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May 9, 2024


Panelist members from left to right include: Mike Golat - Altoona City Administrator, Aaron White - Community Development Director, Scott Rogers (moderator), Julie Thoney - ____ (co-moderator), Luke Hanson - Community Development Director for the City of Eau Claire, and Ray French - Regional Economic Development Director for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

May 9, 2024

The May edition of Eggs & Issues featured local leaders of economic development efforts about their current projects, challenges, and opportunities.

Mike Golat who is the City Administrator for Altoona spoke about how the pressure has shifted from the development of River Prairie to the edges of town. The East Neighborhood Development is off of Highway 12 and SS and was bought strategically to move outward. Golat stresses the need for cities like Altoona to grow to help with taxes. The East Neighborhood Development is a mixed-use development with both commercial and residential units. Altoona is also rewriting its ordinances to reflect the values that the City Council has passed, with hopes that the ordinance reflects just that. Whitetail Woods is also a mixed-use residential development. The city wants to promote the development with hopes that the infrastructure breaks ground this fall with plans for the developments to go up next spring. Golat goes on to list more developments and existing infrastructure in the City of Altoona and how the city plans to use it. He states "using efficient use of the properties and existing infrastructure is important." Not only is there more diverse housing options, it also helps reduce the cost of housing. There is an increase in workforce in the Eau Claire County which includes Altoona and calls for more housing. The City of Altoona is also updating its zoning codes. Altoona's main focus is more efficient, more economical and environmentally sustainable developments.

Aaron White is the Community Development Director for the City of Eau Claire. Eau Claire is also rewriting their zoning codes which is a "massive undertaking". White and his team were hopeful that there would be an approval for a project this fall after the zoning codes are updated, however after the rewriting, it is hopeful that something would go to council for approval next summer of 2025. He also focuses on how Eau Claire wants to reevaluate lot sizes and follow checklists that streamline projects. White agrees with Golat about how "building is critical for the community." There is a need to grow the housing market, especially with employers looking to fill positions in the Eau Claire area but again, they need somewhere to live. There is also a lot of interest in businesses coming into the Eau Claire area so it is important to have the infrastructure in the community to support that. White concludes with talking about how projects have been in the works for awhile and are finally moving forward. He says "it has been challenging the past couple years... interest rates, construction costs, and labor costs have really pushed a lot of projects kick off dates back."

Luke Hanson is the Executive Director for the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Hanson's job focuses on recruiting companies into the community to grow and expand. The EDC also works with local businesses on their expansion throughout the community through hiring or growing/expanding on their existing facility. They want companies to feel a sense of place and bring people to the community through activities. There are four projects the EDC is currently working on and if they all go through, they will successfully run out of land in the area they are working in. The EDC is working on multiple projects that total around $600 million total which does not include some of the other projects such as a practice facility, a potential new hospital, ice arenas, convention centers, etc. Eau Claire County ranked #1 in 2023 in the state of Wisconsin for Net New Construction with over $372 million that was added to the county.

Ray French is the Regional Economic Development Director for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). WEDC supports economic development initiatives in the region. WEDC focuses on an economy for all where those in Wisconsin have an opportunity to thrive. French talks about the goal for economic development in Wisconsin for a better quality of life in the state. There are a few different programs the WEDC provides to ensure they are focusing on the most areas of need in the state. WEDC also provides targeted assistance through capacity building grants and support for diverse businesses and entrepreneurship partners which is French's most important since being with the company. It addresses how to make an economy for all.

Julie Thoney is the Community Service and Economic Development Manager at Xcel Energy. Xcel Energy serves nationwide. Thoney says there is a lot of change in the energy community, every home, business, person, etc needs energy. There is more demand for higher energy and higher electric use. New data centers growing throughout the country are wanting over 200 megawatts in comparison to 1 megawatt (which equates to about 600 homes). Due to the increase in demand there is a wait on some of the equipment involved and a struggle to balance needs. It can get as long as two years before a company is able to obtain the proper equipment needed. Xcel's responsibility is to their existing customers (whether residential or business). Xcel Energy has a clean energy plan of becoming 80% carbon free by 2030 and 100% carbon free by 2050 by added more wind and solar energy.


More information
Website to Help with Area Workforce Presented to Chamber (Leader-Telegram $)
Power Point of Eggs and Issues

Posted by Leah Brawdy, Governmental Affairs Intern

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