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Volume 6, Issue 3, June 5, 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. We'll also hear about the remaining steps to secure completion funding for the UWEC Science and Health Sciences Building, Stout's Heritage Hall, and other major projects in the capital budget.
   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. The event will also honor newly-appointed District 1 City Council Member Jessica Schoen, who takes office on June 12. 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:
 • JFC approves funding for UWEC Science Building, Stout Heritage Hall
 • EC Plan Commission to consider new Shopko Plaza TIF
• WisDOT State Rail Plan comment deadline June 10
 • GOP leaders, Evers to meet on shared revenue
 • Biden signs debt limit bill
 • Jobs report better than expected
 • 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 "+"


Joint Finance Committee approves funds for
UWEC Science Building, Stout Heritage Hall
   At its meeting this past Thursday, the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) approved a 2023-25 state capital budget of $2.4 billion, of which $953 million is for the UW System. The latter includes $231 million in completion funding for the UW-Eau Claire Science and Health Sciences Building, and $130 million for UW-Stout's Heritage Hall renovation project.
   If passed by the full legislature, JFC's budget motion would use one-time cash from the state’s surplus to replace the UWEC's science facility, Phillips Hall, which was constructed in 1963. JFC voted to utilize $226.8 million in cash and $4.7 million in program revenue supported borrowing for the completion funding.
   “Replacing Phillips Hall with a modern research laboratory facility designed for the work our faculty and students are known for will help UW-Eau Claire continue to develop Wisconsin’s future workforce in high-demand STEM fields,” said UWEC Chancellor James Schmidt. “From biomedical engineers to nurses, the new Science and Health Sciences Building is a critical investment that will pay dividends for generations to come.”
   The state approved the first phase of funding for the project in the 2019-21 budget, but skipped completion funding in its budget approved in 2021. Because of the project's significant impact to the regional economy, supporting UWEC in securing the final phase is the Chamber's number one policy priority.
“I am sincerely grateful for the Joint Finance Committee’s endorsement of this transformational project,” Schmidt said. “We would not have received this enumeration if not for the strong bipartisan support of the Chippewa Valley’s legislative delegation over the past five years, the dedication of Mayo Clinic Health System as a partner, and the advocacy of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce and our community.”
Stout's Heritage Hall approved
   JFC also approved inclusion of UW-Stout's proposed Heritage Hall renovation project, which had been included in the UW System Board of Regents budget, but not that of Governor Tony Evers. Along with the UWEC Science Building, UW-Stout's Heritage Hall was a key priority among the 2023 Chippewa Valley Rally Issues at the annual event in Madison in March.

   "In my conversations with business and industry partners throughout our state," said UW-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank, "I have heard significant concerns voiced about child care, mental health, manufacturing and other issues impacting local economies. Heritage Hall is part of the solution."
Madison Engineering Building not included by JFC
   JFC's vote last week left out the $347.3 million for UW-Madison's proposed Engineering Building, which included a university pledge to raise $150 in private donations.

   In a statement following JFC's vote, University of Wisconsin System President Jay Rothman thanked the committee for the projects it is funding, but also made a pitch for the Madison building. 
   “We appreciate the action the legislature’s budget-writing committee took today to approve several facilities for the UW System," said Rothman. "However, for Wisconsin to compete and prosper, we must invest in high-demand programs at all our universities. UW-Madison’s engineering building is our top priority for a reason. Investing in this facility will help address a crucial workforce shortage in the state as well as enhance the world-class research that draws talent into our state and drives economic vibrancy. We will continue to champion this vital project.”
   Funding for the UW-Madison Engineering Building was recently endorsed by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), whose letter also supported the UWEC Science Building, citing both projects as important to solving workforce shortages.
   The total $2.4 billion capital budget approved by JFC is the state's largest ever, but reduced from Governor Evers' $3.8 billion proposal. JFC Co-Chair Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) told the Wisconsin State Journal that Evers' proposal "went beyond the state's means."
   "The committee needed to right-size the capital budget, which means that some projects that were requested did not make it into the JFC version of the capital budget,” Born said. “The committee will again consider requests in the next capital budget.”
More information:
Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance recommends completion funding for UW-Eau Claire Science and Health Sciences Building (UWEC)
Project details: Science and Health Sciences Building (UWEC)
Joint Finance Committee approves funds for UW-EC science building (Leader-Telegram $)
Joint Committee on Finance recommends funding for UW-Eau Claire Science and Health Sciences Building (WEAU 13 News)
Joint Finance Committee recommends funds for new UWEC science building (WQOW News 18)
Joint Finance Committee approves UW-Stout’s Heritage Hall renovation project (WEAU 13 News)
Chancellor's Statement on Heritage Hall Funding (UW-Stout)
Project details: Heritage Hall Renovation (UW-Stout)
GOP lawmakers approve $2.4B capital budget but reject key UW project (WPR)
Engineering building still needed, UW-Madison, UW System say after denial of state funding (Wisconsin State Journal +)
UW System statement on capital budget (UW System)
UW System President talks about health of the UW Campuses (WEAU 13 News)

Local legislators praise UWEC Science Building funding
   In his statement last week about the JFC vote to include the UWEC Science and Health Sciences Building in the state capital budget, UWEC Chancellor James Schmidt noted critical nature of the bipartisan support of the local legislative delegation. Those members each commented following the vote.
   Senator Jesse James (R-Altoona):“I am proud to be able to support this project for our Chippewa Valley. We see this as a great public-private partnership and an opportunity to address our workforce shortage. The Legislature has known this is a two part project, and I applaud the Joint Finance Committee’s hard work to get this done.”
   Senator Romaine Quinn (R-Cameron): “Investments on our UW campuses should improve outcomes, create opportunity, encourage collaboration with the private sector, and make financial sense.  The Phillips Hall project accomplishes all of these and does so in a way that benefits Northern Wisconsin.”
   Senator Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire): “It seems we’ve made it. It’s been a long haul, It’s good when we work together in a bi-partisan effort, at least on regional items. We have public and private partners involved. It will be a good economic boost. It’s something we will all benefit from.”
   Rep. David Armstrong (R-Rice Lake): “UW-Eau Claire has forged an incredible partnership with Mayo Clinic, and the new Science and Health building is essential to creating the future healthcare workforce for our region.”
   Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire): “We are pleased both parties have been able to work together and work for the Chippewa Valley, and get us one step closer to the finish line.”
   Rep. Karen Hurd (R-Fall Creek): “There are many people who have worked long and hard to make this project go forth.  This science building will propel us further into the dynamic field of technology and innovation.  I am grateful to the state legislature for funding this worthy project.”
   Rep. Warren Petryk (R-Town of Washington): “Today’s action by the budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance means that the UW-Eau Claire Science Hall building project is now a reality. Replacing Phillips Hall, a 60-year-old outdated, failing building, will allow our incredible students to work in state-of-the-art laboratories and help the university continue to be a national leader in undergraduate research.”
   Rep. Treig Pronschinske (R-Mondovi): “I am excited to be a part of something far greater than myself. This new building is a symbol and beacon of many bright years ahead of us. Education is vital in shaping the next generation of leaders and moving Phillips Hall forward is a critical step forward.” 
   Rep. Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer): “I am very proud to see that the UW-Eau Claire Phillips Hall project will be included in the state budget bill. The Phillips Hall project will have a profound impact on our area’s ability to train and retain a talented and innovative workforce that is ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges. I am excited for the Chippewa Valley and Western Wisconsin.”
   Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls): “As the western Wisconsin Representative on the Joint Committee on Finance, my regional colleagues made it clear how this project was strategic and advantageous to the area. I was happy to advocate for it on their behalf.”  
Legislators at next Eggs & Issues breakfast
   Many of these legislators will join us for our next Eggs & Issues breakfast to discuss the final path for the Science Building and other key components of the 2023-25 state budget.

Eggs & Issues: Legislative Breakfast
 • Friday, June 16, 7:00-9:00 a.m., CVTC Business Education Center

    Click here for details and to register

Plan Commission: New Shopko area TIF district, City Capital Improvement Plan, Water St. building, Sr. Center parking lot
   The Eau Claire Plan Commission meets on Monday evening. Its agenda includes public hearings on the City's 2024-28 Capital Improvement Plan, a proposed new Tax Increment Financing district in the former Shopko Plaza area, and a rezoning for a parking lot expansion at the LE Phillips Senior Center.
   The Plan Commission will hold a hearing before it makes a recommendation to the City Council on the creation of Tax Incremental District 16, encompassing several parcels in the former Shopko Plaza area between Stein Blvd., W. Clairemont Ave., Craig Rd., and W. Macarthur Ave. The plan envisions public improvements including street pavement replacements within the district and a pedestrian underpass at Clairemont and Stein. (See pages 24-63 of the Agenda Packet linked below).
   The Commission will also hold hear public comment on the City's 2024-28 Capital Improvement Plan (see link below), a rezoning and general development plan for a parking lot expansion at the LE Phillips Senior Center (pages 4-21 of the Agenda Packet linked below), and a conditional use permit for an outdoor storage area at 1425 Western Ave. (pages 64-72).
   Slated for public discussion and approvals by the Plan Commission are site approval for the purchase of a single family home at 406 Talmadge St by the City Housing Authority (pages 73-75), the site plan for a manufacturing building for Coating Tech Slot Dies at 2218 County Line Rd (pages 76-90), and a site plan for a new two-story building at 402 Water St. That plan includes razing the current building, formerly home of Fleet Feet, and replacing it with a new building including two retail spaces and six four-bedroom apartments (pages 91-99).
More information:
Eau Claire Plan Commission
Plan Commission 2023 Work Program
 • Monday, June 5, 7 p.m., Agenda Packet (99 pages)
2024-2028 Proposed Capital Improvement Plan (City of Eau Claire, 202 pages)
Plans revealed to replace Fleet Feet building (Leader-Telegram $)

State Rail Plan comment deadline June 10
Includes two potential Eau Claire passenger train routes
   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 funding 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 through 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:

Memorial High class presents redevelopment ideas to Eau Claire leaders
(Leader-Telegram $)

The First Event of its Kind in the Valley, E.C. HmongFest Slated for June
(Volume One)

Modern style evident in home featured in this month's Parade of Homes
(Leader-Telegram $)

THE BIGGEST THING SINCE COUNTRY JAM: New Eau Claire Event District Nearing Completion
(Volume One)

UK-based company to repurpose electric vehicle batteries in shuttered Chippewa Falls frac sand plant


State and regional stories: 

Up Front: Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, Gov. Tony Evers and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos are expected to meet Mon. (WISN)

JFC approves no new state money for broadband expansion with federal money on way

Milwaukee's bond rating has been downgraded by a credit firm. Here's what that means for the city.

Wisconsin lawmakers vote to spend $2 million to stage 2025 NFL draft in Green Bay

Wisconsin 'Safe Harbor' bill would bar minors from being prosecuted for prostitution

Republicans announce Aug. 23 as the date for presidential debate in Milwaukee

Kathy Bernier isn’t finished fighting election denialism in Wisconsin
(The Cap Times)

Bipartisan election integrity group launched in battleground Wisconsin

How DSPS is catching up with Wisconsin's licensing backlog
(PBS Wisconsin)

Wisconsin poised to get $7.5M from lawsuit against maker of medication used to treat opioid abuse

Xcel Energy proposes rate hikes in '24 for Wisconsin customers
(Leader-Telegram $)


National and economic stories:

Biden signs debt limit bill, avoiding U.S. default

Wisconsin’s House delegation splits on debt limit bill

Van Orden voted for raising debt limit; Tiffany voted against it
(Leader-Telegram $)

How every senator voted on the debt ceiling bill

Payrolls rose 339,000 in May, much better than expected in resilient labor market

US Supreme Court rules against EPA in wetlands regulation challenge

Dept. of Natural Resources: State wetland regulations remain intact after SCOTUS Sackett decision

Stopping the WOTUS Rule Is a Win for Small Business (US Chamber of Commerce)

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

The 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

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