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Volume 6, Issue 33, Jan 2, 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


Eggs & Issues: The State of Eau Claire County
The Chamber's annual 'State of the County' address, led by Eau Claire County Board Chair Nancy Coffey and County Administrator Kathryn Schauf. Hear the highlights of Eau Claire County's work the past year and its priorities for 2024.
 • Friday, Jan 19, 7:00-8:30 a.m., CVTC Business Education Center
    Click here for details and to register

"Eau What A Night" - The Chamber's 109th Annual Meeting
 • Wednesday, Jan 24, 4:30-9:30 p.m., Pablo Center at the Confluence
    Click here for details and to register

Making a Difference: State and Federal Government
This informative session will concentrate on the state and federal government. Find out what decisions get made in Madison and Washington, and what they mean to you. Presented by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association, REALTORS® Association of Northwest Wisconsin, and Young Professionals of the Chippewa Valley.
 • Tuesday, Jan 30, 3:30-5:30 p.m., Chamber Offices
    Click here for details and to register

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. After a very productive 2023, we'll be back in Madison to thank policymakers for key wins, and to continue to build relationships. Click here for an update on the status of 2023 Rally Issues
 • 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

In this issue:
 • EC County Board defeats refugee resolution opposed by the Chamber,
     Chippewa County may consider similar resolution
 • Chamber adopts 2024 Business Issues Agenda
 • Chamber hosting Civics Bee competition for middle school students
 • Wisconsin Supreme Court orders new legislative maps
 • UW-La Crosse Chancellor fired by Board of Regents
• 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 "+"


EC County Board defeats refugee resolution 18-9
Chamber opposed move as "unnecessary and counter-productive"
   The Eau Claire County Board on Tuesday, Dec 19, defeated, by a vote of 18-9, a proposed resolution that would have asked World Relief to pause its plan to locate 75 refugees in the region and arrange an independent economic impact study.
   Earlier the same day, at its regular December meeting, the Board of Directors of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously to oppose the resolution. In a letter to County Board members, the Chamber said it "believes the proposed resolution is unnecessary and counter-productive to our community’s reputation as being welcoming to new residents."
   The letter further noted that "World Relief and others involved have been completely forthcoming with information about the resettlement process. We disagree with the 'Whereas' statement in the proposed resolution that relocation of refugees 'could impact the quality of life for Eau Claire County residents due to the possibility of excessive demand on local resources…' To the contrary, experiences in other communities has shown that welcoming refugees provides positive economic benefits."
   The letter also cited excepts from the Chamber's 2024 Business Issues Agenda, also adopted that morning, with language under the Workforce Development plank regarding the role of immigration in solving the area's workforce shortage:
   "Inviting new residents to our nation and community presents a valuable opportunity for employers to offer economic prospects to individuals and families eager to forge a fresh start. It also contributes to enriching the overall quality of life for everyone in the Chippewa Valley... The Chamber is committed to ensuring that Eau Claire remains a welcoming community to those who are fleeing peril and persecution in their home countries. Our community has a history of benefiting economically and culturally from the refugees who form our Hmong community. It is important to create a nurturing environment where newcomers can flourish, becoming productive residents, and proud citizens in west central Wisconsin."
Click here to read the Chamber's full letter to County Board members

Eau Claire County Board roll call vote
   Here is how County Board members voted on the resolution. The number noted is the district represented by that County Supervisor. To find your own representative, click this link: County Board district maps and Supervisor contact information
   Yes votes (for resolution and against the Chamber's position): 5. Larry Hoekstra, 6. Dane Zook, 8. Cory Sisk, 9. Allen Myren, 12. Brett Geboy, 17. Thomas Vue, 19. Gerald Wilkie, 20. John Folstad, 23. Robin Leary
   No votes (against the resolution and for the Chamber's position): Todd Meyer, 2. Amanda Babb, 3. Joe Knight, 4. Stella Pagonis, 10. Nancy Coffey, 11. Nathan Otto, 13. Connie Russell, 14. Kirk Dahl, 15. Nick Smiar, 16. David Hirsch, 18. Jim  Dunning, 22. Katherine Schneider, 24. Heather DeLuka, 25. Jodi Lepsch, 26. Tami Schraufnagel, 27. Kyle Johnson, 28. Kimberly Cronk, 29. Missy Christopherson
   Absent and not voting: 7. Steve Chilson, 21. Mark Beckfield
More information:
Eau Claire County Board
• Tuesday, Dec 19,  Agenda Packet 
(Refugee resolution is on pp. 50-52)
Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce Letter to the County Board (EC Chamber)
World Relief responds to county board concerns (Leader-Telegram $)
Resolution denied: county hopeful for partnership (Leader-Telegram $)
Eau Claire County Board fails to pass resolution regarding refugee resettlement (WEAU 13 News)
Eau Claire County Board rejects resolution to halt refugee resettlement for economic impact study (WQOW News 18)

Chippewa County to consider similar resolution
The Chippewa County Board Executive Committee will discuss a similar resolution at its meeting on Monday at 4 p.m. The next meeting full board will be January 9, at 6 p.m.
More information:
 Chippewa County Board Executive Committee 4 p.m.   Agenda Packet (see pp. 79-81 for proposed refugee resolution)
   Chippewa County meetings portal

Anti-refugee resolution follows protests, unsubstantiated claims, disinformation
   Among the Chamber's concerns about the refugee debate has been the rhetoric from opponents, much of it agitation from outside anti-immigration groups, that continues to make and repeat unsubstantiated claims about refugee resettlement plans and their potential impact.
   Given this environment, the Chamber's letter to the Eau Claire county Board also included this excerpt from its 2024 Business Issues Agenda: "Respectful, fact-based debate should characterize decision making in public policy, keeping the broader public interest in mind and avoiding hyperbole, misleading information, personal attacks, and appeals to fear and emotion."
   Examples of disinformation being spread by opponents include an inflammatory billboard posted along Truax Blvd., and blog posts like this one and this one by outside anti-immigration groups. These arguments inaccurately associate legal resettlement of refugees with problems created by illegal southern border crossings, mischaracterize federal law regarding refugee resettlement and responsibilities, make unsubstantiated claims about lack of transparency, and claim welcoming refugees will create an undue burden on public resources.
   The Chamber recognizes there are serious, unresolved public policy issues with immigration and the border. In our 2024 Business Issues Agenda, the Chamber supports efforts in Washington by the US Chamber of Commerce to reform immigration and secure our borders. However, welcoming legal refugees to our community is a completely separate question.

World Relief answers questions, points to positive track record 
   World Relief is an evangelical Christian organization with a 75-year history. It  has operated with a Wisconsin office in Appleton for 10 years and opened the Chippewa Valley office in 2023. It has provided extensive FAQs and other information detailing how refugee resettlement works, and how refugees are vetted before the come to the US.

   In a November 23 "It Seems to Me" column in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, retired World Relief President Scott Arbeiter, who previously was senior pastor at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wis., pointed out that refugee programs have no association with illegal immigration:
   "It’s important to underscore that refugees are lawfully admitted immigrants. They arrive at airports, not via the U.S.-Mexico border, and undergo a more thorough vetting process than any other immigrant coming to the U.S., according to a Heritage Foundation report. While some are understandably concerned about terrorism, since the Refugee Act’s passage in 1980, there’s not been a single American life lost in an Islamist terrorist attack perpetrated by a refugee."
   "While refugees receive some assistance from the federal government upon arrival, they eventually more than repay their adopted country. Two decades after arrival, the average refugee has contributed $21,000 more in taxes than the combined cost of governmental expenditures on their behalf."
   "Even in the short-term, refugees can help our state’s economy by providing solutions to ongoing labor shortages. In the Fox Valley, where World Relief has already been resettling for a decade, the vast majority of refugee adults are employed shortly after arrival, meeting employers’ need for reliable, lawfully-authorized employees."
More information:
IT SEEMS TO ME: Resettlement will strengthen Chippewa Valley (Scott Arbeiter, Leader-Telegram $)
Frequently Asked Questions: Refugee Resettlement in the Chippewa Valley
(World Relief)
Who is a refugee and what do they go through to get to the U.S.? - World Relief (World Relief)

Locals aid groups, employers step up to welcome refugees
   Several local groups have come together to offer volunteers and donations to assist in the effort, while employers and business groups in other areas where refugees have settled say they've provided valuable economic benefits.

   On December 5, a group of organizations including the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association (ECAHMAA), JONAH, and Welcoming New Neighbors, held a news conference to announce they have pulled together a group of local volunteers, monetary donations, and supplies to assist with the effort.
   "It’s really important to show our solidarity in supporting the refugees that are coming in,” said True Vue, Executive Director of ECAHMAA. "All of us currently live in peace with no fear of war, leaving our homes, having to experience living in a war zone. Those who are never refugees will never know the fear and sacrifice we as refugees had to to make," she said.
   The Chamber contacted colleagues in the Fox Valley and Waukesha areas, where refugees and other immigrants have been welcomed, who say their experiences with World Relief and other agencies have been positive.
   The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce issued a report on the Economic Impact of Immigrants in Minnesota, which found that "Immigrants complement native-born workers well and play essential roles throughout the economy. As the state’s population ages and the native-born workforce participation rate drops, foreign-born workers fill in the gaps in employment," it noted.
   The National Association of Manufacturers says refugees strengthen industry.
   “When manufacturers hire refugees, they see fewer turnovers and increased efficiencies, and at the same time, they’re helping improve the lives of refugees, their families and communities," says Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee. "Increasing diversity in the talent pool and developing more inclusive workplaces strengthens the competitive advantage of our industry and our workforce.”
   In Willmar, Minnesota, which has a large immigrant and refugee population, the community conducts an annual "Welcoming Week," which civic and business officials say is designed “to make sure that all are welcome in our community.” 
   “These are people that come ready to work, and that is one of the reasons that they choose Willmar, because the word gets out that there are a lot of work opportunities,” Pablo Obregon, Willmar Community Growth director, told the West Central MN Tribune.
More information:
WELCOMING NEWCOMERS: Valley Orgs Ready to Aid Refugees in Coming Year (Volume One)

Organizations speak in favor of World Relief and resettlement (Leader-Telegram $)
Husco Provides Wisconsin Jobs to Refugees (National Assn of Manufacturers)
Welcoming Week celebrates Willmar's diverse population (West Central Minnesota Tribune)
The Economic Contributions  of Immigrants  in Minnesota (Minnesota Chamber of Commerce)

Chamber adopts 2024 Business Issues Agenda
   At its December 19 meeting, the Board of Directors of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce adopted its 2024 Business Issues Agenda. In light of its mission as "The Advocate of Business," the purpose of an annual Business Issues Agenda is to set forth the Chamber's philosophy on the most important economic issues for our community, plus the Chamber's position on specific governmental policies that affect or address those issues.
   As the new year begins, the Chamber will share the agenda with policymakers at all levels of government, and its staff will use it as a guide as government bodies consider actions that are addressed in the agenda. Topics covered in the agenda include free enterprise, stewardship of public resources, regulations, workforce development, housing supply and affordability, education, economic development, tourism, transportation and infrastructure, healthcare, energy and the environment, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Click the link below to read the full agenda. If you have questions about the agenda, contact Scott Rogers, VP Governmental Affairs rogers@eauclairechamber.org
More information:
The Chamber's Advocacy Principles & 2024 Business Issues Agenda (Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)

EC Chamber to host local competition for National Civics Bee
Middle School students are eligible, essay deadline is January 22
   The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to host a first-of- its-kind civics competition that encourages young Americans to engage in civics and contribute to their communities. Participating 6th, 7th and 8th graders will flex their civics knowledge for a chance to win recognition and cash prizes. Finalists will be invited to Washington, DC to compete in the inaugural National Civics Bee® national championship in Fall 2024.
   Who can participate: Any 6th, 7th, or 8th grade student residing in Wisconsin with an idea about using civics to improve their community. Middle school students from public, private, charter, and home schools are invited to take part in the first-round civics essay competition. After a distinguished panel reviews the 500-word essays, the top 20 students will be selected to move on to the next round of competition: a live quiz event to test their civics knowledge. The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce will host this event at DeLong Middle School on April 13, 2024. The finalists and top winners will receive various prizes, including $500 cash for the first-place student. Winners then move on the state and potentially national competition.
Key Dates:
 • January 22, 2024: Deadline for Essays
 • April 13, 2024: Local competition for students with the top 20 essays
 • June 14, 2024: Statewide finals, Madison
More information:
National Civics Bee information (Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)
Wisconsin Chambers to Host Regional, Statewide Civics Bee (WMC)
Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce to hold National Civics Bee, inspire local youth (Leader-Telegram $)
Eau Claire Chamber giving kids a chance to test their knowledge in National Civics Bee (WQOW News 18)
Civics Bee program encourages youth interest in civics, and essay contest offers cash prize (Volume One)

More local stories...

UWEC, UW-Stout Projects Get Go-Ahead
(Volume One)

Eau Claire South YMCA set to open
(WEAU 13 News)

Haven House opens at new location (Leader-Telegram $)
Eau Claire day shelter Haven House opens doors in new location (WQOW News 18)
Community Haven House begins serving guests at new location (WEAU 13 News)

ECASD votes on Nov election for operation referendum, amount to be decided
(Leader-Telegram $)

CF school superintendent asks board to approve 3-year referendum
(Leader-Telegram $)
'Critical juncture': Chippewa Falls Superintendent asking for 2024 referendum (WQOW News 18)
CFAUSD Superintendent proposes operational referendum (WEAU 13 News)

Hakes investigation: sheriff accused of being 'dishonest'
(Leader-Telegram $)
DA: Sheriff Hakes shouldn't be involved in investigations (Leader-Telegram $)

WEAU-TV celebrating 70 years
(WEAU 13 News)


Latest episode...
"Talking Po!nt" podcast
The importance of advocating in Madison
   Decisions made in Madison have a big impact on the economy of the Chippewa Valley. In this episode, moderator Creative Director Chelsea Seckora talks to Eau Claire Chamber President & CEO Dave Minor and VP Governmental Affairs Scott Rogers about the ways we can work together to influence state policymakers. Hear details on how you can participate in the upcoming Chippewa Valley Rally.
Recorded in the WIN Technology Studio. Media sponsor Royal Credit Union. Click below to listen:
Talking Point Podcast Ep 3, "The importance of advocating in Madison" (32:24)
Click here for information on the 29th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally (Chippewa Valley Chamber Alliance)

State and regional stories...

Republicans ask Wisconsin Supreme Court to reconsider redistricting ruling
(Wisconsin State Journal +)

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules legislative maps unconstitutional, orders new boundaries for 2024 vote (Journal-Sentinel +)
What comes next in Wisconsin's redistricting case? (The Cap Times)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the state's legislative maps are unconstitutional. What's next? (WPR)
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos: 'We're going to get maps' (WPR)
Our View: New maps, but same outcome is possible (Leader-Telegram Editorial)

UW regents fire UW-La Crosse chancellor who filmed porn with wife
(The Cap Times)

Wisconsin university chancellor says he was fired for producing and appearing in porn videos (AP)
Our View: What a way to end 2023 (La Crosse Chancellor firing, Leader-Telegram Editorial $)

UW and Vos agreement is not quite a done deal
(The Cap Times)

Wisconsin elections commission rejects complaint against Trump fake electors for second time

The state budget set aside $125M to address PFAS. Months later, communities are still waiting for relief.

A Republican proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin is coming soon

Wage growth slowing in Wisconsin, but personal incomes expected to outpace 2022

Herb Kohl, UW alum who became 'nobody's senator but yours,' dies at 88
(The Cap Times)

Kwik Trip to expand its operations throughout Wisconsin
(WEAU 13 News)
Kwik Trip plans $151 million expansion of its Wisconsin operations (BizTimes)

New year, more wine time: Under new state law Wisconsin wineries can stay open later
(WEAU 13 News)

Madison's largest affordable housing project breaks ground
(The Cap Times)

Northwoods officials: Accessible internet, housing and child care are key to jobs growth

Dairy-focused Farm and Industry Short Course launches first year at UW-River Falls

Looking back at 2023...
Recap 2023 at the Capitol: Shared revenue, Brewers stadium deal, elections (WPR)
2023 was a wild year in Wisconsin politics, again (The Cap Times)
Wisconsin political leaders called for more compromise. The results were a mixed bag (Wisconsin State Journal +)
Video: WisconsinEye Host and CBS 58 Capitol Reporter Emilee Fannon and WisPolitics.com Editor JR Ross review the top stories of 2023 in state politics (Wisconsin Eye, 46:39)
'Everybody said this was impossible': Cavalier Johnson and David Crowley reflect on passing shared revenue and local sales tax deal (The Recombobulation Area)


National and economic stories...

Fed’s favorite inflation gauge shows prices rose at 3.2% annual rate in November, less than expected

Maine bars Trump from ballot as US Supreme Court weighs states’ authority to block former president
Colorado Supreme Court removes Trump from state's ballot (Axios)
Michigan Supreme Court won't hear appeal seeking to block Trump from state's primary ballot (Detroit News +)
California secretary of state keeps Trump on primary ballot despite calls for his removal (The Hill)
Liberal super PAC files challenge to Donald Trump's ballot access in Wisconsin (WPR)

Why 2023 emerged as a banner year for passenger rail
(Route Fifty)

Hyperloop One Is Shutting Down, Ending a Literal Transportation Pipe Dream (PC)

Rent expected to drop in several US cities as markets near ‘oversupply’: real estate report
(The Hill)

Will Congress Make a Deal on Border Policy in the New Year? (The Dispatch)

These pandemic-era relief programs expired in 2023
(Route Fifty)

Video: Good news you may have missed in 2023
(CBS Sunday Morning, 7:26)

Food for thought...

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

Has Gratuity Culture Reached a Tipping Point?
(The New Yorker +)

What Happens If Putin Wins
Do we want to live in the kind of world that will result if Ukraine loses?

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

Mark your calendar:

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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