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Volume 6, Issue 2, May 30, 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
Contact: Scott Rogers, VP Governmental Affairs


Eggs & Issues: Legislative Breakfast
   Many important policy priorities for the business community are on the table during budget deliberations in Madison, including shared revenue for local governments, repeal of the personal property tax, housing supply and affordability, childcare, workforce attraction and retention, and more. And completion funding for the UWEC Science and Health Sciences Building and other major projects are pending in the capital budget to be decided near the end of the process in June. 
   To bring us up to date, we've invited members of the State Assembly and Senate who represent the Chippewa Valley to give us a timely look at how our regional priorities are faring in Madison. They will also answer questions submitted by participants.
 • Friday, June 16, 7:00-9:00 a.m., CVTC Business Education Center
    Click here for details and to register

City Council President Reception
   The Chamber will host a reception in June for new City Council President Emily Berge, who was elected in April. There is no charge to attend, but advance registration is appreciated.
  • Tuesday, June 20, 4:00-5:30 p.m., Chamber offices
     Click here for details and to register

Also for your summer calendar:
 • Monday, June 12, Business After Hours, Infinity Beverages 
 • Friday, July 29, Eggs & Issues, CVTC Business Education Center
 • Monday, Aug 7, Golf Day in Eau Claire
 • Monday, Aug 14, Business After Hours, Residence Inn by Marriott
 • Friday, Aug 18, Eggs & Issues, CVTC Business Education Center

In this issue:
 • Hmong Wisconsin Chamber opens Eau Claire office
 • EC City Council appoints Schoen to District 1 vacancy
 • Home sales volume declines, prices still increase
 • Eau Claire included in WisDOT State Rail Plan passenger routes
 • Shared revenue debate continues
 • Bipartisan housing bills introduced
 • Youth Apprenticeship gets state budget boost
 • Eggs & Issues report: US Chamber talks workforce, immigration
 • National and economic stories
 • 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 "+"


Hmong Wisconsin Chamber opens local office in partnership with Eau Claire Chamber
   The Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce (HWCC) held an open house last Wednesday to commemorate the opening of its new satellite office in Eau Claire, in space shared in a partnership with the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce at 101 N. Farwell St. HWCC President Dr. Maysee Y. Herr introduced to the community Lar Kong Xiong, local Business Development Specialist, who grew up in Eau Claire.
   HWCC is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) providing economic development assistance in business planning, market analysis, marketing strategies, effective day-to-day business operations and much more. HWCC acts as an advocate for the Hmong and Asian American communities in Wisconsin regarding business and economic issues.
   The Hmong Wisconsin Chamber is headquartered in Milwaukee and also has satellite offices in Appleton, Green Bay, and Wausau.
More information:
Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce (website)
Eau Claire Office: larkong@hmongchamber.org (715) 318-8806
AIDING ENTREPRENEURS: Hmong Business Group Launches Office in E.C. (Volume One)
Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce opens office in Eau Claire (WEAU 13 News)

EC City Council appoints Schoen to vacant District 1 seat 
   At its Legislative Session last Tuesday, the Eau Claire City Council voted to appoint Jessica Schoen to fill the vacant District 1 Council seat until next April's election. The seat became vacant when former District 1 Council Member Emily Berge was elected this past April to the City Council President position. Schoen will take office at the next Council meeting on June 12. She is currently a member of the City's Waterways and Parks Commission. Other applicants for the position were Joshua Zeug, Randall DeMars, and Nicholas Webber. 
Tuesday Work Session on parking policies, technology, and staffing
   After its Tuesday Legislative Session, the Council held a Work Session to review the findings of its 2019 parking study, and consider implementation of new parking technology, paid parking downtown, permit parking in certain neighborhoods, and parking enforcement staffing. (See page 125 of the Tuesday Agenda Packet linked below. Also: 2019 Parking Study Update [City of Eau Claire])
More information:
Eau Claire City Council
 • Monday, May 22, Public Hearing, Agenda Packet (36 pages)
 • Tuesday, May 23, Legislative Session, Agenda Packet (125 pages)
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)
Eau Claire City Council names Jessica Schoen to represent north side (Leader-Telegram $)
Altoona agrees to higher annual fee for Eau Claire EMS service (Leader-Telegram $)

Chamber reception for new City Council President
   The Chamber will host a reception in June for new City Council President Emily Berge, who was elected in April. There is no charge to attend, but advance registration is appreciated.
 • Tuesday, June 20, 4:00-5:30 p.m. Chamber offices
    Click here for details and to register

Home sales: Inventories, sales volume down,
prices climb at a slower pace
   The 63 homes sold in Eau Claire County in April represented 43 fewer than the same month last year, while home prices continue to rise. Those numbers reflect statewide trends, as the April Home Sales Report from the Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA) noted that "low inventories continue to affect the housing market. April 2023 home sales were 32.5% lower than April 2022, and the median home price rose 6.8% to $283,000 over that same 12-month period."
   While prices continue to increase, the pace has slowed.
   "The median price of Wisconsin homes sold in 2022 was 10.4% higher than 2021 median prices," said WRA President and CEO Michael Theo "In contrast, the housing price appreciation rate for the first four months of 2023 was only 7% higher than the first four months of 2022, suggesting demand pressure is easing."
   WRA officials say higher interest rates are having an effect on inventory.
   “One reason housing inventory is so low is that current homeowners thinking about buying another home are likely sitting on very favorable mortgage rates, especially if they refinanced over the last couple of years. Rates have more than doubled since hitting bottom at the end of 2020, and homeowners may be reluctant to give up those record-low rates to buy another home,” said WRA Board Chairman Joe Horning. 
   Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported last week that sales of new single family homes nationally rose 4.1 percent from March to April, the most in over a year as builders respond to a significant inventory shortage. 
More information: 
April 2023 Home Sales Report (Wisconsin Realtors Association)
Region's home sales down 38% last month (Leader-Telegram $)
US new home sales, business activity rise to 13-month highs (Reuters)

State Rail Plan includes Eau Claire passenger train routes
Public comment open through June 10
   The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has released the final draft of its Wisconsin Rail Plan 2050, including two passenger train route options that would serve the Chippewa Valley at Eau Claire and Menomonie.

   States are required to publish a State Rail Plan to be eligible for US DOT federal funding programs. The draft is the nearly-final step for the state to publish an updated version of its plan. WisDOT is seeking public comment on the plan through June 10. After evaluating the input, WisDOT will finalize the document. Wisconsin Rail Plan 2050 focuses on freight rail, rail crossing safety, and passenger rail, through the year 2050.
   The passenger rail chapter of the plan includes two scenarios for bringing passenger trains to the Chippewa Valley. They include potential train service from Chicago and Milwaukee through Eau Claire and Menomonie as part of additional train service between Chicago and the Twin cities, as well as the plan being developed by the local Chippewa-St. Croix Rail Commission for frequent regional service between Eau Claire, Menomonie, Hudson, and the Twin Cities (see pages 3-8 and 3-9 of the draft Wisconsin Rail Plan 2050 linked below). Other improvements covered in the plan include extended routes to serve Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton, Green Bay, Superior, and Madison.
Applications for FRA Corridor Identification Program
   WisDOT, Minnesota DOT, and the Chippewa-St. Croix Rail Commission have together submitted a total of five applications to US DOT's Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to designate corridors serving Wisconsin to be eligible for further study and potential new funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Decisions on those grant applications are expected in late summer.

How to submit public comment; Chamber supports service to region
   WisDOT has provided an online comment form for individuals and businesses who wish to provide input into the plan. Comments are due by June 10.

   In its 2023 Business Issues Agenda, the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce supports "a strong, balanced transportation system" as "critical to a vibrant economy, quality of life, and access to employment and economic opportunity," advocating for "investment for expanded passenger rail service in Wisconsin, including the Chippewa Valley."
Click here to access WisDOT's Rail Plan 2050 online comment form
More information:
Wisconsin Rail Plan 2050 (WisDOT)

Wisconsin rail plan calls for expanding service to eleven communities (WPR)

More local stories:

TAKING THE HIGH BRIDGE: E.C.’s Fourth of July Fireworks Find New Home
(Volume One)

Dunn County moves up major road project to this summer
(Leader-Telegram $)

You Ask, We Answer: Where was the very first Kwik Trip? (WQOW News 18)

Late start to local ag planting season
(Leader-Telegram $)

Insta-worthy Eau Claire Area Murals You Need to See (Visit Eau Claire)

Leadership Eau Claire applications open through June 2

   The Eau Claire Chamber Educational Foundation is accepting applications for our Leadership Eau Claire™ Class of 2024. The goal of the program is to enhance participants’ community knowledge and leadership qualities through skill-building exercises, activities, and educational days. During the nine-month program, participants discuss the issues facing the community, develop the leadership skills necessary to assume leadership roles & are provided with opportunities to be further involved in our community.
   Click here for full information. Application deadline is June 2.


Shared revenue debate moves to State Senate
   After the Assembly passed a shared revenue bill on May 17, the issue now goes to the State Senate, where its Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection held a hearing last week. Debate continues among leaders of the Assembly, Senate, local governments, and Governor Tony Evers on various provisions. 
More information:
Bill to boost local aid moves to Wisconsin Senate; officials warn of 'dire' need for consensus (Wisconsin State Journal +)

Wisconsin’s debate over shared revenue continues as lawmakers in the Senate focus on legislation (Spectrum News1)
One of the biggest political fights in Wisconsin is over shared revenue. What is it, and why does it matter? (Journal-sentinel +)
Proposed Wisconsin tax boost not enough, Madison leaders say (The Cap Times)
Milwaukee faces bankruptcy, police cuts if aid deal can’t be reached (AP)
The Ins and Outs of Milwaukee’s Financial Future (Urban Milwaukee)
Milwaukee's financial challenges at center of ongoing debate over bill to boost state aid (WPR)
Milwaukee-area leaders push for larger boost to county sales tax than in local government funding bill (Journal-Sentinel +)
Explained: Shared tax revenue and why it’s important to Wisconsin (The Cap Times)

Bipartisan bills proposed to address affordable housing

   A package of bipartisan bills to address the state's role in encouraging affordable housing are being introduced in the State Legislature.
   The need for such legislation was addressed in a 32-minute Wisconsin Eye interview by State Senator Romaine Quinn (R-Cameron) and University of Wisconsin-Madison Urban and Regional Planning professor Kurt Paulsen, which is linked below.
   Wisconsin needs to build at least 140,000 housing units by the end of the decade to keep pace with current demand, according to a recent report by Forward Analytics, the research arm of the Wisconsin Counties Association.
   Quinn, a leading co-sponsor of the bills, said the current state housing shortage has negative effects on quality of life, economic development, community growth and local school systems.
   "It literally affects everyone of almost every income range to the point where it really is a crisis," he said. "All of these bills, they're not silver bullets, but they're working in connection with one another to address the root causes of this. Doing nothing is not an option," said Quinn.
   The list of bills include a Residential Development Infrastructure Loan Program, a Main Street Residential Housing Rehab Loan Program, a Vacant Commercial to Housing Conversion Loan Program, WHEDA Housing Rehabilitation Loans, and a bill related to Land Development, Residential Housing, and Zoning Ordinances. The latter would require political subdivisions to approve permit applications related to residential developments that are consistent with local requirements such as comprehensive plans.
More information:
State lawmakers unveil package of bills aimed at addressing Wisconsin's housing shortage (WPR)

Republicans: Address affordable housing delays citing ‘not in my backyard’ movement (The Daily Reporter)
Bipartisan housing bills aim to close Wisconsin’s massive affordable housing gap (Wisconsin Examiner)
Report: A Housing Hurdle - Demographics Drive Need For More Homes (Forward Analytics)
Video: Newsmakers - Making More Workforce Housing (32:13, Wisconsin Eye) Interview with Kurt Paulsen, UW-Madison, and Sen. Romaine Quinn (R-Cameron)

Joint Finance Committee boosts YA funding by $7 million
    As it continues meeting to develop its proposed 2023-25 State Budget, the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) passed a budget motion last Tuesday by Reps. Warren Petryk (R-Town of Washington) and Loren Oldenburg (R-Viroqua) to increase the state's annual support of the high school Youth Apprenticeship (YA) programs by $3 million in the first year and $4 million in the second. With current funding at $6 million annually, that means YA funding will be $9 million for Fiscal Year 2023 and $10 million ($4 million increase) for Fiscal Year 2024.
   "This addition to the budget will allow more students to have the opportunity to increase their workforce readiness as well as skills and talents," said Petryk, who Chairs the Assembly Workforce Development Committee.
   The Youth Apprenticeship program matches high school juniors and seniors with a career counselor in their school district, allowing them to interview and acquire a job with a company that is willing to hire them. Students are also partnered with a mentor at the work site after securing a job throughout the school year, allowing young people to earn money while acquiring experience in a chosen field. During the school day, they also receive individualized linked classroom education.  Students who complete the program receive a "workplace credential" in addition to their high school diploma.
   The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce serves as the Youth Apprenticeship consortium for the Eau Claire Area School District, Fall Creek Schools, and Regis Catholic Schools. 

   In the same meeting, JFC also boosted funding for career and technical education, and reduced annual funding for the state's Fast Forward worker training program to more closely match actual recent expenditures. It also rejected a call by Democrats to study a paid family leave program, and increased Technical School funding but less than that proposed by Governor Evers.
More information:
Youth Apprenticeship (Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)
GOP budget would boost tech school funding by tens of millions less than Evers' (WPR)

Republicans reject Tony Evers' call for largest-ever increase in state aid to technical colleges (Wisconsin State Journal +)
Republicans block Democrats' push to study paid family leave (Journal-Sentinel +)
Wisconsin budget committee rejects Evers’ plan to make tax agents permanent (AP)

More state and regional stories:

Wisconsin State Representative Karen Hurd awarded fellowship to attend Midwestern leadership institute
(Council of State Governments)

Bill requiring K-12 Asian American history lessons gets first public hearing
(Wisconsin State Journal +)

Dozens show support for Asian, Hmong American history education bill
(The Cap Times)

Wisconsin's public and private schools could have Narcan under new proposal

Legislation to rebuild aging agricultural roads gets public hearing
(Wisconsin Examiner)

A plan to spend $448 million on AmFam Field remains in flux. Here's what you need to know.
(Journal-Sentinel $)

UW System universities projected to be $60 million in debt by end of 2023-24, president says
(Wisconsin State Journal +)

Most UW System campuses have budget deficits in the millions

Sonnentags sign support trusses for new UWEC event center
(WEAU 13 News)

'It's more than six times the impact of one of our single games': Green Bay will host the 2025 NFL Draft

How would widening Milwaukee’s I-94 affect residents near the highway?
  (Wisconsin Watch)

Stephen Marcus steps down as chairman of The Marcus Corp.

‘Transformational’ and also ‘bonkers:’ Minnesota Legislature ends its session of historic spending, policy changes

Walz signs $72 billion Minnesota budget: ‘We’re leaving no one behind’
(TwinCities.com +)

Minnesota is expected to legalize marijuana usage. What does that mean for Wisconsin?
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Wauwatosa may start charging property owners based on road use. Here's what we know so far.
(Journal-Sentinel $)


Eggs & Issues - US Chamber's Kirchner says Immigration one of the keys to solving workforce shortages
   Participants at the Chamber's May Eggs & Issues breakfast heard from John Kirchner, Vice President, Midwest Region, Congressional and Public Affairs Division, US Chamber of Commerce, as he provided an update on key federal issues in Washington.
   With workforce shortages cited as the number one issue of many businesses and organizations, Kirchner pointed out the "
workforce gap," currently at 4 million more open positions than there are individuals seeking work. From a federal perspective, he noted, action is need in three areas: 1. Addressing skills development and lifelong learning, 2. Getting people off the sidelines, and 3. Increasing legal immigration. 
   The U.S. Chamber recently launched the LIBERTY Campaign (Legal Immigration and Border Enforcement Reform This Year) with a letter to members of Congress, calling on them to address the crisis at our border and the critical workforce shortage before the year’s end.
   Kirchner also covered other key topics, including polarization and the political climate in Washington. Click here to continue reading about the Eggs & Issues presentation...
Bipartisan immigration bill introduced
   Florida Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar and Texas Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar on May 23 introduced a bipartisan immigration bill, The DIGNITY Act, designed to revamp asylum processing, provide a path to legal status, and improve border security. 

   U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Immigration Policy Jon Baselice commended the introduction of the bill. 
   “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce commends Representatives Salazar, Escobar, González-Colón, Scholten, Chavez-DeRemer, Manning, and Lawler for introducing the DIGNITY Act of 2023. This proposal contains the types of bipartisan solutions needed to secure our borders, fix our asylum system, and help American companies meet their workforce needs. We look forward to working with the bill’s sponsors to get these desperately needed reforms to our nation’s broken immigration system enacted into law.”
More information:
Eggs & Issues: Washington Update with the US Chamber (Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce)

LIBERTY Campaign website (US Chamber of Commerce)
Salazar, Escobar unveil comprehensive immigration bill (Roll Call)
Two House Latinas propose bipartisan immigration bill (NBC News)
Lawmakers (Re)Introduce Immigration Reform (The Dispatch)
U.S. Chamber Commends Introduction of Bipartisan Immigration Bill (US Chamber of Commerce)
Over Decades, Congress Failed Repeatedly to Address Immigration Dysfunction (New York Times +)

More national and economic stories:

Bipartisan agreement reached to avoid debt-limit default, Biden announces
(NBC News)

What’s in the debt ceiling deal struck by Biden and McCarthy?

Biden and McCarthy lean on holdouts in both parties to pass debt ceiling deal

U.S. Chamber Commends Deal to Prevent Debt Limit Crisis
(US Chamber of Commerce)

DeSantis Makes 2024 Presidential Bid
(Bloomberg +)

Inflation rose 0.4% in April and 4.7% from a year ago, according to key gauge for the Fed

Van Orden meets with area farmers to discuss ag legislation
(Leader-Telegram $)

'I honestly don't care': Van Orden responds to being added to Russia's sanctioned Americans list
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Economic Viewpoints - current key indicators
(US Chamber of Commerce)

Thee Flip Side: Collection of Right and Left viewpoints on national issues

COVID-19 Updates 

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

Mark your calendar:

Eggs & Issues: Legislative Breakfast
 • Friday, June 16, CVTC Business Education Center

EC City Council President Reception
 • Tuesday, June 20, Chamber office

The Chamber's Golf Day in Eau Claire
 • Monday, August 7

Chamber & CVTC Business Community Breakfast
 • Tuesday, Sep 12

Bravo to Business
 • Thursday, Sep 21

Workforce Solutions Summit
 • Wednesday, Nov 15

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