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Volume 4 , Issue 42, Mar 7, 2022
 Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce


Mar 18 Eggs & Issues: Tackling Housing Supply Challenges

What's being done to address the local housing shortage

  Two years ago, the Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force found that housing supply in the community was insufficient for every income level and housing type. With the population continuing to grow and workforce issues mounting, we'll take a look at the current situation and potential solutions being pursued to address our regional housing shortage. We'll get insights from Cody Filipczak, Owner, C&M Homes & Real Estate; Taylor Graybehl, Associate Planner, City of Eau Claire; Bruce King, Government Affairs Director, REALTORS® Association of Northwestern Wisconsin; Pat Smith, President, Chippewa Valley Home Builders Assn.; and Dante Tomassoni, COO of Development, P&R Companies.

Eggs & Issues

Attendance options: In-person at the Pablo Center or live stream on Perigon
 • Friday, March 18, 7:00-8:30 a.m.

    Click here for details and registration (deadline noon March 17)


News in this issue:

 • Stephanie Hirsch to be named City Manager
 • EC School Board plans referendum listening sessions

 • Monica Obrycki named Eau Claire Energy Co-op CEO

 • Evers announces $8 million in grants to local communities

 • Wisconsin Supreme Court adopts redistricting plan

 • Marquette Poll shows voters don't know primary candidates yet

 • February jobs report exceeds expectations

 • Biden delivers State of the Union, visits Superior

 • Pablo Center to lift mandates March 12
 • COVID-19 updates
 • Mark your calendar
 • Public meetings
Note on article links: A subscription is required for those marked with "$"
Publications known to have article limits for non-subscribers are marked with "+"


Stephanie Hirsch selected to be Eau Claire City Manager
Appointment to be confirmed at Tuesday's City Council meeting

   The Eau City Council last week announced Stephanie Hirsch as its choice to become the new City Manager. The appointment will be confirmed at this week's City Council meeting, with Hirsch expected to begin her duties on April 4.

  “We’re excited to announce the City Manager appointment to Stephanie Hirsch and look forward to her leadership and collaboration with council, city staff and our community as we work together serving and meeting the needs of our great city," said City Council President Terry Weld in a news release.

  Hirsch grew up in Eau Claire and built her career in New England, earning an MBA from Harvard University and spending 15+ years serving in senior municipal government leadership roles in Somerville, Mass.

   Interim City Manager Dave Solberg, who was the other finalist, will continue his duties in the interim before returning to his previous role as the City Engineering Director.

   "The Council is grateful to Mr. Solberg, who brought the same high level of integrity, dedication and problem-solving skills to his interim role as he does to his leadership role as City Engineer," said the news release. "Mr. Solberg stepped up to shepherd the city through an especially complex time; a period of transition for the organization, and of challenges for us all as a community as we worked our way through a pandemic. We thank him for his hard work, service, creativity, and leadership," said the City's release. Solberg has been serving in the role since former City Manager Dale Peters retired in October 2021.

Agenda: Construction management discussion, Lake Hallie attachment

   At its Public Hearing session on Monday, the Council is scheduled to discuss using construction managers vs general contractors, in response to a petition from 68 registrants (see pages 5-6 of the Monday Agenda Packet linked below), and will hold a closed session after the meeting to discuss negotiations related to construction of housing above the Transit Center now being built.

   Tuesday's Legislative Session agenda includes confirmation of the City Manager appointment (see pages 95-102 of the Tuesday Agenda packet linked below), renewal of the City's lease agreement at Carson Park with the Wisconsin Logging Museum (pages 48-55) and a proposed attachment of a parcel on Sundet Rd. in the Village of Lake Hallie to the City of Eau Claire at the request of the property owner (pages 103-112).
High Bridge to open soon
   City officials have indicated that the High Bridge, which links the north end of the Cannery District with Forest St., is expected to open this month upon completion of pier repairs.   
More information:
Eau Claire City Council
 • Monday, Feb 21, Public Hearing, Agenda Packet (27 pages)
 • Tuesday, Feb 22, Legislative Session, Agenda Packet (126 pages)
Link to video recordings of city meetings (City of Eau Claire)
Contact information: City Council members (City of Eau Claire)
Public Meeting Participation Guide for Attendees (City of Eau Claire)
Eau Claire City Manager Search webpage (City of Eau Claire)

Announcement: City Manager Appointment (City of Eau Claire)

E.C. Native Stephanie Hirsch Hired as City Manager (Volume One)

City council picks Hirsch as new city manager (Leader-Telegram $)

Hirsch named as new Eau Claire City Manager (WEAU 13 News)

New Eau Claire city manager chosen (WQOW News 18)

Talking about bidding: City to discuss construction manager vs. general contractor (Leader-Telegram $)

High Bridge reopening this month; cost grew for repairs (Leader-Telegram $)

High Bridge re-opening slated for March (WEAU 13 News)


EC School Board schedules referendum listening sessions
Board to vote Monday on 2022-23 academic calendar

   The Eau Claire Board of Education has scheduled four public listening sessions on March 9 and 16 to hear from the public about a potential referendum. All sessions are online and will begin with a brief presentation. Advance registration is required by 4:30 p.m. the day before. Click the links below for registration information for each session:

  Wed., Mar 9, 6:00-7:00 p.m.

  Wed., Mar 9, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

  Wed., Mar 16, 6:00-7:00 p.m.

  Wed., Mar 16, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Monday, Mar 7 Board Meeting agenda

   At Monday's regular meeting, the School Board is scheduled to vote on its academic calendar for the 2022-23 year. Classes would run Sep 1 to June 6, with spring break Mar 20-24, 2023. Also at the meeting, Superintendent Mike Johnson is expected to discuss various benchmarks. The meeting will begin with a closed session at 5 p.m. to discuss the district's health insurance. 

More information:

Eau Claire Board of Education

 • Monday, Mar 7, 5 p.m. closed session, 7 p.m. public Agenda Packet

Eau Claire school board to consider stipend changes (Leader-Telegram $)

Referendum listening sessions set for March (Leader-Telegram $)


Monica Obrycki named Eau Claire Energy Cooperative CEO

   The Board of Directors of Eau Claire Energy Cooperative have announced the appointment of Monica Obrycki as the organization's new Chief Executive Officer. A member of the coop's senior management for nine years, she will succeed Lynn Thompson, who is retiring in May after serving as CEO since 2009. 

   "During her career at the Cooperative, Monica has displayed her passion for serving the membership," said Board Chair Clarence Boettcher in a news release.

   Obrycki currently chairs the Chamber's Workforce Development Committee and also serves on the Board of the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation.
More information:

Monica Obrycki named CEO (Eau Claire Energy Cooperative)

Eau Claire Energy Co-op names new CEO (Leader-Telegram $)


Evers announces $8 million in Neighborhood Investment  grants for Altoona, Eau Claire, Menomonie, and Rice Lake

   Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers last Wednesday announced the cities of Rice Lake, Altoona, Menomonie, and Eau Claire will receive more than $8 million as part of the Neighborhood Investment Fund grant program. These funds will be used to improve downtown infrastructure and pedestrian safety, promote business development initiatives, and support local affordable housing and shelter needs.

   “From expanding affordable housing options to strengthening infrastructure and revitalizing our main streets, this grant program was designed to connect the dots in our communities to ensure they recover and succeed for years to come,” said Gov. Evers. Awards include:

   Altoona will use a $1,377,435 grant to redevelop two downtown properties into an office, restaurant, and retail incubator hub to bolster Altoona’s downtown and create a unique regional attraction for residents and visitors. 

  Eau Claire will use $2.5 million in grants support two projects that address affordable housing and shelter needs in the local community, including $1 million to support the development of the Cannery Trail Residence Phase II, a 43-unit affordable housing development in downtown Eau Claire, and $1.5 million for the expansion of the Catholic Charities Sojourner House to provide emergency shelter for an additional 28 homeless adults and youth in the community.

  Menomonie will build a 20-bed shelter facility to help address homelessness in the community.

   Rice Lake will use a $3,157,057 grant to make improvements to their Main Street corridor that will provide a safe route within the city for all users and revitalize the city’s historic downtown. 

   Statewide, the Governor's announcement included more than $212 million in awards to various communities.
More information:

Gov. Evers Announces More Than $8 Million Neighborhood Investment Fund Grants for Rice Lake, Altoona, Menomonie, and Eau Claire (Office of the Governor)

Gov. Evers Announces More than $212.9 Million in Awards for Neighborhood Investment Fund Program (Office of the Governor)

Altoona plans to create startup business incubator using state grant (Leader-Telegram $)

Eau Claire Sojourner homeless shelter expansion to begin in spring (Leader-Telegram $)

Grant will help Menomonie nonprofit build new homeless shelter (Leader-Telegram $)
Gov. Evers: Cities of Eau Claire, Altoona, Menomonie, Rice Lake to receive over $8 million (WEAU 13 News)


Other local news:


City of Eau Claire 2022 construction projects (City of Eau Claire)


New county highway facility on schedule, budget (Leader-Telegram $)


County grant applications open later this month for organizations affected by pandemic; $2M available (Leader-Telegram $)


Augusta Area School District receives $2.5M donation from local woman (WQOW News 18)


ECASD student identities guideline sparks conflict (WQOW News 18)


Judge sides with Menomonie Schools in COVID-19 protocols case (WQOW News 18)


Wisconsin Supreme Court adopts "least change" map proposed by Governor Evers for Congressional and Legislative Districts

   In a 4-3 ruling last Thursday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court adopted the set of maps submitted by Governor Tony Evers, ruling that Evers' proposal most closely met the "least change" approach ordered last fall by the court.
  Conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn voted with liberal Justices Rebecca Dallet, Ann Walsh Bradley and Jill Karofsky in the ruling. Conservative Justices Rebecca Bradley, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler dissented.

   Barring a successful appeal, the new maps will now take effect for the August 9 Primary and November 8 General Election for Wisconsin's Congressional and Legislative Districts.

More information:

Supreme Court Redistricting Decision (Supreme Court of Wisconsin)

Wisconsin Supreme Court picks Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' maps in redistricting fight (Journal-Sentinel +)

Split Wisconsin Supreme Court adopts Gov. Tony Evers' 'least change' redistricting proposal (Wisconsin State Journal +)
Wisconsin Supreme Court selects Gov. Tony Evers’ voting maps (The Cap Times)

Wisconsin Supreme Court chooses Evers' 'least changes' redistricting plan (WPR)

Interactive map: See how Wisconsin redistricting changes your voting map (Journal-Sentinel)


Marquette Poll: Primary candidates not yet well known,

Evers' approval rating improves

  A new Marquette Law School Poll survey of state voters released last week found that about half of both Republican and Democratic voters say they don’t know whom they support in the races for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate and the Republican nomination for governor.
   In questions about approval ratings for various statewide figures, Governor Tony Evers' rating improved to a 50 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove, better than his 45-46 under water rating last October.
More information:

New Marquette Poll - Inflation fears up, pandemic fears down, primary candidates not yet well known (Marquette Law School Poll)

Video: Franklin discusses Marquette poll, challenges facing polling industry (WisPolitics.com)

New Marquette poll finds voters unfamiliar with Wisconsin primary fields (The Cap Times)

Wisconsin voters’ thoughts on school choice, public schools changing (The Center Square)


Other state news: 


Wisconsin Rep. Gordon Hintz won't seek reelection (The Cap Times)


Gableman calls for 'hard look' at decertifying 2020 election, which is not legally possible (The Cap Times)

Here are 26 ways Michael Gableman is seeking to change Wisconsin's election laws (Wisconsin State Journal +)


'They were given a one-sided story': The Republican battle for Wisconsin's urban vote (Wisconsin State Journal +)


In Wisconsin, Democratic governor confronts high stakes, tough odds in re-election fight (NBC News)


Gov. Evers Takes Action on 15 Bills (Office of the Governor)


Assembly Adjourns After Final Floor Votes: February 23, 24 (Hamilton Consulting)


'We lost a lot more than that': The toll of losing 40K Wisconsin dairy farms in 4 decades (WPR)


'See ya next time': How a neighborhood grocery store grew into today's Kwik Trip phenomenon (Journal-Sentinel $)


February jobs report exceeds expectations

   The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that employers added 678,000 jobs in February, exceeding expectations of 440,000. The unemployment rate dropped from 4 percent to 3.8 percent and the labor force participation rate increased slightly from 62.2 percent to 62.3 percent. Total employment is now about 2.1 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels.
More information:

Employment Situation Summary (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Unemployment Insurance weekly claims (US Dept of Labor)

February jobs rose a surprisingly strong 678,000, unemployment edged lower while wages were flat (CNBC)
Here’s where the jobs are — in one chart (CNBC)

U.S. Jobless Claims Fell to 215,000, Remaining Near Historic Lows (Wall Street Journal $)

Big February job growth for economy, but on Main Street it’s still a struggle to find workers (CNBC)


Biden delivers State of the Union, visits Superior
   President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address to Congress last Tuesday evening. He covered a variety of topics including the conflict in Ukraine, COVID-19 recovery, domestic manufacturing, healthcare, energy, and taxes. He also called for passing a new federal paid family and medical leave policy, part of his stalled Build Back Better plan.
   US Chamber President Suzanne Clark appeared on CNBC's Squawk Box to discuss the State of the Union address, challenges facing the business community, and the economy.

   "We had a worker shortage before the pandemic," she said. "We have jobs without people and people without jobs. So, we need more legal immigration into this country. We were glad to be called out last night as one of the groups that believe this is true." 
Biden promotes replacement of Superior-Duluth bridge
The day after his speech to Congress, President Biden flew to Superior, where he visited the aging John A. Blatnik Memorial Bridge in Superior and gave a speech at the UW-Superior Campus.
   “The bridge is 61 years old and at the end of its useful life, the corrosion over the years has lowered the weight it can sustain and safely handle,” Biden said, pointing out that the new bipartisan infrastructure law invests $110 billion in roads, bridges and major projects, with $5.4 billion funneled toward Wisconsin highways and bridges.

More information:

Video and text: 2022 State of the Union (The White House)

A Recap of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address (National Law Review)

Biden pushes for paid family leave in State of the Union address (CNBC)

Video: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers GOP response to Biden’s State of the Union address (CNBC)

Video: U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark reacts to Biden’s State of the Union address (CNBC)

Biden touts bipartisan infrastructure law during Superior visit (WisPolitics.com)


COVID-19 Updates 

Pablo Center announces end to vaccine, testing requirements Mar 12

   The Pablo Center at the Confluence last week announced that effective March 12, it will end its requirement that patrons show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.  

   “The safety of Patrons, Artists, and Staff is paramount for Pablo Center,” said Executive Director Jason Jon Anderson in a news release. “On March 12th we mark the second anniversary since Pablo Center’s shuttering due to government orders in response to Covid-19. Pablo Center, like other national and international venues, worked with artists and local health professionals to find ways to re-open and remain operational. We adapted and enacted measures to protect our guests and keep our doors open. As pandemic conditions improved and protective measures increased within our community, Pablo Center, with guidance from Eau Claire City and Country Health, is able to reduce our entry protocols. We are extraordinarily grateful for the support of our partners, patrons, and the communities of the greater Chippewa Valley over the past two years. We look forward to continuing to provide our guests with a safe and exceptional experience.” 

   The Center said the decision to ease the visitor requirements comes amid national and local easing in Covid-19 restrictions, including new community, metric-based masking guidance by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and improved local Covid-19 conditions. The positivity rates in Eau Claire City-County have declined steadily, with a 7-day average new total case rate of 25.1 per day and positivity rate of 8.3%. The easing of Pablo Center’s entrance requirement also aligns with building partner University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, who as part of the full University of Wisconsin System is dropping their masking requirements on March 12. 
More information: 

Pablo Center Covid-19 visitor protocols (Pablo Center)
Pablo Center to ease COVID-19 safety protocols (WQOW New 18)

New CDC system puts Chippewa Valley at ‘medium’ COVID levels (Leader-Telegram $)


COVID-19 Resources: 
COVID-19 Symptoms & Testing (EC City-County Health Department)
Local COVID-19 Testing Sites (EC City-County Health Department)
Interactive COVID Data Tracker (CDC)
COVID-19: Staying Safe in Your Community (EC City-County Health Dept.)
Eau Claire County COVID-19 Information Hub 
Eau Claire weekly COVID Situation Report 
Eau Claire County COVID-19 Vaccination Page 
Metrics Dashboard
Chippewa Valley COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force


Mark your calendar:


"Eau What a Night" - The Chamber's 107th Annual Meeting
 • Thursday, Mar 31, 5:30 p.m., The Florian Gardens


Spring Non-Partisan General Election
Local City and Town Councils, School Boards, County Boards, Judges
 • Tuesday, April 5


Partisan Primary
State Assembly, State Senate (odd # dists), US Congress, US  Senate, Governor , Attorney General, State Treasurer, Secretary of State
 • Tuesday, Aug 9
General Election
 • Tuesday, November 8


Next up on the public calendar:


Wisconsin Political Calendar (WisPolitics.com)


City of Altoona City calendar (with links to agendas)
Meeting and video links
Mayor and City Council Members
 • Tuesday, Mar 8, 1 p.m. Altoona Housing Authority
 • Thursday, Mar 8, 5:30 p.m. Plan Commission

 • Thursday, Mar 8, 5:30 p.m. Public Hearing

  • Thursday, Mar 10, 6 p.m. City Council

 • Thursday, Mar 24, 6 p.m. City Council


City of Eau Claire Full calendar  
City Council Members (City of Eau Claire)
Link to video recordings of city meetings (City of Eau Claire)
 • Monday, Mar 7, 4:30 p.m. Landmarks Commission
 • Monday, Mar 7, 7 p.m. City Council Public Hearing
 • Tuesday, Mar 8, 4 p.m. City Council Legislative Session
 • Wednesday, Mar 9, 5 p.m. Housing Opportunities Commission
 • Monday, Mar 14, 7 p.m. Plan Commission
 • Wednesday, Mar 16, 7:30 a.m. Redevelopment Authority
 • Wednesday, Mar 16, 3:30 p.m. Sustainability Advisory Committee 

 • Monday, Mar 21, 7 p.m. City Council Public Hearing


City of Augusta
City website
Village of Fall Creek
Village Board


Town of Washington
Town website
Altoona School District
Altoona School Board
Eau Claire Area School District
Board of Education
 • Monday, Mar 7, 7 p.m.


Augusta School District 
Augusta School Board


Fall Creek School District 
School Board


Chippewa Valley Technical College
District Board


Eau Claire County Full calendar
Click here to find your County Board Representative (interactive map)
 • Monday, Mar 7, 4:30 p.m. Committee on Finance & Budget
 • Wednesday, Mar 9, 7 a.m. Community Engagement Session

 • Monday Mar 14, 3 p.m. Highway Building Committee

 • Monday Mar 14, 3 p.m. ADRC Board 

 • Monday Mar 14, 3 p.m. Committee on Parks & Forest

 • Thursday Mar 17, 4 p.m. Groundwater Advisory 

 • Friday, Mar 18, 7:30 a.m. Chippewa Valley Regional Airport Commission

 • Monday, Mar 21, 1 p.m. Land Conservation Commission

 • Wednesday, Mar 23, 3 p.m. Committee on Judiciary & Law Enforcement


Thanks for reading this issue of Business Advocate. If you have comments or questions, contact Scott Rogers, Vice President Governmental Affairs, at 715-858-0616 or rogers@eauclairechamber.org 

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