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Welcome to the electronic version of the Chronicle newsletter with news and information of interest to the business community.
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2nd QUARTER 2019
 
  • President's Column: Hello
  • Directors & Officers Elected at Annual Meeting
  • Croix Gear & Machining Receives Statewide Award
       ST. CROIX INSIDER: Next Generation Auto
  • 2018 Traveler Spending Up
  • Photos Highlight Construction Progress
  • U.S. Small Business Week Celebrated 

 

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PRESIDENT'S COLUMN

Hello

By way of an introduction, my name is Scott Jones and I was recently elected President of St. Croix EDC’s board of directors. I will serve until the Annual Meeting in May 2020. Twelve months will go fast. From there I will remain on the board to 2022 when my final term expires.

I’m excited to lead this organization. St. Croix EDC is a well-run organization, good staff, and a strong board. We get things done and we’re nimble enough to change things up as needed and take on new assignments. About a year ago we formed a workforce committee in recognition of the critical role recruiting and retaining the best talent is for business and industry. Even with its short tenure, the workforce committee completed a couple of important tasks. Workforce skills and workforce readiness are valuable attributes workers can bring to prospective employers. As fewer and fewer workers enter the workforce, we hope to have the most skilled workers in the region. We cannot address this issue alone, but will work with many partners to ensure businesses in St. Croix are able to meet their workforce needs.
 
Thanks to the Past President
I wish to extend a personal Thank-you to departing President Jill Gorres for her leadership in 2018-2019. She served two terms as First Vice President as she started a family along the way. Jill now boasts two sons, husband, and couple of four-legged friends. Jill’s term on the EDC board expired but she will serve on the executive committee in a non-voting capacity. I will build on Jill’s successes. Thanks again, Jill.
 
Thanks to the Departing Directors
Both Jill and Larry Knegendorf completed their final terms on the EDC board. Larry is a Woodville guy through-and-through, and had a stellar career in rural telecommunications and public service leading village boards. Their contributions will be missed. We’ll see them around, however.
 
Welcome New Directors
Through expired terms and unexpected resignations, the EDC welcomed five new directors to the board at the Annual Meeting. New directors include Marina Onken, Susan Lockwood, Aaron Sundeen, Cameron Kelly, and Steve Gossel. You can read about them elsewhere in the newsletter. We welcome their unique skill sets to the board.
 
About Me
I was born and raised in the Twin Cities.  Plymouth, MN was my hometown.  Growing up in the suburbs I knew nothing about the St Croix Valley or the concept of a downtown main street. If you ever visit Plymouth I challenge you to find “Downtown Plymouth”.  That all changed when I moved to River Falls in 1998 to attend the University of River Falls. I realized there is a difference between a city and a community.  A city is a place to live.  A community is so much more.  A community has a sense of belonging and character.  It has gathering places and citizens that are engaged.  I fell in love with the communities of the St Croix Valley and this is my new hometown.  I live in Hudson with my wife and two young boys.  You’ll often find us hiking at Willow River State Park or fishing at Lake Front Park.  We love all things outdoors, except mosquitoes.  And yes, I did convert to a Packers fan.
 
St. Croix County – Urban & Rural
A farmer on his/her tractor in St. Croix County may disagree that he/she resides in the nation’s 15th or 16th largest metropolitan area, namely the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI MSA (metropolitan statistical area). The Twin Cities metro area comprises 15 counties, and is down one county – Sibley – in Minnesota from a couple years ago. The best two counties in the federal definition of the Twin Cities happen to be in Wisconsin – St. Croix and Pierce. Border communities in St. Croix County have a little faster pace. Residents are used to the daily commute into the Twin Cities. Their commuting habits make them Road Warriors in more ways than one.
 
Regardless of where you reside in the county, our fortunes are tied to Minneapolis-St. Paul. As the Twin Cities economic engine goes, so goes the engine of St. Croix and Pierce. At the moment, the engine is humming along quite well.
 
For many of us, we may have discovered St. Croix County or the St. Croix Valley by accident. It remains a very special part of the Midwest for families, business, and industry. Balancing economic development natural resources is an important factor.
 
Looking Ahead
Over the next twelve months, I will work to ensure St. Croix EDC remains relevant. The EDC will work to continue making St. Croix County the preferred location for business and industry. Our local and state business climates are second to none. OK, according to Chief Executive Magazine, Wisconsin is #17 overall in the annual best and worst states for business rankings. Not too many years ago, Wisconsin was ranked in the 40s. The upward climb has been steady and hit #10 back in 2017.
 
Rest assured, St. Croix EDC will work with its local, regional, state, and national partners to Maintain and improve an exceptional business climate.
 
Here’s to Spring & Summer! Enjoy these precious days.

Directors & Officers Elected at Annual Meeting

St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (EDC) held its Annual Meeting on Tuesday, May 14th and a new slate of officers for 2019-2020 and five new board members were elected.
 
Scott Jones, a Business Loan Officer from Royal Credit Union (RCU) was elected Board President. He has served on the board since 2016 and replaces Jill Gorres who completed her term as president. Gorres also completed her final term on the board but will continue to serve on the executive committee as Past President.
 
Rob Kreibich, the executive director of the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, was elected First Vice President.
 
Angela Popenhagen, the principal at Stevens Engineers (Hudson, WI area), was elected Second Vice President.
 
David Tyvoll was re-elected Corporate Secretary-Treasurer. He is a Vice President and Commercial Banker with First State Bank and Trust (Hudson, WI branch).
 
Scott Jones and Kim Rock were re-elected to the board. Mr. Rock is a sales representative with Rathsburg & Associates.
 

Five new directors were elected to three-year terms on the board, including Susan Lockwood, Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness with Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) and Campus Administrator, WITC-New Richmond, Marina Onken, Interim Dean, College of Business and Economics, UW-River Falls, Aaron Sundeen, the Business Development Director at Derrick Building Solutions (New Richmond area), Cameron Kelly, an attorney with Lommen Abdo, P.A. (Hudson office), and Steve Gossel, the Woodville Village President, and Chief Financial Officer with Baldwin LightStream (Baldwin WI).
 
The board of directors accepted the 2018 financial review from Guinn, Vinopal & Zahradka, LLP.
 
At the conclusion of the Annual Meeting, a plaque was presented to Jill Gorres for her service as President. Gorres and departing director Larry Knegendorf received mementoes for completing their final terms on the board.

Croix Gear and Machining
Receives Statewide Award

(l to r) Al VanDenBroeke, Citizens State Bank, Dan Schneider, WBD, Ruth and Matthew Johnston, Croix Gear and Machining, and April Nelson, WBD

In mid-March, UW-River Falls announced VetNex as the winner of its third annual Innovation Challenge Ruth and Matthew Johnston of Croix Gear and Machining (Hudson, Wisconsin) received the 2018 Jeffrey Butland Family Owned Small Business award during the SCORE/SBA Small Business Awards Breakfast in Waukesha, Wisconsin on May 10th.
 
The breakfast was held in conjunction with U.S. Small Business Week.
 
Ruth took over as president of Croix Gear following her husband’s death in 2010. With her son and company vice president Matthew, the company was pivoted to meet new business demand and used SBA 504 financing to expand the facility to meet the needs of key clients.
 
Eric Ness, SBA’s Wisconsin district director, congratulated all of the honorees at the breakfast and said, “Wisconsin’s 448,000 small business owners can find inspiration and resources for their own success among Wisconsin’s 2019 National Small Business Week award winners. These businesses and champions are creating jobs, driving innovation, and increasing America’s global competitiveness.”

Next Generative Automotive: A Focus on Customers and Community Drives Success

Next Generation Auto professionals working at the Hudson location include: Isaac Johanek, Shawn Kline, co-owner, Jeremy Austrum, co-owner, Mathew Griglak, Robb Funk and Garry Peterson. Not pictured are Emily Kukk and Amy Janovec. 

A car mechanic is like a doctor: trust is the most important factor for a successful relationship, says Jeremy Austrum, co-owner of Next Generation Automotive, with shops in Baldwin and Hudson, Wis. As the St. Croix Economic Development Corporation’s 2018 Small Business of the Year, Next Generation Auto’s mission is to create lifelong community and customer connections through honesty and service.
 
“Our goal is to be the go-to repair shop in this area, and we believe hard work and honesty go a long way,” says Shawn Kline, co-owner with Austrum. The pair met at an automotive shop in Burnsville after both attended Dakota County Technical College for auto repair at different times. Austrum was recruited to the shop while in college. Kline decided to enlist in the Army, and after his term of service, returned to the Burnsville shop for work.
 
“I grew up on the family farm in Hammond, and Kline was from Burnsville,” said Austrum. “Although we are eight years apart in age, we had a lot in common, and the shop where we worked was built on mentorship. Shawn cared about his quality of work, wanted to learn and solve problems and be mentored.”
 
Austrum developed his work ethic while working on the farm, and Kline, who grew up in the city, worked in landscaping and construction. Both shared an interest in cars and motorsports. Both cite their families and parents as inspiration.
 
In 2011, the pair decided to pool their talents and open a shop in Baldwin, with some financial help from a former co-worker and Austrum’s mother, who both believed in their success. “With our training and experience, we knew that if the business failed, we could pay back the loans and could work anywhere, because auto professionals are in high demand,” Austrum said.
 
“We leased what was an old Nash dealership in Baldwin,” said Kline. “We were careful to purchase used equipment and install everything ourselves.”
 
The pair were working long days and nights and missed their wives and children, but knew that eliminating the commute would eventually pay off. “We were growing by a third every year,” said Kline, who enrolled in business management classes at DCTC and developed a detailed business plan that they presented to Westconsin Credit Union. “We had strength and great momentum with me running the back shop and Shawn running the business,” said Austrum.
 
As business grew, they began looking to expand, and found a facility in Baldwin to purchase. Moving to the new Baldwin location in June 2014, the business continued to grow by 35 percent a year. One day when Kline was at Fleet Farm in Hudson, he saw a for-sale sign at a former propeller repair shop. With the help of Westconsin Credit Union and their banker Jim Wynn, they purchased and opened the Hudson location in May 2017.  “We consider Jim an amazing customer, friend and business partner,” says Austrum.
 
Each shop has seven bays, accommodating vehicles up to 14,000 pounds. The Hudson location is 6,000 square feet and Baldwin is 5,000 square feet. Both locations have ample customer service areas fitted with wi-fi, Netflix, complimentary beverages and snacks, seating and a child’s play area. Online appointment scheduling, financing, loaner vehicles and courtesy shuttle are available.
 
As a comprehensive repair shop, Next Generation Auto handles all types of maintenance and repair, from transmission service, tire sales/service and oil changes to difficult diagnostics as well as repairs on hybrids, diesels and fleet vehicles. “Despite all the technology advances in computer diagnostics, you still can’t drive a car into a bay for a computer to fix,” says Austrum. “People are still needed to troubleshoot and repair both the electronic systems and the mechanical components.”
 
Next Generation sets itself apart with a 24- month, 24,000 warranty on it services, and offers a lifetime warranty on most front-end parts, wheel bearings, starters and alternators. The company is part of the FMP Partners Network Program, which extends warranties to other auto shops around the country for vacation or relocation as well as offers free roadside assistance.
 
One area of anticipated expansion is fleet vehicle services. Currently Next Generation serves a dozen regular fleet customers. “Our team of ASE-Certified mechanics and auto technicians can identify and fix problems that others might miss. We excel at what we do because we genuinely have a love for the work we do,” says Kline.
 
As with other trade industries, finding good employees can be an issue. The company is continually looking for qualified staff as well as interested, hardworking individuals. “The right people can be trained,” said Austrum. “When we interview, we look for who the person is, not just what they can do. They need to have a willingness for to keep learning in a changing, growing industry as well as a mechanical aptitude. Mentorship is as key in this field as in the other trades.”
 
Next Generation Auto is dedicated to the community through various programs it has developed. These include an annual turkey drive, where the company donates a portion of proceeds from every service and repair from mid-October to the week before Thanksgiving to local food pantries in Hudson and Baldwin for holiday meals.
 
Toys for Tots is another program in which the company participates. Every person who donates a toy to the holiday drive receives a $10 off coupon for any service or repair. Wheels, Wine and Women is a free car clinic, where customers can learn basics of light car maintenance in a fun, informal event with wine, snacks and cheese.
 
In its sixth year, Next Generation Deserving Rides Program is for a deserving individual or family that is in need of a working automobile and continually gives back to their community as well. Nominations are accepted at the Next Generation website. The program is offered with partnership from Wynveen Auto Body in Baldwin and Westconsin Credit Union. A refurbished auto is presented to the selected recipient in June at the Baldwin location.
 
“Western Wisconsin communities are incredibly generous,” says Austrum. “Volunteerism and service to others are key reasons why our communities continue to thrive. Our community programs are a good way to give back to our community.”

Just the Facts
 
Next Generation Automotive
1820 Webster St.
Hudson, WI 54016
Est. 2017
715.808.8239
 
910 Hillcrest Street
Baldwin, WI 54002
Est. 2011 (2014 to current location)
715.688.2166
 
12 employees
www.next-generation-auto.com
 

2018 Traveler Spending Up
in the Greater St. Croix Valley

2018 traveler spending in St. Croix County increased to $117.7 million (+6.51% from 2017) according to an annual analysis released May 6th by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. St. Croix’s $117.7 million from travelers resulted in total business sales of $193.0 million, reflecting a 5.71% increase from 2017. This spending supported an estimated 2,037 jobs in St. Croix (+3.94% from 2017) and generated $14.6 million in state and local tax revenues (+4.76% from 2016).
 
Statewide, travelers spent an estimated $13.318 billion in 2018, a 4.86% increase from 2017.  Total business sales from tourists were estimated at $21.571 billion (+4.68% increase from 2017).  Tourism and traveler-supported employment in Wisconsin in 2018 was estimated at 199,073 jobs (+1.67% from 2017). Tourism also provided the state with tax revenues of $1.581 billion in 2018 (+2.64% increase from 2017).
 
2018 visitor spending in the 4-county Greater St. Croix Valley was estimated at $292.0 million compared to $272.4 million in 2017 (+7.19% from 2017). Traveler spending in Polk County increased to $91.7 million from $87.3 million (+5.06% from 2017). Spending in Dunn County for 2018 was estimated at $52.9 million, compared to $45.8 million in 2017 (+15.48% from 2017). Pierce County’s spending from travelers increased to 29.7 million from $28.7 million in 2017 (+3.62%).
 
Total business sales from travelers and visitors to the Greater St. Croix Valley in 2018 were estimated at $477.9 million compared to $450.2 million in 2017 (a +6.15% increase).
 
2018 Tourism-related employment in the four-county region was estimated at 4,504 jobs (+4.14% from 2017).
 
State and local tax revenues attributable to visitors and travelers in the Greater St. Croix Valley for 2018 were estimated at $33.9 million (+5.6% from 2017).

Photos Highlight Construction Progress

Progress continues on the massive 230,000 square foot advanced manufacturing facility for Phillips-Medisize in Hudson, Wisconsin (top photo) as well as the world headquarters for MPSC, Inc, also in Hudson (bottom photo).
Two projects in the Hudson, Wisconsin-area advanced through winter construction.
 
Phillips-Medisize announced a major facility investment last October in the St. Croix Meadows redevelopment district along Carmichael Road south of Interstate 94. The initial 230,000 square foot advanced manufacturing facility will support the product of FDA-regulated products. It represents the largest operation in Wisconsin for Phillips-Medisize.
 
Market & Johnson is providing the construction services.
 
MPSC, Inc. commenced construction on its worldwide headquarters in the St. Croix Business Park back in September. The single-story structure includes approximately 7,200 square feet of office and 16,200 square feet of production and warehouse space.
 
MPSC has closely-held technology resulting in enhancing meat safety and quality by improving the way meat is processed.
 
Market & Johnson is the project’s general contractor.

U.S. Small Business Week Celebrated
in St. Croix County

Staff and tenants at the St. Croix Valley Innovation Center in River Falls enjoyed coffee and bakery treats on May 7th.
Later that same day, Aero Rudd and his staff at Ciro, LLC in Hudson gave an update on his motorcycle after-market accessory business. St. Croix EDC honored Ciro as the 2017 Emerging Business of the Year (in business for five or fewer years). Revenue continues to grow through new product development, dealers, and a business segment for Gold Wing cycles.
 
St. Croix EDC helped celebrate U.S. Small Business Week, May 5-11 with several stops to businesses.

Small businesses make big contributions to the economy. An estimated 99.9 percent of all businesses in the U.S. are considered small, including 2,200 in St. Croix County, 445,000 in Wisconsin, and 29.6 million in the United States. Small businesses account for nearly two of every three new jobs, and, 48 percent of employees in the U.S. are employed by small businesses.
 
A few folks stopped by Swinging Bridge Brewery on Friday afternoon for informal networking with representatives from St. Croix EDC.
 
Representatives from the Somerset Area Chamber of Commerce stopped by Bass Lake Cheese Factory to network on May 10th.
 
City staff from New Richmond made several stops, including the Chamber Coffee event with members of the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, and networking with a’laMode salonspa, KBA Technology, SF Insurance, and Moore Imprints.
 
Copyright © 2019 St. Croix Economic Development Corporation, All rights reserved.


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