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Volume 6, Issue 45, Mar 25 2024
 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 2024 Business Issues Agenda
"Talking Po!nt" Podcast
Contact: Scott Rogers, VP Governmental Affairs
Chamber Business Hours: Mon-Thu 7:30a-5p, Friday 8a-2p


In this issue:
• Sacred Heart, St. Joseph's now closed
 • EC City Council: "The Seven" $120 million development agreement
 • EAU Airport boardings soar with Sun County service
 • Evers signs EV Charging, Business Tax Credit bills
 • Biden signs government funding package - how WI reps voted
 • Gallagher resigning from Congress April 19
 • Food for thought
 • Mark your calendar
Note on article links: A subscription is required for those marked with "$"
Publications known to have article limits for non-subscribers are marked with "+"


Spring Election Tuesday, April 2
   Wisconsin voters go to the polls on Tuesday, April 2, with non-partisan County Board, Municipal, and School Board elections on their ballots. There will also be a party Presidential Preference Primary, and two state constitutional amendments.
   Polls on Election Day will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Early voting is available at local municipalities on weekdays, March 19-29.
   To register to vote, find your polling place, see what's on your ballot, and/or to request and absentee ballot, go to myvote.wi.gov
Chamber local election resources
   The Chamber does not endorse candidates, but provides voter information to help its investors and members of the public make informed decisions. The Chamber's Good Government Council developed Candidate Questionnaires for the Eau Claire County Board, Eau Claire City Council, and the Altoona and Eau Claire School Boards.
Click the link below for election information and access to the Chamber Good Government Council Questionnaires:
Spring 2024 Election Guide (Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce)
Eau Claire County Board Questionnaire
Eau Claire City Council Questionnaire
Altoona School Board Questionnaire
Eau Claire School Board Questionnaire 

More information:
Meet the 2024 E.C. City Council Candidates (Volume One)

Wisconsin constitutional amendment ballot proposals, explained (The Cap Times)
Vote "yes" on constitutional amendments to keep elections secure (Scott Frostman, WISC News)
Why you should vote “no” on two statewide questions to amend the constitution (Dan Shafer, The Recombobulation Area)

Eggs & Issues: The State of the City - Altoona
   Altoona Mayor Brendan Pratt, City Administrator Mike Golat, and members of the City's leadership team will lead a presentation highlighting the accomplishments of the City of Altoona during the past year and its priorities, challenges, and opportunities for the rest of 2023.
 • Friday, Apr 12, 7:00-8:30 a.m., River Prairie Center
Click here for details and to register


Sacred Heart, St. Joseph's now closed
   HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph's hospitals are now formally closed, a month earlier than originally announced by HSHS on January 22. On Thursday, EMS workers and community members lined the sidewalks outside Sacred Heart for an honor walk as employees exited the building.
   "What was already short notice to lose these HSHS hospitals and the services of the Prevea Clinics becomes even more of a crisis with these earlier closures," said Dr. Bill Rupp, Co-Chair of the local HSHS Prevea Task Force, organized by the Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, and Menomonie Chambers of Commerce. "We are committed to working through all this, but this new development makes it even more challenging. We appreciate that there are staffing challenges as Sacred Heart Hospital employees leave for other jobs, but Sacred Heart is a regional level III trauma center and for other emergency rooms in the area every day it remains open is precious.”
   The Task Force says it remains unwavering in its commitment to advocate for the best interests of the community: "We will continue to work tirelessly, ensuring that any negative impact on our communities is minimized. As well as we will continue to work with existing and new medical providers who have already undertaken to expand or establish services in the Chippewa Valley Area and make these options available to the public as quickly as possible."
More information:
HSHS hospitals close, community shows support for workers (Leader-Telegram $)

Community thanks, mourns St. Joseph's Hospital (Leader-Telegram $)
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital closed (WEAU 13 News)
Emotions run high as community supports health care heroes with honor walk (WQOW News 18)
WATCH: HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Honor Walk (WEAU 13 News)
'It is with deep sadness we close our doors today': Sacred Heart, St. Joseph's close (WQOW News 18)
Video documentary: Sacred Heart and St. Joseph's: A history in the Chippewa Valley (WQOW News 18, 20 mins.)
Our View: Only one word left (Leader-Telegram editorial $)
Click here: Task Force website to stay informed and sign up for updates

Capital City Sunday: Dave Minor addresses work of
the Task Force, broader healthcare impact
   In a statewide TV interview broadcast on Sunday, Eau Claire Chamber President and CEO Dave Minor told Capital City Sunday about the urgent work the HSHS Prevea Task Force has undertaken to address the unexpected hospital and clinic closures in the region.
  "It's really about taking care of the most important thing, everyday, the patients," said Minor, "We started looking at what lines of service are going to be left vacant."
   He noted that Mayo, Marshfield, and other existing and new providers have been stepping up to expand services or enter the region. He also warned, "This is not a one off problem. If we do not fix some of the root problems in healthcare across our country, this will continue to happen in other communities in other areas. We need to have everyone truly working together to find a solution for our community."
More information:
Capital City Sunday story and links: Stalemate over funding for Chippewa Valley health care crisis, Asian American education bill, Sec. Godlewski reflects on first year in office (WKOW)

Panel discusses impact of western Wisconsin healthcare
closures, status of $15 million funding
   Representatives from the community, government, and healthcare organizations participated in an virtual panel last Tuesday, organized by Wisconsin Health News, to discuss the impact of the healthcare closures in western Wisconsin. They also talked about the future, and noted the debate over how to spend $15 million appropriated by the legislature.
   Participants in the panel included Emily Berge, President, Eau Claire City Council; Dr. Richard Helmers, Regional Vice President, Mayo Clinic Health System in Northwest Wisconsin; Dr. Brian Hoerneman, Interim CEO, Marshfield Clinic Health System; Sen. Jesse James (R-Altoona); Mike Sanders, Lead Advisor, Chippewa Valley Health Cooperative; and Kaylynn Winegar, Vice President of Investor Engagement, Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce. 
   Topics included how the remaining healthcare organizations are responding to the influx of patients, the feasibility of a new hospital, the impact of job losses, and the efforts of the local Task Force to fill gaps and address key issues.
   They also talked about the wrangling between Democratic Governor Tony Evers and legislative Republicans over how to spend $15 million approved by the legislature in February to address the emergency. Evers used his partial veto powers to modify the legislation, but any spending must still be approved the the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC).
   During the webinar, James emphasized the need to see more specifics to move the funding forward.
   “If we can see a plan, and we can get it shared amongst our Republican colleagues, especially on the Joint Finance Committee," he asserted, "and say ‘Hey, this is something that we can definitely support back at home’ …. then we can go in and have discussions with (JFC Co-Chair Rep. Mark) Born, R-Beaver Dam, and (Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester) and say, ‘Let’s get this out. This makes sense for our area.’”
   Marshfield's Hoerneman said of the funding, “It’s really a good start. It doesn’t address all the issues, of course.”
   Mayo's Helmers said, “The emergency room certainly is impacted,” he said. “But other areas have been impacted as well.”
More information:
Western Wisconsin healthcare providers press for funding as Evers, GOP lawmakers wrangle over plan (Wisconsin Health News)

Western Wisconsin leaders respond to healthcare facility closures (Wisconsin Health News)
Recorded Wisconsin Health News webinar (Wisconsin Eye, 1 hour)
Recorded Wisconsin Health News webinar (Facebook, 1 hour)
Local Leaders Scramble to Address Impending Hospital Shutdowns (Volume One)
Gov. Evers Visits Healthcare Providers in Western Wisconsin, Urges Republicans to Immediately Release $15 Million to Stabilize Healthcare Industry Across Chippewa Valley (Office of the Governor, news release)
Visiting Eau Claire, Evers chides finance committee for not acting on hospital aid (Wisconsin Examiner)
Chippewa Valley Republican Legislators Disappointed in Governor’s Political Stunts (Rep. Rob Summerfield, News Release)

More healthcare stories...

Rusk County buys Ladysmith clinic amid regional health care closures

Rusk Co. plans to buy Prevea Clinic, rent to OakLeaf Medical Network (WEAU 13 News)

Mayo Clinic Health System announces launch of 24/7/365 care through Primary Care On Demand
(WEAU 13 News)

CVTC is the first in the state to offer dental advanced certificate
(WEAU 13 News)

Report: Unrelenting Pressure Pushes Rural Healthcare Safety Net Crisis into Uncharted Territory
America’s rural health safety net has been in crisis mode for nearly 15 years. Rural hospital closures, decreasing reimbursements, declining operating margins, and staffing shortages have all coalesced to undermine the delivery of care in communities whose populations are older, less healthy, and less affluent. The mission of the safety net to serve under-resourced communities is unraveling. The latest research conducted by the Chartis Center for Rural Health points to a
startling new phase of this crisis as rural hospitals fall deeper into the red, “care deserts” widen throughout rural communities, and the increasing penetration of Medicare Advantage could further disrupt rural hospital revenue.


EC City Council: Development agreement for $120 million
"The Sevens" project on Tuesday agenda
Hoeft Builders' mixed use project includes business park, residential development, I-94 bike and pedestrian overpass
   A top item on the agenda for the Eau Claire City Council this week, during its Tuesday Legislative Session, is a proposed development agreement between the City and Hoeft Builders, Inc., for a $120 million business park and residential community to be known as "The Sevens." Located southwest of the I-94/US 53 intersection, the first phase will include "a business park that will be the future headquarters of Hoeft Builders as well as a highly-desirable location for office, medical, and other business purposes along this high visibility location with convenient access and proximity to the strong commercial retail center of Oakwood Hills and this growing portion of Eau Claire," according to the narrative with Tuesday's City Council Agenda Packet. The initial development agreement covers the business park phase.

   "The second phase is residential and will include market rate multi-housing units expected in a diverse unit mix at a range of lease prices that will include those more attainable for renters at or under county median income. It is anticipated this development agreement will come before City Council in the next month assuming the initial phase is approved. In addition, a bike and pedestrian bridge over I-94 will be constructed allowing for connectivity to Oakwood Hills for the benefit of current and future residents and employees."
   The proposal includes creation of a new Tax Increment District (TID) to support the public project infrastructure including the overpass, street, trail and other allowed project costs. (See pages 102-150 of the Tuesday Agenda Packet linked below.)
Monday Public Hearing agenda
   Monday's Public Hearing agenda includes proposed street and utility reconstruction downtown on Grand Ave between Graham and Farwell streets (see pages 5-9 of the Monday Agenda Packet linked below), a Comprehensive Plan amendment to allow medium- to high-density residential and commercial uses at the northwest corner of County II and Mischler Road, as part of the Orchard Hills development annexed to the City in 2023 (pages 10-18), and a rezoning for property on the west side of Dorret Road, south of W Vine St, to allow twin homes (pages 19-38). There will also be a Public Discussion of a proposal by the Advisory Committee on Appointments to add one City Council Member each to the Sustainability Advisory Committee and the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and to designate the Council Members serving on those committees, as well as the Housing Opportunities Commission and the Waterways & Parks Commission to serve as the Chair of those bodies "by virtue of their office." (See pages 39-41).

   After Monday's meeting, the Council will hold a Work Session regarding the Day Resource Center project to establish a permanent location and services for individuals experiencing homelessness.
Tuesday Legislative Session
   On Tuesday, the Council is scheduled to act on items from Monday's agenda. The Business Agenda includes acceptance and an agreement with P&R Properties of a $250,000 Community Development Incentive Grant from WEDC for its residential project at 2016 Oxford Ave. in the Cannery District (see pages 47-68 of the Tuesday Agenda Packet linked below). The Council will conduct a closed session at the end of the meeting to conduct the annual performance evaluation for City Manager Stephanie Hirsch.

More information:
Eau Claire City Council
 • Monday, Mar 25, 7 p.m. Public Hearing Agenda Packet (41 pages)
 • Tuesday, Mar 26, 4 p.m. Legislative Session Agenda Packet (194pages)
    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)
"The Sevens" Property Flyer (Commonweal Development)

More City of Eau Claire news...

City Manager's Weekly Update
(City of Eau Claire)

February Eggs & Issues: State of the City - Eau Claire
(Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce)
State of the City: Resilience is relationships (Leader-Telegram $)
Eau Claire leaders hold 'State of the City' address to discuss community issues
(WQOW News 18)

Chippewa Valley Regional Airport: Passenger counts soar past 50,000 for the first time since 2004
Business Matters podcast with Airport Director Charity Zich
   After pilot shortages and the withdrawal of SkyWest Airlines threatened the future of commercial air service to the Chippewa Valley Airport in 2022, the airport bounced back in 2023 with its highest passenger counts since 2004. That's thanks to the introduction of service by Sun Country Airlines of flights to its hub at MSP and seasonal services to Florida and Las Vegas.
   Although passenger counts at the airport had grown steadily after SkyWest introduced United Express flights to Chicago in 2010, effects from covid and a pilot shortage led to the airline's 2022 decision to end service to 29 markets, including Eau Claire. As a recipient of federal support through the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, the airport sought a new carrier and was able to secure an innovative new agreement with MSP-based Sun Country. When service began in late 2022, the airline began providing service with 737 jets, providing fewer total departures but more seats that before. For the first full year of 2023, there were 50,942 total passengers, a 51% increase over 2022.
   In the newly-released episode of the Chamber's Business Matters Podcast,  Chippewa Valley Regional Airport Director Charity Zich talks with Scott Rogers, the Chamber's Vice President Governmental Affairs, about the challenges and successes of commercial air service for EAU. Learn how the Sun Country jet service to seasonal destinations is doing and what's next for the airport's future.
More information:
Listen: Business Matters Podcast Episode 5: What's up at the airport? (Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce, 30 mins)
Chippewa Valley Regional Airport (website)
Flight information (Chippewa Valley Regional Airport)

More local stories...

New national data highlights health strengths and opportunities for Eau Claire County
(EC City-County Health Department)
Annual Report - Eau Claire Health Alliance (Eau Claire Health Alliance)

Free waste and item disposal program ended
(Leader-Telegram $)

WESTconsin CEO Benrud to Retire, Hand Reins Over to Wookey
(Volume One)

CVTC Alumni Come to College Dean’s Rescue
(Volume One)
Video: CVTC Dean Adam Wehling shares miracle rescue after tree cutting accident (WQOW News 18)


Evers signs EV Charging, Business Tax Credit bills
Signs, vetoes bills from end of legislative session
   With the Wisconsin legislature passing a flurry of bills at the end of the session in late February and early March, Governor Tony Evers has begun to sign and veto the bills reaching his desk.

  Among those signed by the Governor were a bill to free up $80 million in federal funding to establish an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging network across the state, and one that makes several modifications to the Business Development Tax Credit and the Enterprise Zone Jobs Tax Credit programs.
  The Governor vetoed bills relating to tax cuts, his appointment powers, and several election-related measures.
  Rep. Dave Armstrong (R-Rice Lake), who is also the Director of the Barron County Economic Development Corp., was the lead author of the tax credit bill. It allows companies to qualify for tax credits for investing in the growth and productivity of their businesses without increasing or reducing their employee headcount from the previous year. It also creates a new 15 percent incentive for investments in workforce housing and investments in child care programs, specifies that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) must approve or deny certification within 90 days after receiving an application, specifies that unused allocations from closed awards may be carried forward to future years, and makes minor technical modifications to the Enterprise Zone Jobs Tax Credit. The bill was also co-sponsored by local Rep. Karen Hurd (R-Fall Creek) and passed both the Assembly and Senate with bipartisan majorities. 
More information:
Business Development Tax Credit Bill: AB 627, now Act 143
Gov. Evers Signs Historic Legislation to Support and Expand Wisconsin’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (Office of the Governor, news release)

Governor signs bills creating electric vehicle charging station network across Wisconsin (AP)
Expect to see more electric vehicle charging stations in Wisconsin (Wisconsin State Journal +)
More end-of-session coverage and Gubernatorial action:
Here’s what the Wisconsin Legislature did (and didn’t do) in its final months of session (WPR)
Senate Floor Session Recap: March 12, 2024 (Hamilton Consulting)

Assembly Floor Session Recap: February 22, 2024 (Hamilton Consulting)
Governor Signs 24 New Laws, Vetoes GOP Tax Cut Bills (Hamilton Consulting)
Gov. Evers Takes Action on 54 Bills (Office of the Governor, news release)
Gov. Evers Takes Action on 44 Bills (Office of the Governor, news release)
Wisconsin passes law to prevent AI 'deepfakes' in political ads (The Cap Times)
Evers takes action on election-related measures, including AI and poll closures (Wisconsin Examiner)
Evers vetoes bill that would have limited his appointment power (WPR)
Bills that passed the Assembly but not the Senate (WisPolitics.com)

Bills that passed the Senate but not the Assembly (WisPolitics.com)

Emerson, Hurd announce Re-election bids,
Wachs won't run for Assembly
New maps now on Legislature's website
   The Wisconsin Legislature's website now includes the new Assembly and Senate district maps that will go into effect with the 2024 election, including those districts in which candidates will run for the August 13 Partisan Primary and the November 5 General Election.
   With the new maps, incumbents and other candidates have begun to announce their intentions, with a June 1 filing deadline to be on the August Primary ballot. Current Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) has announced her intention to run for reelection in the 91st district, while Rep. Karen Hurd (R-Fall Creek) plans to move to the 69th Assembly District. Former Rep. Dana Wachs, whose nomination to the UW Board of Regents was denied by the State Senate on March 12, announced last week he will not run for the 93 Assembly seat, which he previously indicated he was considering.
More information:
Rep. Jodi Emerson Announces Bid For Re-Election (WEAU 13 News)

Representative Hurd Declares Candidacy for 69th Assembly District (WEAU 13 News)
Wachs announces he won't seek Assembly seat (Leader-Telegram $)
Dana Wachs says he will not seek return to State Assembly in coming election cycle (WQOW News 18)
Link to 2024 legislative maps (Wisconsin Legislature)
Interactive map: Check the boxes at the upper left to select Assembly, Senate, and/or Congressional Districts. Zoom in to find you location and who your representatives are.

More state and regional stories...

Wisconsin GOP leader calls the Trump supporters trying to oust him ‘whack jobs and morons’

Robin Vos recall chaos raises questions about Wisconsin laws (The Cap Times)

Assembly Democrats line up for open Madison area state Senate seat
(Wisconsin Watch)

State appeals court upholds ruling that DNR lacks broad authority to regulate PFAS

Wisconsin Supreme Court to decide if counties must release voter incompetency records

Wisconsin is tightening remote work procedures for state employees, administration secretary says
(Wisconsin Examiner)

‘I’m essentially breaking even every month’: Wisconsin renters struggle with rising prices

Small-deal historic tax credit projects that have worked in Wisconsin

We're getting close to the premiere of 'Top Chef' Season 21, filmed in Wisconsin. Here's what to know about it.
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Travel Wisconsin: Top Chef Wisconsin page (Travel Wisconsin)

8 Takeaways From Milwaukee County Exec Crowley’s State of the County Speech
(Urban Milwaukee)

Interstate 94's Milwaukee expansion will cost $1.74 billion and run through 2031. Here's what we know
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Marquette University plans to cut $31 million by 2031
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Dairyland demolishes decommissioned Genoa power plant
(News 8000.com)

La Crosse mayor issues statement on homeless camp clean-up efforts
(WEAU 13 News)

Readying to rise: Sears demolition underway, Janesville Woodman's Center ahead
(Janesville Gazette +)

We Energies plans to spend $335M on Microsoft development in Mount Pleasant

Can you retire on less than $1 million in Wisconsin? Here's how much you'll need
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Kenneth Janz named president of Winona State University
(WEAU 13 News)

National and economic stories...

Federal Reserve holds interest rates steady, still projects cuts ahead

Fed holds rates steady and maintains three cuts coming sometime this year (CNBC)

Home prices rose 2.4 times faster than inflation since 1960s, study finds. What that means for homebuyers

President Biden signs government funding package to avoid government shutdown

Senate vote 74-24: Yes: Baldwin (D), No: Johnson (R)
House vote 286-134: Yes: Van Orden (R), Gallagher (R), Pocan (D); No: Fitzgerald (R), Grothman (R), Moore (D), Steil (R), Tiffany (R)

Rep. Mike Gallagher to leave Congress in April, further narrowing House GOP majority
(Spectrum News)

Rep. Mike Gallagher says he’s resigning early, leaving House Republicans with thinnest of majorities (AP)

Forced TikTok sale ‘absolutely’ could happen before November, Rep. Gallagher says

Pence says he won't endorse Trump

Do senior Wisconsin voters think Biden and Trump are too old to serve?
(The Cap Times)

Baldwin narrowly leads Republican in Wisconsin Senate race: Poll
(The Hill)

Mayer passing on U.S. Senate bid, wants to avoid ‘bloody primary’ with Hovde

Van Orden Secures Over $26 Million for the Third District in First FY24 Appropriations Package
(Office of Rep. Derrick Van Orden, news release)

Rebecca Cooke believes her ‘working class’ values can flip 3rd Congressional District blue
(Wisconsin Examiner)

Shankland says experience in Legislature can help her win, work for 3rd Congressional District
(Wisconsin Examiner)

EPA issues new auto rules aimed at cutting carbon emissions, boosting electric vehicles and hybrids

What to know about Biden's "stretch goal" on auto emissions (Axios)

Records shed light on program pairing cops with mental health professionals
(Route Fifty)

Feds Seek to Heal Community Scars from Interstate Highways

Recorded webinar: WMC hosts program on new DOL Independent Contractor Rule
(WMC, 1 hour) Michael Best provides and update on the final rule “Employee or Independent Contractor Classification Under the Fair Labor Standards Act” that went into effect on March 11.

Food for thought...

Americans Have the Power to Demand and Deliver Better
(John Hart, The Dispatch) Minority factions disrupt political stability. What could a dissident majority do?

Our View: Time to vote
(Leader-Telegram editorial $)

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

Mark your calendar:

Spring 2024 Election
 • Tuesday, April 2
Local candidates on the Spring election ballot

Eggs & Issues: State of the City - Altoona
 • Friday, Apr 12

2024 Human Resource Conference
 • Thursday, Apr 18

Chamber/UW-Eau Claire Business Community Breakfast
• Tuesday, April 30

Eggs & Issues
• Thursday, May 9

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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