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Volume 5 , Issue 2, May 31, 2022
 Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce


Business Advocate Past Issues

Public Meetings Calendar

Chamber Events Calendar

Advocacy Blog


June 17 Eggs & Issues: Our Energy Future

Join us at this edition of Eggs & Issues as we look at the questions that drive our future energy generation and use. How realistic are long term carbon neutral goals of utilities, governments, and businesses? What's the future of renewable energy sources, electric vehicles, and the infrastructure needed to support them? What policy issues will impact the business community, energy use, and conservation? You'll hear from Mark Stoering, President, Xcel Energy - Michigan, Wisconsin; John Carr, Vice President, Strategic Growth, Dairyland Power Cooperative; Ned Noel, Senior Planner, City of Eau Claire; and others to be confirmed.

 • Friday Jun 17, 7:00-8:30 a.m., Pablo Center or online via Perigon
  Click here for details and to register

In this issue:

 • City Council postpones annexation, Niagara Waters decisions

 • City reaches liquor license agreement with The Plus and The Metro

 • Child care crisis is a double workforce issue

 • Chippewa Falls Chamber President Mike Jordan retiring

 • Dean Knudson resigns from Wisconsin Elections Commission

 • Business Matters Podcast: Retiring State Sen. Kathy Bernier 

 • State and regional news

 • National and economic news

 • COVID-19 updates 

 • Mark your calendar
Note on article links: A subscription is required for those marked with "$"
Publications known to have article limits for non-subscribers are marked with "+"


City Council postpones annexation, Niagara Waters decisions

The Plus, The Metro to keep liquor licenses

   At its legislative session last Tuesday, the Eau Claire City Council decided to postpone until its June 14 meeting decisions on the proposed Orchard Hills annexation and a proposed development agreement for a $100 million Niagara Waters plant in the Gateway Industrial Park.

City staff, developer recommended annexation delay

   During the Monday public comment period, Orchard Hills developer Paul Holzinger noted that the Council's decision on the proposed annexation of 438 acres south of the City currently in the Town of Washington would be delayed until the June 14 meeting to allow for more time for consultation with neighbors.

  As described in the annexation application, its purpose "to allow a future residential development to have sanitary sewer and water main services when the City makes the services available."  The annexation would be the first in a multi-step process leading to housing development. It will still require rezoning, a development plan, platting, and other approvals. The proposal includes annexing part of the current Lowes Creek County Park, which would remain in that current use. 

Chamber supports annexation

   The Eau Claire Chamber is supporting the annexation as an important move to help address the community's critical housing shortage. As is often the case with new developments, a number of neighbors spoke at the Public Hearing opposing it. 

   The Chamber has provided a letter to the City Council which notes: "Among the most significant current challenges for our local economy are workforce development and housing supply. These issues are closely tied together because housing supply impacts the ability to meet the needs of a growing population, as well as affordability for all individuals and families. This annexation is a first step towards the development of additional housing supply in our community. This will help address the housing shortage while providing benefits for everyone towards attainability and affordability. It also has the advantage of providing for the availability of city utilities and other services to appropriately support its development." Click here to read the Chamber's letter.

    The Chamber's Vice President Governmental Affairs Scott Rogers spoke at the Public Hearing, reiterating the points in the letter and asserting that the annexation is "a logical move to foster responsible growth for our community."

City provides FAQs about the annexation process and impact

City staff annexation FAQs

City staff presentation from Monday Public Hearing

   In its report about the annexation, the City's staff recommends approval of the annexation. In answer to one of the FAQs in its document, "If we annex, does the City have resources to support the large annexation?," City staff wrote:

  “Eau Claire is a growing community, and we have a recognized need for additional housing, and this new development allows for this growth to occur with sufficient municipal services. This type of growth provides additional tax revenue to allow the city to adjust services to meet the new growth. Without an annexation, growth in large rural lots requires more expensive municipal service delivery." The FAQs estimate a full build out of the development could provide $600 to $700 million in additional tax base for the City.

   During Monday's Public Hearing, City Manager Stephanie Hirsch, City Engineer Dave Solberg, and Community Development Director Scott Allen provided a presentation regarding the balance of competing interests and the impact of growth for the City. 

Niagara Waters development agreement draws controversy

   Also postponed was a planned vote on a proposed development agreement for a Niagara Waters bottling facility in the Gateway Industrial Park, estimated to provide an eventual local investment of $100 million, as well as employment initially for 58 positions with starting salaries of $59,000. 

   The proposal became controversial after a Friday, May 20, Facebook post by Council Member Andrew Werthmann said the agreement meant that "a California-based water bottling corporation is asking City Council to approve a plan that would sell them 5-10% of our total drinking water resources," and raised questions about the adequacy of the City's water supply in the future. The post was one factor that generated significant numbers of public comments which led the City Council to postpone the decision to allow for more discussion. 

   According to FAQs provided by City staff regarding the project, the peak usage by Niagara would be only one third to one half of the production of one of the City's 15 wells. 

Facebook post

City FAQs on Niagara development agreement

   The Chamber supports moving forward with the agreement. In an email to each City Council member on May 24, Vice President Governmental Affairs Scott Rogers wrote: "This is a desirable and responsible project that will provide significant economic and employment benefits to the City of Eau Claire and the wider community. The economic activity, increase in the tax base, and creation of high-paying jobs are all important reasons to move forward. We are satisfied that the City staff has taken care to ensure that there is sufficient water capacity to provide for a successful project, and that safeguards are in place in case of future unforeseen circumstances. It would also be detrimental to the City's future economic development activities should a well-vetted and responsible agreement like this be turned down based upon misleading information and unsubstantiated fears."

The Plus, The Metro reach agreement to keep liquor licenses

   At its Tuesday Legislative Session, the City Council agreed to renew the liquor licenses used by downtown businesses The Plus, the Rev, and The Metro. An agreement with City staff requires the Plus and The Rev, the wine bar attached to The Plus, to be open to the public at least 30 hours each week by September 1, and for the Metro to be open and hosting events by January 3, 2023.

Five Empower Eau Claire projects get funding

   The Council also approved a resolution accepting the winning projects for the Empower Eau Claire participatory budgeting process. The $300,000 allocated from the City's capital budget will fund five projects: Pour and Play Playground Foundation and Wheel Chair Accessible Equipment (Boyd Park). $55,200; Feed My People: Hunger Action-Emergency Response Center Equipment (Feed My People, 2610 Alpine Road). $50,000; LED Lighting at Phoenix Park and Farmer's Market Pavilion. $126,615; Sojourner House Solar Array (Sojourner House, 618 S. Barstow St.) $30,930; and Invasive Species Management (various parks, trails, and other public spaces). $41,400.

More information:   

Eau Claire City Council

• Monday, May 23, Public Hearing, Agenda Packet (106 pages)

• Tuesday, May 24, Legislative Session, Agenda Packet (224 pages)

Link to videos of city meetings (City of Eau Claire)
Contact information: City Council members (City of Eau Claire)

Empower Eau Claire names 5 winners (Leader-Telegram $)

The People Have Spoken: Participatory Budget Will Fund Wheelchair-Friendly Playground, LED Lights, and More (Volume One)

List of winning Empower Eau Claire projects (City of Eau Claire)

Q&A: Niagara Bottling Co. and Eau Claire's water supply (Leader-Telegram $)

Controversial annexation gets hearing in front of Eau Claire City Council (Leader-Telegram $)

Water bottling plant decision delayed by Eau Claire City Council (Leader-Telegram $)

The Plus, The Metro Will Keep Liquor Licenses and Reopen Under Deal With City (Volume One)

City Council approves liquor license renewals for Pizza Plus LLC (WEAU 13 News)

Stone marker pays tribute to late Eau Claire city engineer Brian Amundson (Leader-Telegram $)


Childcare crisis is a double workforce issue

   Participants in the Chamber's May 20 Eggs & Issues program heard how the current childcare crisis is a double workforce issue - the shortage of child care resources is keeping parents at home, caused in large measure by the shortage of workers in childcare centers and difficulties in their business model. Panelists included Andy Neborak, Executive Director of United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley; Renee Ernsting, Director of the Child Care Partnership at Western Dairyland; and Kimber Liedl, Business Engagement Director of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association. Click here to read more...

More information:

May Eggs & Issues recap: Addressing our Childcare Challenges (Eau Claire Chamber)

Eggs & Issues: Leaders address childcare issues (WEAU 13 News)

Chippewa Valley leaders seek solutions for child care 'crisis' (Leader-Telegram $)


Chippewa Falls Chamber President Mike Jordan to retire

   After 25 years of leading the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, President Mike Jordan has announced he will retire by the end of the year.    

   “Over the past 25 years, it has been a privilege and a pleasure to work for an outstanding organization in a great community,” Jordan said.  “I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish over the years and the direction our community is going.”

   Jordan joined the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber in May of 1997, after serving four years as the Vice President of Economic Development at the Davenport Iowa Chamber.

   Board Chair Amy Forcier-Pabst commented, “This announcement is bittersweet. Mike has done an exceptional job leading and growing the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, developed an outstanding staff, and has prepared the Chamber well for the next chapter. The entire board appreciates all he has done and wishes Mike and his wife Carol, all the best in retirement.”  

   The Chamber Board has formed a committee to conduct a national search for its next president.  The mission of the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce is to improve the quality of life in our community by providing leadership to coordinate, support and promote the business interests of our membership. The Chamber serves over 700 business members.  

More information: 

News release (Chippewa Falls Chamber of Commerce)

Chippewa Falls Chamber of Commerce leader stepping down after 25 years (Leader-Telegram $)


CVTC approves 2022-23 budget with decrease

   The Chippewa Valley Technical College District Board on Thursday approved a 2022-2023 fiscal year budget that includes opening of the new Transportation Education Center and expansion and remodel of the Emergency Services Education Center while providing for increasing enrollments and holding to a reduction in the property tax.

   The budget calls for total expenditures of $113,970,259, with a decrease of 18.65 percent from the 2021-22 budget of $140,092,712, due mainly to the completion of these two referendum projects. General fund revenues are projected to be $58,876,816, up 2.03 percent from 2021-22.

   An estimated six percent increase in property values accounts for a drop in the tax rate from $81.09 per $100,000 of property value to $75.72. The proposed tax levy – the amount collected throughout the CVTC district for support of the College – is $23,997,604, down 1 percent from the previous year.

More Information: 

CVTC District Board website (CVTC)

CVTC approves 2022-23 budget (WEAU 13 News)

CVTC budget approved, sees almost 19% decrease (Leader-Telegram $)


More local news:


Plan drafted for Eau Claire's $13.5 million in ARPA funds (Leader-Telegram $)

City Manager's presentation: Potential ARPA allocations (City of Eau Claire)

District attorney’s office looks to ARPA funding to address trial backlog (Leader-Telegram $)


Eau Claire metro's jobless rate drops to 2.9% (Leader-Telegram $)

Unemployment in Wisconsin is at a historic low, labor force is growing (WPR)


First Hmong economic development conference planned in Eau Claire (Leader-Telegram $)

HERE Conference: Coming to Eau Claire, Wisconsin Sept. 14-16, 2022 (WisPolitics.com)

HERE Conference Information (EventBrite)


Summer construction projects aim to improve 20 miles of county roads (Leader-Telegram $)


The Proposals for 31 EAS Communities SkyWest is Leaving (Airline Geeks)

Airline Transition Frequently Asked Questions (Chippewa Valley Regional Airport)


Chippewa County unveils $17.7M capital improvement plan (Leader-Telegram $)


RCU donates $110K to CVTC Emergency Service Education (CVTC)


Augusta councilman sues City Council (Leader-Telegram $)


Express set to begin first baseball season under new ownership (Leader-Telegram $)


Knudson abruptly resigns from state Elections Commission

   Dean Knudson, former Republican State Assembly member from Hudson, last Wednesday abruptly resigned his position on the six-member Wisconsin Elections Commission

  "It's been made clear to me that from the highest levels of the Republican Party in Wisconsin that there was a deep desire that I not be chair. And that's fine," Knudson said in announcing his resignation. He will serve until another Republican is selected by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Knudson was critical of the party's continued focus on Donald Trump's loss of Wisconsin in the 2020 election.

   "Two of my core values are to practice service above self and to display personal integrity. And to me, that integrity demands acknowledging the truth even when the truth is painful. In this case, the painful truth is that President Trump lost the election in 2020 — lost the election in Wisconsin in 2020. And the loss was not due to election fraud."

   Knudson was appointed to the Commission in 2017. He previously served in the Assembly from 2011-2017, and was Mayor of Hudson from 2008 to 2010.

More information:

Republican state elections commissioner Dean Knudson abruptly resigns, rebuking his party's embrace of Trump's false election claims (Journal-Sentinel +)

Elections Commissioner Dean Knudson abruptly resigns, citing 'deep desire' from Republicans that he not chair the panel (WPR)

Dean Knudson's resignation from the Wisconsin Elections Commission came after Ron Johnson said he had lost support from GOP (Journal-Sentinel +)

Wisconsin GOP leader Vos isn’t ruling anyone out for key elections slot (AP)


Business Matters Podcast: State Senator Kathy Bernier

   The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has released the seventh edition of its monthly "Business Matters" podcast. This month's program features an interview with retiring State Senator Kathy Bernier, who reflects on her time in public service.

Click here to listen


More state and regional news:


Delegates decline to endorse candidate for governor at Wisconsin GOP convention (The Cap Times)


Here are the top 10 places Wisconsin candidates and PACs are spending campaign money (The Center Square)


Local Dems call on state Supreme Court to approve ballot drop boxes (Leader-Telegram $)

State lawmakers rally ahead of expected WI Supreme Court decision on ballot drop boxes (WEAU 13 News)


Former Speaker Paul Ryan says ‘entertainers’ are upending Capitol Hill (Washington Times +)


Milwaukee puts pause on 2024 RNC contract despite impending deadline (WPR)

It's crunch time for landing the 2024 Republican National Convention. Milwaukee's Common Council is torn between politics, cost benefits (Journal-Sentinel +)


Amid development boom, Madison may change rules to approve rezoning property (Wisconsin State Journal +)


Judge upholds state approval of Superior gas plant; $700M project faces additional hurdles (Wisconsin State Journal +)


Tony Evers prohibits baby formula price gouging statewide under 90-day order (Wisconsin State Journal +)


National and economic news:


Key inflation gauge slowed to still-high 6.3% over past year (AP)


Fed minutes point to more rate hikes that go further than the market anticipates (CNBC)


US economy shrank by 1.5% in Q1 but consumers kept spending (AP)


Home listings suddenly jump as sellers worry they may miss out on the red-hot housing market (CNBC)


Tariffs are Raising the Cost of Summer Essentials - Time to Cut the Tax on Summertime Fun (US Chamber of Commerce)


Bipartisan Senate working group on gun violence will meet Tuesday (The Hill)


COVID-19 Updates

Revised DHS COVID-19 illness data offer unexpected results (WEAU 13 News)

New state data underscores vaccine booster's effectiveness in preventing severe COVID-19 illness, death (La Crosse Tribune +)


COVID-19 Resources: 
COVID-19 Symptoms & Testing (EC City-County Health Department)
Local COVID-19 Testing Sites (EC City-County Health Department)
Interactive COVID Data Tracker (CDC)
COVID-19: Staying Safe in Your Community (EC City-County Health Dept.)
Eau Claire County COVID-19 Information Hub 
Eau Claire weekly COVID Situation Report 
Eau Claire County COVID-19 Vaccination Page 
Metrics Dashboard
Chippewa Valley COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force


Mark your calendar:


Leadercast - The One Thing

• Thursday, June 2, The Florian Gardens


Eggs & Issues: Our Energy Future

• Friday, June 17, Pablo Center or live stream on Perigon


Business Day in Madison

 • Wednesday, October 19, Monona Terrace


Workforce Solutions Summit

 • Wednesday, November 16, Pablo Center


"Eau What A Night:" The Chamber's 108th Annual Meeting

 • Wednesday, January 25, 2023, Pablo Center


29th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally

 • Wednesday, February 22, 2023, Madison


Next up on the public calendar


Wisconsin Political Calendar (WisPolitics.com)


Partisan Primary
US Senate (Ron Johnson seat), Congress, State Senate (odd # districts) Assembly, Governor , Attorney General, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, County Sherriff, County Clerk of Court

 • Wed, Jun 1, Filing deadline for primary (Wisconsin Elections Commission)

 • Tuesday, Aug 9, Primary Election


Congressional & Legislative Maps

Wisconsin Congressional Maps (Dave's Redistricting)

Wisconsin Legislative District Maps (Wisconsin Legislature)


General Election
 • Tuesday, November 8


Public Meetings Calendar

Our Public Meetings Calendar has moved to our website. Click the link above for the our regularly updated schedule of public meetings.


Thanks for reading this issue of Business Advocate. If you have comments or questions, contact Scott Rogers, Vice President Governmental Affairs, at 715-858-0616 or rogers@eauclairechamber.org 

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