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Volume 6, Issue 29, Dec 4, 2023
 Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, Eau Claire, Wis.
Published the first business day of each week
Business Advocate Past Issues
Public Meetings Calendar
Chamber Events Calendar
The Chamber's Advocacy Principles
The Chamber's Business Issues Agenda
"Talking Po!nt" Podcast
Contact: Scott Rogers, VP Governmental Affairs


Next legislative forum...
Eggs & Issues: Holiday Legislative Breakfast
Our annual preview of the January legislative session. We've invited members of the State Assembly and Senate who represent the Chippewa Valley to join us for an update on action this fall in the legislature, highlight their priorities for the upcoming session in January, and answer questions submitted by participants.
 • Friday, Dec 15, 7:00-9:00 a.m. CVTC Business Education Center
    Click here for details and to register

Registration now open...
30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally
Bringing the Chippewa Valley's voice to Madison. Organized by the Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, and Menomonie Chambers of Commerce.
 • Wednesday, Feb 28, Madison
    Click here for details and to register

Chamber Business Hours:
Mon-Thu 7:30a-5p, Friday 8a-2p  Lobby Hours: Mon-Fri 10a-2p
Closed December 25 and January 1

In this issue:
 • Chamber to host Civics Bee for middle school students
 • Plan Commission agenda includes housing with attainable rents
 • Chick-fil-A, Costco openings highlight local economic strength
 • Assembly holds hearing on employer childcare tax credits
 • US Chamber: Polling shows voters support pro-growth policies
 • Food for thought
 • 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 "+"


Eau Claire Chamber hosting National Civics Bee® for local middle school students
   The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to host a first-of- its-kind civics competition that encourages young Americans to engage in civics and contribute to their communities. Participating 6th, 7th and 8th graders will flex their civics knowledge for a chance to win recognition and cash prizes. Finalists will be invited to Washington, DC to compete in the inaugural National Civics Bee® national championship in Fall 2024.
   Who can participate: Any 6th, 7th, or 8th grade student residing in Wisconsin with an idea about using civics to improve their community. Middle school students from public, private, charter, and home schools are invited to take part in the first-round civics essay competition. After a distinguished panel reviews the 500-word essays, the top 20 students will be selected to move on to the next round of competition: a live quiz event to test their civics knowledge. The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce will host this event at DeLong Middle School on April 13, 2024. The finalists and top winners will receive various prizes, including $500 cash for the first-place student. Winners then move on the state and potentially national competition.
Key Dates: 
 • January 9, 2024: Deadline for Essays
 • April 13, 2024: Local competition for students with the top 20 essays
More information:
National Civics Bee - application and information (Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)

City of Eau Claire...

Plan Commission: Sunnyvale Acres project includes workforce-attainable rents
   The City of Eau Claire Plan Commission meets Monday evening. Its agenda includes a six-unit apartment building, the first phase of the Sunnyvale Acres development near the US 53/I-94 interchange at 5690 Southern Way. The developer’s narrative states that it is "hoping for these units to have a price point of rent at $750 for the 1 bed 1 bath” units and “$900 for the 2 bed 2 bath” units, which "would fall into the much-needed workforce housing type housing range." (See pages 34-51 of the Agenda Packet linked below.)
   Among other agenda items are three conditional use permit requests for bed and breakfast locations in the city. It also includes discussion and approval of the Plan Commission's 2024 Work Plan (see pages 66-69).
More information: 
Eau Claire Plan Commission
 • Monday, Dec 4, 7 p.m. Agenda Packet (69 pages)
    Eau Claire Plan Commission (City of Eau Claire)
    2023 Work Plan

Other City of Eau Claire information and news...
2024 Budget website (City of Eau Claire)
Link to videos of city meetings (City of Eau Claire)
City Council Online Comment Form (City of Eau Claire)
Contact information: City Council members (City of Eau Claire)
Latest issue: City Manager's Weekly Update (City of Eau Claire)
City may change benefits and leaves plan for employees (Leader-Telegram $)
PRESIDENT TIMES TWO: Eau Claire’s Berge Now Leads Statewide Municipal Group (Volume One)
Where Should The 2024 E.C. Fireworks Be? City Seeks Community Input (Volume One)

Also meeting this week...

Eau Claire Board of Education
 • Monday, Dec 4, 7 p.m. Board information and agenda

Eau Claire County Board
• Tuesday, Dec 5,  Agenda Packet
County Board district maps and Supervisors
2024 County Budget Website (Eau Claire County)
Agenda includes the appointment of Dr. Kirk Dahl to fill the vacant District 14 seat until April as recommended by the Committee on Administration. The Board will also hear a report on the Regional Housing Study.

Chick-fil-A, Costco openings highlight local economic strength

   Ribbon cuttings and grand openings at the new Eau Claire locations of Chick-fil-A and Costco on November 29 and 30 generated significant public interest and, according to an editorial in the Eau Claire Leader Telegram, highlight the area's economic strengths.
   "The twin openings are encouraging developments for the Chippewa Valley. Both businesses are known for being cautious about expansions. They examine local economies closely before taking the leap, and both came to the conclusion Eau Claire was a market they wanted to be in," noted the editorial. "That says something for the health of the area. The Chippewa Valley has more going for it than many areas in the Midwest. It’s growing, and the progress we’ve seen over the past couple decades is sustainable. The challenge is to keep up the momentum the area has."
   The Chamber was part of ribbon cuttings at both locations and both companies are Chamber investors. Chick-fil-A is located at 3849 S Oakwood Mall Dr, and is owned by Alec Lewis. Costco is at 1420 Black Ave, near the North Crossing and US 53 interchange.
   These are just two of the recent and upcoming ribbon cuttings and ground breakings that have been keeping the Chamber Ambassadors very busy.
More information: 
Our View: Twin business openings show economic potential (Leader-Telegram Editorial $)
Chamber Ambassadors (Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)
Chick-fil-A opens bright and early on November 30 (Volume One)

Eau Claire lines up for Chick-fil-A (Leader-Telegram $)
After more than a year of anticipation, Chick-fil-A opens in Eau Claire (WQOW News 18)
Costco opens new wholesale location in Eau Claire (Leader-Telegram $)
The wait is over, Costco opens its doors to Chippewa Valley (WQOW News 18)

Local candidates begin circulating election petitions
   December 1 was the first day that candidates could circulate petitions for election to local non-partisan offices in the upcoming April 2 Spring Election.
   Among races on the ballot next spring are local municipal, school board, and county board offices. Those include Altoona Mayor, the five district seats on the Eau Claire City Council, seats on the Altoona, Fall Creek, and Eau Claire school boards, and all 29 of the Eau Claire County Board positions.
   Incumbents whose seats are up are also required to submit declarations of candidacy or non-candidacy, and ballot petitions are due by Tuesday, January 2. A February 20 Primary will be held for any position for which more than two candidates file nominating positions (or more than twice the number of open positions for multi-seat offices), with the General Election on Tuesday, April 2.

More local stories...

ECASD holds school board information session
(WEAU 13 News)

Altoona School District continues to face concerns and address needs of space
(Leader-Telegram $)

City of Altoona hosts ADU developer competition
(WEAU 13 News)

Chippewa Valley Airport celebrates anniversary and will receive funding
(Leader-Telegram $)

CVRA to receive more than $1M in federal funding (WEAU 13 News)

New Children’s Museum Named Outstanding Structure at National Engineering Awards
(Volume One)

Children’s Museum of Eau Claire awarded at Structural Engineering Excellence Awards ceremony (WEAU 13 News)

UWEC Chinese program recognized nationally by award
(Leader-Telegram $)

Xcel Energy laying off 28 Customer Care workers in Eau Claire
(WQOW News 18)

Mayo Clinic receives prestigious nursing designation
(Leader-Telegram $)

Food insecurity on the rise in Eau Claire, local organizations feel the demand
(WQOW News 18)

Dunn county lowers total mill rate by 26%
(Leader-Telegram $)

Menomonie Area School District votes unanimously to proceed with operational referendum
(Leader-Telegram $)

High schoolers attend Health Science Career Day at UWEC to explore career options
(Leader-Telegram $)

UW-Stout’s Fostering Success Program, Leaders Recognized by Gov. Evers
(Volume One)

Stout students help remodel and redesign local non-profit group home
(Leader-Telegram $)

Volume One reader poll open through Dec 8
(Volume One)

Chamber nominations include: Best Community Advocacy Organization, Best Local Business Advocate (David Minor), and Best Networking Group or Event (Business After Hours, Young Professionals of the Chippewa Valley, and Leadership Eau Claire).


Assembly committee holds hearing on proposed childcare tax credit for employers
Bill sponsors include local Reps. Armstrong and Hurd, Sen. Quinn
   The Assembly Ways & Means Committee last Wednesday held a hearing on a new bill that would create tax credits for employers to help their workers pay for childcare. AB 660 would create a refundable tax credit up to $100,000 for costs to create a child care program for employers, and credits up to $3,000 per child for operating and administrative costs for an in-house day care or to an outside provider. To qualify, the business covers at least one half of the employee's childcare costs.

   Three area legislators are among the sponsors of the bill, including Rep. Dave Armstrong (R-Rice Lake), Rep. Karen Hurd (R-Fall Creek), and Sen. Romaine Quinn (R-Cameron).
   The bill is supported by several business groups as well as the Wisconsin Early Childcare Association (WECA). The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce submitted a letter in support of the bill, citing the issue as part of the Chamber's 2023 Business Issues Agenda, which states "The availability and affordability of childcare has become an increasingly acute issue for employers, families, and childcare providers. This has inhibited the ability of families to take full advantage of employment opportunities and for employers to have full access to the potential talent pool. The Chamber supports meaningful public policy solutions to address specific workforce challenges."
   Evan Umpir, Director of Tax, Transportation, and Legal Affairs for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), testified in person at the hearing:
   “While there are many factors that contribute to the labor force participation rate, expanding the overall pool of workers will help alleviate some of the pressures on employers,” said Umpir.
   Although childcare has been recognized by both sides of the aisle as a pressing issue, Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on solutions being considered. Governor Tony Evers requested funding to continue the Child Care Counts program, providing grants to childcare providers originally funded by federal ARPA money. When the legislature did not include the request in the 2023-25 state budget, he allocated an additional $170 million from federal funds to continue the program through June 2025. Republicans have been advancing six other bills that address regulatory issues and create a revolving loan fund, but which Evers says he opposes. Those bills have passed the Assembly but have not yet been taken up in the State Senate. There was also an expansion of the tax credit for childcare expenses in the income tax cut bill that Evers vetoed. 
More information:
AB 660 Text (Wisconsin Legislature)

EC Chamber letter of support (Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)
WMC testimony (Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce)
Wisconsin proposal would give tax breaks to businesses that help their workers afford child care (WPR)
Republican bill would offer tax credits to businesses that help with employees' child care (Journal-Sentinel +)
Assembly committee hears arguments on tax credit for businesses that operate child care programs for their workers (WisPolitics.com)
Evers vetoes $2 billion tax cut and child care credit expansion (Journal-Sentinel +)

More state and regional stories...

GOP lawmakers circulate bills that would allow Wisconsin to access federal funds to build EV charging stations
Wisconsin could get more electric vehicle chargers if not for one law (The Cap Times)

As utilities close coal-burning plants, debate shifts to role of natural gas in energy future

Wisconsin should 'double down' on affordable housing efforts, governor says

Report: Wisconsin’s Teacher Pay Predicament
(Wisconsin Policy Forum)
Wisconsin teacher pay hasn't kept up with inflation in more than a decade (WPR)

Unions in Wisconsin sue to reverse collective bargaining restrictions on teachers, others

Report says Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers used alternate email under name of Hall of Fame pitcher
Governor visits Eau Claire food bank, comments on alias email concerns (Leader-Telegram $)

Former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel enters 2025 Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

Former Wisconsin GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel is running for the state Supreme Court (AP)

State Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard announces campaign for Dane County executive
Sen. Dianne Hesselbein to lead Senate Democrats at key moment (The Cap Times)

Wisconsin ex-race car driver Mayer could play spoiler to GOP's plans to oust Tammy Baldwin
(Washington Examiner)

Wisconsin may remove lead pipes faster as EPA unveils aggressive new timeline

UW president defends liberal arts after student newspaper report questioned his commitment
(Journal-Sentinel +)

WisDOT's Craig Thompson elected president of national transportation officials organization AASHTO
(Progressive Railroading)

Milwaukee County awarded $1.8M in federal funds to expand affordable housing options
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Reports analyze ways city and county of Milwaukee could avert future budget deficits

Construction underway as Madison plans to overhaul public transportation with bus rapid transit

Madison, Dane County are mulling ways to help homeless people living in their cars
(Wisconsin State Journal +)

Give Warmth campaign to fund homeless support programs in La Crosse
(La Crosse Tribune +)

The Mississippi River is central to America's story. Why doesn't it get more love?
(Journal-Sentinel +)

LeaderEthics, Veterans for All Voters, offer Dec 6 online workshop on electoral reform from a veterans perspective
   LeaderEthics has organized a free online workshop this week with Veterans for All Voters (VAV), whose mission is to build a community of military veterans to advocate for election innovations that unlock competition, make politics less toxic, and government more effective. Journalist Rusty Cunningham will moderate a discussion with Eric Bronner, founder of Veterans for all Voters, and Joshua Wilson, an attorney who is the Wisconsin State Leader for VAV and Entrepreneurship Coordinator at UW-Eau Claire.
More information:
The Case for Electoral Reform... a Veterans Perspective
 • Wednesday, Dec 6, 12:00-1:00 p.m., virtual program
    Click here for details and to register


US Chamber: Polling shows voters support pro-growth policies, oppose aggressive agendas of the far left and far right
   Recent polling conducted on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce illustrates that voters are supportive of pro-growth policies and pro-business candidates who will help businesses create jobs. Aggressive agendas from the progressive left and populist right for greater government management of the economy and micromanagement of businesses were decidedly out of step with the views of voters.
   As the 2024 election season kicks into high gear, the message is clear: whether you are courting Republican, Democratic, or Independent voters, candidates will be well-served to run on an agenda that champions American business, supports jobs and free enterprise, and rejects government intrusion in business decisions.
   Highlights from a national poll of 1,327 registered voters conducted by North Star Opinion Research include:

  • Voters overwhelmingly think business is a force for good
  • Voters trust their employers, small businesses, businesses in their communities and large businesses
  • Voters, especially Republicans, prefer the free market to government management and oversight
  • Republicans, Independents, and more than a quarter of Democrats prefer candidates who oppose micromanagement of business decisions
  • Voters support a wide-range of pro-growth policies
  • Majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats are more likely to support a candidate described as pro-business.

More information: 
Voters Trust American Free Enterprise, Want Government to Stop Micromanaging Business (US Chamber of Commerce)

Van Orden votes "no" on amendment that would have ended Amtrak service to Wisconsin

   As the US House debated its still-pending housing and transportation appropriations bill for FY 2024, 3rd District Congressman Derrick Van Orden was among the 297 "no" votes (vs. 124 "ayes") that defeated an amendment to eliminate all funding to Amtrak’s National Network, which would have ended all rail passenger service on state-supported and long-distance trains.
   Should a measure like that become law, it would end passenger rail service to Wisconsin, including La Crosse and Tomah in the 3rd District who currently have Amtrak service. It would also would jeopardize efforts to add services to other communities like Eau Claire and Menomonie. The Eau Claire Chamber has been involved for many years in work to establish passenger train service to the region. 
   According to the Rail Passengers Association (RPA), a Washington based consumer group, the vote demonstrates public support for current and expanded passenger rail service, including "a broad level of support for Amtrak service among the rank and file House Republicans."
   The US House continues to struggle to move forward with appropriations bills before the next government shutdown deadline in early 2024. Any provisions like the proposed Amtrak cuts would also have to pass the US Senate, which passed its own bipartisan funding bill last month by a vote of 82 to 15, which includes strong levels of funding for Amtrak, passenger rail, and transit.
More information: 
Roll call vote  Nov 7

Advocates halt vote on "kill Amtrak" bill (Rail Passengers Association)

More national and economic news...

Schumer: Americans must reject the ‘double standard’ of antisemitism

Lawmakers are ditching Congress at a record pace

Rep. George Santos expelled from Congress for corruption, cutting GOP majority

Rep. Van Orden backs measure blocking funds to Iran
(WEAU 13 News)

How to watch the fourth Republican presidential debate on Dec 6

Nikki Haley wins backing from powerful Koch network as she aims to take on Trump

Trump embraces the Jan. 6 rioters on the trail. In court, his lawyers hope to distance him from them

No Labels abandons its in-person presidential convention

U.S. GDP grew at a 5.2% rate in the third quarter, even stronger than first indicated

Fed’s favorite gauge shows inflation rose 0.2% in October and 3.5% from a year ago, as expected

U.S. life expectancy rose in 2022, but not enough to erase the pandemic's toll
(NBC News)

Pending home sales drop to a record low, even worse than during the financial crisis

After year of ‘fixing things,’ Bob Iger tells Disney employees his plans to reshape the company for the future
(CNN Business)

This Cheap Street Fix Saves Lives. Why Don’t More Cities Do It?

Interview: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says the war with Russia is in a new phase as winter looms

Rosalynn Carter eulogized before family and friends as husband Jimmy bears silent witness

Henry Kissinger, the towering American diplomat, dies at age 100

Sandra Day O'Connor, first woman to serve on Supreme Court, dies at 93

Food for thought...

The Flip Side: Both sides of important issues
(The Flip Side, daily digest)

Why I Used To Be a NIMBY
(Darrell Owens, The Discourse Lounge)
Reflections on how to change people's minds in the housing debate

Report: Folk Economics and the Persistence of Political Opposition to New Housing
(Nall, Clayton and Elmendorf)

COVID-19 Resources:
Eau Claire County COVID-19 Information Hub (Eau Claire City-County Health Department)

Mark your calendar:

Eggs & Issues: Holiday Legislative Breakfast
 • Friday, Dec 15

Eau What A Night: The Chamber's 109th Annual Meeting
 • Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Workforce Solutions Summit
• Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024 (Rescheduled)

30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally
 • Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

Chamber Royale
 • Thursday, May 16, 2024

Golf Day in Eau Claire
 • Monday, Aug 5, 2024

"Bravo to Business" Awards
 • Thursday, Oct 17, 2024

Public Meetings Calendar
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 G
overnmental Affairs, at 715-858-0616 or rogers@eauclairechamber.org

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