lasker’s Jewelers
Kelly Lauscher, HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital
Eric Lindquist, Leader-Telegram
Andy Neborak, Eau Claire Express Baseball
Susan Peterson, Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Inc.
Jennifer Roetter, US Department of Agriculture
Vicki Seltun, City of Eau Claire
Suzie Slota, YMCA
Daneille Strong, Weld Riley, S.C.
Keith Zehms, Eau Claire County
Thank you to all of our sponsors for making this program possible. For a complete list of sponsors, please click here.
Raggedy Man is a must see in downtown Eau Claire! Whether you are looking for a gift or better yet, something for yourself, you can find it here. Website
Chippewa Valley Cremation Services broke ground for a new Celebration of Life Center in Altoona. Website
(Above: WEDC photo)
Phil Dedman had never even been to Eau Claire when he attended training for his job there a few years ago. A month later, he and his wife Dani, who are in their early 30s, went back to visit the area and decided they might like to move there.
There was just something about the college town of 68,000, 90 miles east of the Twin Cities at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers. It was big enough to have an arts scene, but smaller and less dense than the Twin Cities.
Coming up on a year ago now, they made the move, when Phil was able to switch job locations from the downtown headquarters of the Minneapolis tech company he works for to its Eau Claire offices.
Some of the things that drew the Dedmans to Eau Claire are similar to the themes Wisconsin’s been highlighting to lure young professionals to Wisconsin.
The above is an excerpt from a recent article at the online news site MinnPost -- Wisconsin is coming for Minnesota’s millennials -- that examines the prospects of success for Wisconsin's planned marketing campaign to attract talent to its employers in the face of record-low unemployment.
Last month, Governor Walker signed a bill allocating $6.8 million for a new Campaign to focus on attracting veterans, Wisconsin alumni and millennials to the state. According a news release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation: The WEDC, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism will develop the collaborative effort aimed at addressing the state’s current and future workforce needs. The marketing campaign will focus on three specific audiences: transitioning military service members and their families; Wisconsin university alumni now living in other states; and Midwest millennials living outside Wisconsin.
Notes the MinnPost article: "most years, Minnesota gains a lot more Sconnies than Wisconsin gains Minnesotans," meaning attracting Minnesota residents to Wisconsin would require a reversal of a long-term trend.
At the same time, for those of us at the Chamber who often interact with new arrivals in the community, there seems to be increasing anecdotal evidence that Eau Claire is reaching a tipping point as an attractive combination of urban-like amenities with a comfortable, small-town feel. Some of them are UW-Eau Claire alumni who have experience with the city, but also recognized the positive changes that have accelerated over the past decade. Others are those with different connections to the area, who've decided for various reasons that Eau Claire was the place they wanted to raise their families.
One of them is Wes Escondo, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin. He tells his story in this WEDC video:
Click here to see the video: Wisconsin Stories - Wesley Escondo
So how are things working out for the Dedman's? From the MinnPost article:
They’re able to live much more comfortably on one income in Eau Claire, Dedman said, and they were even able to trade in their house in the northern Twin Cities exurb of Dayton for a great old house near the center of town in Eau Claire.
There’s no more commuting headache, either. Most places Dedman needs to go, he can walk. And compared to when he was living in Dayton and busing to work to avoid a hellish drive, he’s spending seven minutes these days walking to or from work, compared to an hour and a half, one way, on the bus.
Finding good schools for the boys was another big factor in the couple’s decision to move — and so far, they’ve lived up to that, Dedman said. With maybe one exception.
“I guess one thing I’d love to see more here is diversity,” he said.
But while the perks made Eau Claire an easy sell, the family didn’t move for the Wisconsin aspect, Dedman said.
“We moved to Wisconsin for Eau Claire. As products of the northern [Twin Cities] suburbs, the appeal of a small big town was just overwhelming,” he said.
Click here to read the full MinnPost article.
Wisconsin's - and Eau Claire's - next steps
The WEDC news release says the coming program is expected to include "continuing collaboration with educational partners throughout the state to encourage graduates of Wisconsin’s higher educational institutions who have moved away to considering returning to the state, expanding WEDC’s existing marketing campaign to reach millennials in other Midwest cities looking for the best place to pursue their passions, using existing Department of Tourism marketing platforms to proactively promote Wisconsin as more than just a great place to visit," and other initiatives.
The Chamber has contacted the state agencies involved in the upcoming marketing campaign with an eye to monitoring progress and localizing the campaign to specifically benefit our region. Our Business & Workforce Development Committee has begun its Employers Workforce Initiative to take action in all key areas related to meeting the workforce challenges of our members, and you'll hear more in the coming days and weeks.
Certainly Eau Claire isn't perfect and won't check all of the boxes for everyone, but it seems our community has a strong set of attributes that are already attracting new residents and making it the right place for them to live and work. And some issues have already been identified as needing more work: The comment about diversity made by Phil Dedman in the MinnPost article? The Chamber has also formed a Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, chaired by Wesley Escondo, to address the issue and work to do all we can as a business community to ensure that Eau Claire is a welcoming and inclusive place.
Posted by: Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director
EC Moving & Storage, Inc. , Atlas interstate agent
EC Moving & Storage, originally Eau Claire Moving and Storage, has been in the area assisting families and businesses since 1988. This will be their 30th year here in Eau Claire!
They pride themselves in Customer service and strive daily to make relocation and storage needs easy for all. With over 100 years of experience in our office alone they can help with any logistical, storage or relocation challenges you may have.
EC Moving & Storage performs local, long distance and international moves and is a stockholding agent of Atlas World Group. From helping move furniture to get new flooring in your home to moving to Germany they can assist and help with the stress of moving.
EC Moving & Storage also has warehousing and delivery services to fit the needs of everyone. From remodel projects small and large to daily deliveries to solve your space and logistics needs they can help.
At their facilities, they also have a large records management division to track and store data for companies of all sizes. With scanning capabilities in house and our bar coding software let them manage your records and create space and efficiency for your office.
If you have a relocation, storage or logistical need for yourself or your business please give them a call.
If you've attended the Chamber's monthly Eggs & Issues breakfasts, participated in the Chippewa Valley Rally to the State Capitol, or been involved in the Chamber's Governmental Affairs or Business & Workforce Development committees, you've had the opportunity to interact with the Chamber's 2017-18 interns. Congratulations to Kaylee Tracy and Savannah Sepic on their May 19 graduation from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. They've each played a valuable role as part of the Chamber team this year, and we wish them each the best as they move on to the next chapters in their lives.
Posted by: Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director
North Barstow TIF district value grows by 516%
The use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has been an important and successful development tool for the City of Eau Claire over the past 25 years, adding over $312 million in property value across the 11 districts.
Speaking at the Chamber's May 18 Eggs & Issues breakfast, City Finance Director Jay Winzenz brought business and community leaders up to date on "TIFs and Other Fun Facts about Municipal Finance." During his talk, Winzenz explained how TIFs work, and described the districts Eau Claire has implemented since 1983.
One of the most prominent, the North Barstow Tax Increment District (TID #8), was created in 2002 to revitalize the blighted area than now includes the Royal Credit Union corporate center, market rate apartment buildings, and the recently-constructed Jamf building. The city's investments in the area included environmental remediation, streets and utilities, and Phoenix Park. Since it started, the value of the area has grown from $12 million to almost $77 million.
Winzenz described the City's use of TIFs for downtown revitalization a "classic example" of the use of the concept, taking blighted areas and "turning them into a show place."
How Tax Increment Financing works
The chart below illustrates the concept behind Tax Increment Financing. The boundaries of the Tax Increment District are created to define the area where the municipal investment will be made. A current base value is established, and each of the public recipients of property tax revenue (County, City, CVTC and the School District) continue to receive taxes on the base value. As the value of the property grows, the incremental additional value goes to the city to pay back the investments made. The TID is closed after the investments are recovered, then each jurisdiction benefits from higher tax revenues from the new increased value.
Proceeds form TIDs can be used for various expenses related to development, ranging from public works improvements to property costs to environmental remediation, but must directly relate to its purpose. A key underpinning of TIF is the "but for" test: It can only be used if the development as conceived would not have occurred "but for" the use of TIF.
Three kinds of TIDs are allowable in Wisconsin: Industrial, Blight and Mixed-use. Eau Claire has used all three, the most recent being a Mixed-use TID in the Water Street area. The Confluence TID was an important part of the financing of the Public Private Partnership that has resulted in construction of Haymarket Landing and the soon-to-open Pablo Center at the Confluence.
Levy Limits, Tax Rates, Assessments and the City Budget
Winzenz introduced his presentation with explanations of how the City's annual tax levy is determined, how tax rates and set, and the upcoming city property revaluation.
State law limits the total dollars a city can collect in property taxes to the previous year's total, plus net construction growth. The tax rate is then simply a calculation of each property's share of the overall tax levy, based upon its proportionate value against all other property. The city periodically revalues properties to ensure fairness in assessment and collection of property taxes.
In Eau Claire, the City's 2018 total tax levy is about $41.7 million. Other property tax levies within the city: Eau Claire Schools, $46 million; Eau Claire County, $18.3 million, and CVTC $4.3 million. Residential properties account for 57.5% of the property taxes paid in the City, with 42.% paid by owners of commercial property.
The property tax revenue is the largest component (57%) of the city's revenue, so the tax levy has the most significant impact on what it has to work with in setting its annual budget. Since 1990, the percentage of City dollars coming from state shared revenues has fallen from over 53% of general fund revenue to 9.9% in 2018.
The City will adopt its 2019 budget in November, preceded by City Council discussions and a public hearing in October and November.
For more information, click here to see slides and data from the presentation.
Posted by: Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director
Starting this fall semester, Lakeland University, Chippewa Valley Center will offer a Master of Science in Leadership & Organizational Development (MS-LOD) degree, designed for the working adult. The MS-LOD program provides a broad-based professional education consisting of coursework that integrates research, case studies, technology and other learning processes.
Stephanie Rasmussen was named the chief experience officer of WESTconsin Credit Union, working from the Menomonie – East Administration Office. Rasmussen’s key responsibilities include planning, organizing, directing and controlling the company’s overall member experience and marketing, while managing WESTconsin’s brand and end-to-end member experience through all delivery channels. Rasmussen has worked at WESTconsin since 2016 as vice president – member experience. Before this, she held the position of manager of electronic services with Royal Credit Union, where she was employed for 12 years.
Literacy Chippewa Valley (LCV) announced that this year's recipient of the Eric J. Wahl "Making a Difference" Award is Sister Diane Boehm. Sister Diane is an LCV tutor and received the award today at LCV’s Celebration of the Stars. The Eric J. Wahl “Making a Difference” Award was created in memory of the late Eric J. Wahl who understood the importance of literacy in the lives of adults and their families. The award recognizes an individual in our community who is passionate about literacy and has demonstrated a significant commitment to the mission of Literacy Chippewa Valley.
HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals recently presented the 2018 Nurse Exemplar Awards to two very deserving registered nurses. These peer-nominated awards are the two hospitals’ highest nursing honors and recognize extraordinary nurses who exhibit excellence in caring for patients and families, provide personalized patient care, and have a superior level of knowledge and skill. At Sacred Heart Hospital, the award was presented to Kristine “Kristy” Terry, RN, CCRN, who works in the hospital’s critical care unit as a charge nurse. At St. Joseph’s Hospital, the award was presented to Regina “Regi” Geissler, RN, who works in the hospital’s emergency department as a trauma coordinator.
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.