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Volume 6, Issue 30, Dec 11, 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


Holiday Business After Hours
 • Monday, December 11, 4:30-6:00 p.m., The Florian Gardens
    free to attend, no pre-registration required

Last chance to register...
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. L
egislators who've RSVP'd so far include Senators Jesse James (R-Altoona) and Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), and Reps. Dave Armstrong (R-Rice Lake), Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire), Karen Hurd (R-Fall Creek), and Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer).
 • 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:
 • US DOT awards rail planning grants for two projects including Eau Claire
 • EC City Council: Settlement with Town of Washington on Orchard Hills
 • County Board appoints Kirk Dahl to District 14 vacancy
 • UW Regents reject deal on DEI, pay raises, Madison Engineering Building
 • National and economic stories
 • 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 "+"

FRA awards grants for 2 Eau Claire rail corridors
Eau Claire-Twin Cities included in grants to WisDOT, Chippewa-St. Croix Rail Commission
   Longtime efforts to establish passenger rail service along the West Central Wisconsin Corridor through Eau Claire, Menomonie, Baldwin, and Hudson/River Falls took a big step forward on Friday, when the route was part of two corridors awarded $500,000 planning grants by the US DOT's Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). They were among seven grants awarded that could expand rail passenger service to Wisconsin communities.
   Eau Claire-Twin Cities Corridor: The Chippewa-St. Croix Rail Commission successfully submitted an application to study the Eau Claire-Menomonie-Baldwin-Hudson/River Falls-Twin Cities route as a multi-frequency regional corridor. The Commission's application is unique in that it proposes a competitive process for selecting a train operator, and an innovative direct access model for securing track access with the host railroad, Union Pacific, over whose tracks trains would operate. In addition to serving an important mobility role for communities along the line, the Commission also will consider using zero-emission passenger equipment, and plans to aggressively pursue transportation-oriented economic development at stations on the line.
   Members of the Commission include Dunn, Eau Claire, and St. Croix counties, the municipalities of Altoona, Baldwin, Eau Claire, Hudson, Menomonie, and New Richmond, and the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition. Ex officio members include Union Pacific, WisDOT, MnDOT, Ramsey County MN, Washington County MN, West Central WI Regional Planning Commission, CVTC, Northwood Technical College, UWEC, UWRF, and UW-Stout.
   Milwaukee to Madison to Eau Claire to Twin Cities Hiawatha Service Extension Corridor: One of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's (WisDOT) four Corridor ID applications is a line to extend trains from its successful Chicago-Milwaukee "Hiawatha" route to run via Madison and/or Eau Claire to the Twin Cities.
The other Wisconsin-related corridors awarded planning grants are:
 • Milwaukee to Chicago Hiawatha Service Expansion Corridor (WisDOT)
 • Milwaukee to Green Bay Hiawatha Service Extension Corridor (WisDOT)
 • Twin Cities to Milwaukee to Chicago Great River Service Corridor (WisDOT; additional trains on the current route via La Crosse)
 • Northern Lights Express Twin Cities-Superior-Duluth (MnDOT)
 • North Coast Hiawatha (Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, new long-distance Chicago-Seattle route via southern ND and Montana, through Wisconsin via Eau Claire or La Crosse)
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
   The Corridor ID grants are the first step in the creation of a pipeline of corridors eligible for federal funding to implement the more than $66 billion designated over five years for national passenger rail development. They will provide for the opportunity to assess potential ridership, track and station requirements, costs, and economic return-on-investment for each of the corridors. This work will help ready the corridors for the next steps in development.
   News of the announcement drew praise from EC City Council President Emily Berge: "This investment underscores the vital role of sustainable transportation in fostering connectivity and economic growth. This grant will propel Eau Claire into a new era of accessible and efficient transportation, enhancing the quality of life for our residents and fostering regional collaboration," she said.
More information:  
Study to be done on bringing passenger trains from Eau Claire to Minneapolis (WQOW News 18)
Rail Coalition announces grant money for studies (WEAU 13 News)
Progress on passenger trains through EC move forward thanks to federal grant (Eau Claire Leader-Telegram $)
Wisconsin gets $2.5 million to study Amtrak expansion from Milwaukee to Green Bay, Madison (Green Bay Press-Gazette +)
FY22 Corridor Identification and Development Program Selections (Full list of awards, Federal Railroad Administration)
Takeaways From a Blockbuster Week for Trains Across America (High Speed Rail Alliance)
Rail Passengers Applaud Release of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Rail Funds (Rail Passengers Association)
Explainer: How the Corridor ID Program works (High Speed Rail Alliance)

Wisconsin businesses, chambers of commerce, tourism groups applaud potential rail expansion
   Local Chambers of Commerce in cities around Wisconsin say that the recently-announced federal grants to study passenger rail expansion in the state are an important first step to determining the feasibility and potential economic benefits that trains could provide.
   The grants from the US DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) provide for federally-funded planning to be undertaken to look at expanding service on current routes and adding train service to new cities around the state, Potential new cities include Appleton, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Hudson, Pewaukee, Watertown, and Madison, with potential expanded service for Sturtevant/Racine, Milwaukee, Portage, Tomah, and La Crosse.
   A number of local Chambers of Commerce, prominent state and local businesses, education leaders, and local tourism agencies have signed on to a statement enumerating the potential value to more trains in the state:
   “We support the expansion of passenger rail service in high-potential Wisconsin corridors as a needed and worthwhile investment for the economic future of our state. Frequent service to more cities will help attract and retain business and the talent critical to its success; provide a convenient, economical, and environmentally-friendly alternative to driving; accelerate economic growth opportunities; improve quality of life; increase tourism; and add resiliency to our transportation system.”
   The list of signees includes Chambers in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Fox Cities, Green Bay, Menomonie, Milwaukee, and Oshkosh, as well as regional economic development organizations (including Momentum West), local tourism bureaus (including Visit Eau Claire), and a number of prominent businesses, such as the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Bucks. Businesses serving West Central Wisconsin on the list include Ayres Associates, Banbury Place/Cigan Properties, Cellcom, Festival Foods, Molson Coors, Nicolet National Bank, Prevail Bank, Royal Credit Union, Valley Sports Academy, as well as educational institutions including Chippewa Valley Technical College, Northwood Technical College, UW-Eau Claire, UW-River Falls, and UW-Stout. Click here for the full list, as well as to add your business or organization's name.
More information:
Wisconsin business groups applaud federal grants for passenger rail projects (West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition)

City of Eau Claire...
EC City Council: Town of Washington settlement on Orchard Hills annexation suit
Downtown Phoenix Taproom & Kitchen liquor license
   A proposed settlement with the Town of Washington over the City's 2022 annexation of land for the Orchard Hills development is on Tuesday's Eau Claire City Council agenda. The Town had sued to block the annexation, but recent negotiations have resulted in an agreement to dismiss the litigation. The text of the agreement removes the Town's objections, allows extension of City utilities, limits development on the northern edge of the land to single family homes, and provides a payment from the developer to the Town for road expenses incurred before the annexation. (See pages 146-159 of the Tuesday Agenda Packet linked below.)
   Tuesday's business agenda also includes approval of a Reserve Combination Class B Liquor License for the proposed Phoenix Taproom & Kitchen, to be located on the first floor of the building along the riverfront at 402 Graham Avenue. (See pages 38-78 of the Tuesday Agenda Packet.)
   After Tuesday's meeting, the Council will hold work sessions on "how to make all residents... fell welcome in our community" (see page 178) and to review recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Appointments with regard to possible changes to the composition of Boards, Committees, and Commissions (see page 179).
   The Council will meet in just one cycle this month. It has canceled scheduled meetings that would have been held on December 25-26.
Van Orden tours water plant to talk PFAS, $2 million grant pending
   On Friday, 3rd District Congressman Derrick Van Orden toured Eau Claire's wastewater treatment plan, discussing the steps the City is taking to eliminate PFAS chemicals from drinking water. The Congressman included a $2 million grant for the City in the Fiscal Year 2024 Interior Appropriations bill, which has passed the House and is pending in the US Senate.

More information:
Eau Claire City Council
 • Monday, Dec 11, 7 p.m. Public Hearing, Agenda Packet (22 pages)
 • Tuesday, Dec 12, 4 p.m. Legislative Session, Agenda Packet (183 pages)
    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)
Eau Claire City Council to vote on settlement with Town of Washington (WEAU 13 News)
Agreement reached over controversial town of Washington land annexation, council to vote (WQOW News 18)
City of Eau Claire announces the end of construction season (WEAU 13 News)
Eau Claire Fireworks Committee discusses July Fourth celebrations (WEAU 13 News)
Where Should The 2024 E.C. Fireworks Be? City Seeks Community Input (Volume One)
Van Orden discusses PFAS on visit to water treatment facility (Leader-Telegram $)
Plans underway to filter PFAS out of Eau Claire water (WEAU 13 News)

Also meeting this week...

Housing Opportunities Commission
• Wednesday, Dec 13, 5:00 p.m., City Hall, Agenda Packet

Eau Claire County...
County Board appoints Dahl to District 14 vacancy
At its meeting last Tuesday, the Eau Claire County Board appointed Dr. Kirk Dahl, and emergency physician, to fill the unexpired term in County Board District 14 until the April election. The vacancy occurred when longtime County Board member Judy Gatlin resigned.
Eau Claire County Board
• Tuesday, Dec 5,  Agenda Packet
County Board district maps and Supervisors
2024 County Budget Website (Eau Claire County)
County supervisor Dahl appointed (Leader-Telegram $)

County may apply for grant to repair Altoona dam (Leader-Telegram $)
County learns Emergency Management preparation plan (Leader-Telegram $)
Multiple agencies meet in Eau Claire County for training on mass power outage event (WEAU 13 News)

Local candidates begin circulating election petitions
Christopherson, Gragert not running for reelection to City Council
   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.
   Among those who've filed declarations of non-candidacy are incumbent Eau Claire City Council Members Jill Christopherson and Jeremy Gragert.
More information:
Offices on the Ballot in Spring 2024 (Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)
City councilor Jessica Schoen announces campaign for District 1 (WQOW News 18)
Clara Serrano announces campaign for Eau Claire City Council (WEAU 13 News)

More local stories...

ECASD discusses referendum timeline and looks to a potential vote in 2024
(Leader-Telegram +)

  Eau Claire Board of Education
  • Monday, Dec 4,  Board information and agenda

Daytime shelter for those experiencing homelessness announces temporary relocation
(WEAU 13 News)

Chippewa Valley Air Show returning in 2025
(Leader-Telegram $)

Blue Angels return to Eau Claire (WEAU 13 News)

Chippewa Falls City Council approves 2024 budget
(Leader-Telegram $)

UWRF welcomes new dean of students for spring semester
(Leader-Telegram $)

Here's the real origin story of Farm & Fleet and Fleet Farm
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce Launches National Civics Bee®
(Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)


UW Regents vote 9-8 to reject deal with Vos involving DEI positions, pay raises, Madison Engineering Building
Approve construction of UWEC Science & Health Sciences Building
   After much debate, the UW Board of Regents voted 9-8 on Saturday to reject a deal negotiated between President Jay Rothman and GOP legislative leaders that would have settled issues over DEI positions, released pay increases for UW staff, and moved forward the proposed UW-Madison Engineering Building. See the story linked below for more details.

  On Friday, the Board of Regents on Friday authorized construction of UW-Eau Claire’s $340.3 million Science and Health Sciences Building.
More information: 
UW Board of Regents rejects deal with Vos that targeted DEI positions (WisPolitics.com)

Regents authorize construction of Science and Health Sciences Building (UWEC)

More state and regional stories...

Gov. Evers Signs Bills to Keep Milwaukee Brewers, Major League Baseball in Wisconsin Through 2050
(Office of the Governor)

Wisconsin fake electors acknowledge actions were used to overturn Biden election
(Journal-Sentinel +)

Gov. Evers, Gov. Walz Seek Second Federal Grant to Replace Critical Superior-Duluth Bridge
(Office of the Governor)

Outdoor recreation industry contributed record-breaking $9.8B to Wisconsin’s GDP in 2022
(Madison In Business)

Housing options in Beloit aren't keeping up with economic growth, leaving some in a pinch
(Fox 47)

Mayo Clinic announces $5 billion expansion of Rochester campus
(CBS Minnesota)


National and economic stories...

Job openings slide to 8.7 million in October, well below estimate, to lowest level since March 2021

Economy’s Soft Landing Comes Into View as Job Growth Slowly Descends
(Wall Street Journal $)

The State of the U.S. Housing Market, Explained
(The Dispatch)

CNN to host two GOP presidential primary debates in 2024

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum drops presidential bid after failing to qualify for fourth debate

Sen. Tuberville ends blockade of most military promotions

Sen. Johnson talks with voters in Eau Claire
(WEAU 13 News)

US Supreme Court hears a case that holds sweeping ramifications for the US tax code (Fox Business)

Biden to host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at White House Tuesday

US vetoes UN resolution backed by many nations demanding immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza

Cities Hope AI Camera Enforcement Can Improve Bus Service

Food for thought...

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

Smartphone and parenting trends have pushed off major life milestones. (Daniel Cox, The Dispatch)

Do you know where your kids go every day?
(Rikki Schlott and Jon Haidt, After Babel) 
A Zoomer explains her generation’s malaise to older generations

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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