Welcome to the Eau Claire Chamber Blog
It's fur'real, a lot of doggone fun was had at the ribbon cutting to celebrate Paws and Claws new doggie daycare!
Chippewa Valley community and business leaders converge on Madison for the 25th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally on Jan. 30, 2019. The issues being brought forward by those taking part will be the topic of The West Side, which airs at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 28 on The Ideas Network of Wisconsin Public Radio. Host Rich Kremer will speak with members of the Chippewa Valley Chamber Alliance, which includes the Chambers of Commerce from Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and Menomonie. The annual rally is an effort to interact with lawmakers on vital economic issues like workforce, education, economic development, and broadband and infrastructure.
Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) in Springfield, Ill., recently announced the appointment of a new member to the Boards of Directors for HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals. The two boards function separately with a common membership base. Having duplicated board memberships supports the continued collaboration between the two HSHS ministries. New to the boards is Tina Nazier. Her appointment became effective November 1, 2018. Nazier is the health care strategic alignment director for Wipfli LLP in Eau Claire. She served as an Advisory Council member at Sacred Heart Hospital for a number of years. Nazier has a bachelor’s in management and a MBA from Cardinal Stritch University.
Congrats to Eau Claire Memorial High School for the opening of their newly remodeled entrance, office area, and locker room areas.
Eau Claire County is experiencing a wave of innovation and collaboration, and that is in part thanks to what Eau Claire County is doing to help the city and county prosper. With of a focus on innovation, community and looking forward to the new year, Colleen Bates, County Board First Vice-Chair, and Kathryn Schauf, County Administrator, spoke at this month’s Eggs & Issues on January 18 at Green Mill.
Innovation is key when it comes to a successful county government. With a limited amount of funding and resources, creativity is necessary to get the tasks at hand done effectively. Eau Claire County has done just that. As Bates said, “If something isn’t working, we need to do something different.” Eau Claire County is willing to make necessary changes to be successful, which have included focusing on research and combining programs that make sense.
In 2018, Eau Claire County has a hefty list of accomplishments, including collaboration on the Confluence Project and working on improving the criminal justice system, which has made us a leader in the state. This was done through implementing programs such as treatment courts, re-framing the juvenile justice system and continuing to control the number of people in jail.
The county plans to keep the momentum going into 2019. This year, the county plans to focus on expanding broadband access into more rural areas and to continue improving the criminal justice system. The focus will be on juvenile justice, mental health issues and treatment courts. Through these programs, the county plans on making long-term changes by keeping people out of the system through reform.
The county is also excited to continue with the UW-Extension program that is run through UW-Madison. With a focus on research and education, UW-Extension gives the community access to research as well as agents that are available to answer any questions of community members. This program also helps Eau Claire County develop a closer relationship with Madison, as well as other counties in the state.
Overall, 2018 was great, and Bates and Schauf are confident even better things are to come in 2019.
You can find the full presentation here.
If you want to read more about the event, it was covered by WQOW and The Leader Telegram.
Posted by Emma Koehn, Legislative & Workforce Development Intern
Sarah Reiter, advanced practice nurse practitioner at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital’s palliative care department, recently earned her Hospice and Palliative Advanced Practice Registered Nurse certification. This certification serves to expand knowledge and understanding of the complex disease processes and how to best support those who are living with them.
WEUX-TV FOX48 announced that it is moving frequencies on April 12th at 12 a.m. and viewers who watch TV for free with an over-the-air antenna must rescan their TVs to continue watching the station. Rescanning is when a TV finds all of the available channels in an area. WLAX Fox25 in La Crosse will not be transitioning until 2020 so no rescan is necessary if you watch WLAX-TV Fox 25 over the air. Viewers do not need to purchase new equipment or services, and those who watch WEUX FOX48 through a cable or satellite service do not need to rescan – your service provider will do it for you.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held an auction of broadcast airwaves to provide more channels for wireless internet broadband services. WEUX FOX 48 did not participate in the auction, however, the FCC is requiring this station and nearly 1,000 others nationwide to move to new frequencies to make room for wireless internet services. TV stations must move frequencies at different times as required by the FCC. This means viewers who use an antenna may have to rescan their TV sets more than once.
To rescan on April 12th, select "scan" or "autotune" on the TV or converter box control menu to start the scanning process. Instructions are usually available by pressing the "set-up" or "menu" buttons on the remote control. This move is happening behind the scenes, so the channel number viewers know will not change. Plan to rescan and stay tuned to FOX2548 for more information or visit our website at wiproud.com. Additionally, TVAnswers.org, a viewer resource provided by the National Association of Broadcasters, features the latest news and information on station changes nationwide. At TVAnswers.org, viewers can also sign up for mobile alerts and email updates to stay up-to-date on TV station changes.
Security Financial Bank (SFB) announced three recent promotions within the organization that include Tyler Mustard, Sheila Uhren and Sara Longdo.
Tyler Mustard has been promoted to senior systems administrator. In his new position, Mustard is responsible for the overall IT helpdesk operations and advanced infrastructure deployments at SFB. Mustard joined SFB in July 2016 as a systems administrator. He earned an associate’s degree from Chippewa Valley Technical College in IT-network specialist in 2012.
Sheila Uhren has accepted a new position at SFB as a project manager. She will be responsible for institution-wide projects and project portfolio management. Previously, Uhren served as a desktop support I. Uhren received a bachelor’s degree in business administration – information systems in 2018. She has been employed at SFB since 2015. Both Mustard and Uhren are based out of SFB’s administrative office in Eau Claire.
Sara Longdo has been promoted to a travelling universal banker position at SFB. Longdo, who previously served as a teller at the bank, will now be responsible for assisting customers with account openings/closing, providing information on products and services, assisting customers with banking transactions and managing customer accounts and questions. The universal banker role is a blended position, encompassing teller and personal banker responsibilities. Longdo will be primarily based out of the Bloomer office but will occasionally travel to other branches to provide support. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UW-Stout and joined SFB in August 2018.
What's at stake on February 19?
Because more than 10 candidates filed to run for the five At-Large Seats on the Eau Claire City Council, a primary election will be held on Tuesday, February 19. This election will reduce the number of candidates in the general election—which is on April 2 and will determine who fills the council’s five at-large seats—from 12 to 10.
At-large representatives are unique because they represent not only one district of Eau Claire but the entire city. So if you live in Eau Claire, this election will affect you, regardless of which district you live in.
It has been an entire decade since a primary was needed for City Council, so voting in this race will be especially important in determining the direction of our local policies. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on February 19, and we have provided some information about voting and the candidates below.
Good Government Council Questionnaire
The Good Government Council (GGC) is a committee of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce dedicated to encouraging voter participation and providing members of the business community with non-biased information about candidates’ positions on important issues. Although the Chamber is active in policy issues, it is non-partisan and does not endorse political candidates.
Here are the answers from candidates from those running in the February 19 Primary:
2019 At-Large Eau Claire City Council Candidate Questionnaire
See below for more information about the election and how to vote:
You can register on election day at your polling place, which you can find here. Once you are registered, you will need to present a valid form of identification to vote. You can find information about those valid forms here.
Election Day, February 19
Polls will be open across the City from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. As always, you will need a valid for of ID to vote. For information about those valid forms, see above. Once again, you can find your local polling place here.
In-Person Early Voting (beginning Tuesday, February 5)
In-person absentee voting begins on the Tuesday two weeks before the election (February 5). You can vote on week days from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the fire station behind City Hall. That address is 216 S Dewey St. For more information about voting, visit Eau Claire’s elections page.
Here is a list of all twelve candidates who will appear on the ballot in February:
Kate Beaton (i)
Catherine Emmanuelle (i)
Of these candidates, only two are incumbents: Catherine Emmanuel and Kate Beaton. Emmanuelle has served on the Council for six years; Beaton, for three. Emmanuelle is a UW-Eau Claire graduate, earning degrees in women’s studies and economics. She also has two Master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. As a member of the Council, she has advocated women’s issues. Most notably, she led the effort to change an internal rule disallowing Council members from bringing children with them to meetings.
For her part, Kate Beaton is also a UW-Eau Claire graduate. In 2014, she completed a degree in social work with a minor in environmental science. To her, the largest issues facing Eau Claire (and the world) are climate change and irresponsible energy use. As a result, she has spent much of her time on the Council developing and promoting a local carbon-neutrality plan, which puts Eau Claire on a path toward becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Of the nonincumbents, a few names might be familiar. David Klinkhammer is a former member of the Council, whose 11-year tenure came to an end after losing to Emily Anderson for the District 2 seat last year. Like the incumbents, Klinkhammer is a graduate of UW-Eau Claire, and he believes that adequate funding for scholarships and education are the surest ways of boosting the employment rate and economy of the area.
Also running is Echo Rearden, who faced off against Jodi Emerson in the 91st District’s Assembly race in November. Reardon grew up in Illinois and worked on her family’s farm before running a small printing business for seven years. Among other things, she has promoted the need for a safe and business-friendly community.
Dale Poynter, a Chamber member, will also appear on the ballot. Before coming to Eau Claire, Dale taught design courses at the University of Illinois. Today, he owns a small business named SDS Architects, which is located in downtown Eau Claire. If elected, he has said he will strive to achieve fiscal responsibility, moral clarity, and minimally involved government.
Another candidate is Laura Benjamin. Benjamin is a local small-business owner who has served as the president of her company, Satellite Six LLC, for 8 years. In that role, she has had to balance the demands of a budget with the price and quality of services. Her business has been part of the Chamber for six years, employing as many as 10 people at a time. For Eau Claire to continue to prosper, Benjamin believes we must ensure that small businesses are supported throughout the city, that wages and job opportunities continue to improve, and that Eau Claire remains a highly diverse and equality-minded place.
As a long-time member of the community, John Lor has thrown his hat in the ring, too. Access to affordable housing serves as one of John's top priorities. If we make housing more affordable for more people, he reasons, communities will form and the city will become a safer place to live, work, and raise children.
Chandler Lorentz’s name will be on the ballot as well. For the past six years, he has worked in retail, which, he says, has given him the opportunity to gauge the issues that are most important to the community. Lorentz has also written that he will work to increase the operation of public transit, clean up Half-Moon Lake, and decrease the poverty rate through cooperation with local shelters.
Kate Martin, a 15-year Chippewa Valley resident, has stressed the importance of responsible spending. To her, it is crucial that the Council invest taxpayer money to keep the city both safe and clean. She also wants to establish a core budget, which, she says, would support the people and departments that make our city great.
Don Motzing is another Chippewa Valley resident seeking a spot on the Council. Motzing has a diverse employment background, working for Fortune 100 companies and local businesses alike. He believes that his experience as an owner of student housing makes him uniquely qualified to serve. There, he has learned that a Council must remove unnecessary barriers for ambitious businesses and owners to thrive.
An Eau Claire native, longtime construction worker, and proud business owner, Kyle Woodman also believes he has the experience and vision the Council needs. Currently, he and his wife own a local in-home care company for elderly and disabled Chippewa Valley residents. But through all his roles, he has developed a strong connection with the community, and that, he claims, has driven him to run for City Council.
Kirk Ausman has served as president of two neighborhood associations, chairman of the Eau Claire Housing Advisory Board, and president of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council. On top of those things, he also owns a business. He is running because he would like to continue to serve the people of Eau Claire. He has promoted building projects as a means of increasing access to affordable housing.
To give voters the opportunity to hear from these candidates directly, the Chamber and its media partners will be hosting a forum, where we will invite all candidates to come share their message with and answer questions. After the forum, attendees will have the opportunity to speak with the candidates in a meet & greet session. Valley Media Works will record the forum and post a video on their website, so if you are unable to attend, you can still take advantage of this opportunity. Here are some specific details about the event:
At-Large City Council Candidate Forum and Meet & Greet
Thursday, March 21, 6:30 p.m. - Postponed from the original date of Feb 7 due to weather
CVTC Business Education Center, 620 Clairemont Ave., Commons Area
Presented by the Leader-Telegram, WQOW TV 18, Wisconsin Public Radio, Valley Media Works and the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce
Posted by Nate Kane, Legislative Intern
HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is pleased to name Andrea Blaeser as director of the HSHS St. Joseph’s Foundation. Blaeser will lead the fundraising efforts at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital. Blaeser comes to the hospital from the Boy Scouts of America – Chippewa Valley Council, where she served as development director since 2010. Prior to that, she served with Catholic Charities in Eau Claire. Blaeser has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from UW-Eau Claire, as well as a certificate in nonprofit development leadership.
Charter Bank has announced Carla Leuck as the new Assistant Vice President - Marketing Officer. Leuck is responsible for setting the overall marketing direction for the bank and establishing and supporting on-going programs and functions. Leuck comes to Charter Bank with over 20 years of marketing experience in a variety of industries including financial, healthcare, higher education, and most recently in manufacturing.
HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals have named Brian Hedrington as director of facilities management for both hospitals. Hedrington began his career at HSHS in western Wisconsin nearly 12 years ago as director of security for both hospitals. He took on additional responsibilities in June 2017 as interim director of facilities management. Hedrington began his new role December 16. Hedrington has a degree from Chippewa Valley Technical College, is police academy trained by Wisconsin State Law Enforcement and is a certified firefighter. Hedrington will continue to oversee the two hospitals’ security and telecommunications departments.
Bruce Ommen, PE, has been named president of Ayres Associates, replacing Thomas Pulse, PE, who announced his retirement from the employee-owned engineering and architecture firm as of the close of 2018. Pulse will continue in his role as chairman of the board until the firm’s annual shareholders meeting in May 2019. Ommen began his engineering career at Ayres Associates, joining the firm in 1990. During his tenure he has spent considerable time working with Ayres’ offices across the country on projects comprising multiple disciplines. Ommen has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota and is a registered professional engineer in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.
WNB Financial announces the promotion of Chad Anderson to Vice President and Business Banking Manager. In his new role, Anderson oversees Business Banking in both the Winona and Holmen markets. His main responsibilities include coordinating community outreach and business development efforts, along with providing guidance and resources to support team performance. Anderson earned his degree from Winona State University and is a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking in Madison.
Feather Communications has been named one of the Top 10 Resume Services in Minneapolis. Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, founder of Feather Communications, is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and provides resume-writing services to clients throughout the United States. Find My Profession, a website geared towards helping clients land job opportunities, cultivated the listing of Minneapolis-area resume writers. According to the site, a solid history of glowing reviews helped Feather Communications secure a spot on the list.
Note: The Chamber has provided two of the key players in the legislative debate about so-called "Dark Store" property tax assessments with an opportunity to present their arguments. This post was provided by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, and the other by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) association has consistently argued that the dark store issue in Wisconisn is an attempt by local governments to raise more revenue. This could not be farther from the truth. Municipal officials are asking the Legislature to close the dark store loophole and reverse the Walgreens court decision to avoid having more of the property tax burden shift from commercial and manufacturing property to homeowners and small businesses.
Unfortunately, WMC convinced legislative leaders to kill the assessment reform legislation that had overwhelming bi-partisan support in the Legislature last session. The dark store bill had 84 co-sponsors (63% of the Legislature). The Walgreen’s reversal bill had 61 co-sponsors (46% of the Legislature). If the bills had been scheduled for votes, they would have passed both houses by huge margins.
WMC contends that cities and villages “have a self-interest in assessing property higher because it means they can collect more taxes.” This statement reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about property taxes in Wisconsin. State law strictly limits a community’s ability to increase property taxes. Even if the assessed value of a particular property were increased, the total amount of taxes collected by the community stays nearly frozen under state law.
Higher assessments do not equate to more tax revenue. Assessments determine who pays what portion of the tax levy, not the size of the levy.
The dark store loophole and the Walgreen’s decision shift more of the burden of paying for local services from one group of taxpayers to another. Currently, residential property owners pay $68 of every $100 of the statewide property tax levy, a share that has grown dramatically over time. In 1970, homeowners paid only $50 of every $100 that a community needed to pay for services. For comparison, homeowners in Minnesota still pay only 50% of the property tax levy. Shifting more of the burden on to Wisconsin homeowners is not sustainable.
Assessors are required to assess property for property tax purposes at its fair market value. The best evidence of the fair market value of a property is usually a recent arms-length sale price of that property. There is an odd exception to this rule created by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 2008 decision involving a Walgreens store. The exception requires assessors to value property that is leased to a single business at half of the recent sale price of that property. For example, Walgreens and CVS typically lease their store space. The buildings leased by Walgreens and CVS are popular investment properties and typically sell for $4 to $8 million depending on their location. Yet, these properties are required to be assessed for property tax purposes at $2 to $4 million. The League of Wisconsin Municipalities and a majority of state legislators think that isn’t fair to other property tax payers. That’s why we are asking the Legislature to end this court created exception.
We will work with legislators again next session to try to restore common sense and fairness to the property tax assessment process. Maybe next year homeowners will win.
Written by Jerry Deschane, Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.