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Welcome to the electronic version of the Chronicle newsletter with news and information of interest to the business community.
St. Croix EDC Chronicle

1st Quarter 2016   |   Inside this issue:


Thank you to Xcel Energy, First American Bank, Startech, Derrick Building Solutions, and Family Friendly Workplace for sponsoring our newsletter!


Banquet Honors Top Individual & Businesses

On February 25th, St. Croix EDC honored its 2015 business of the year winners at a banquet held Kilkarney Hills Golf Club in River Falls, Wisconsin. The 2015 winners include 65 Vines Winery (Town of Kinnickinnic) as Emerging Business of the Year; St. Croix Castings, Inc. (Woodville) as Small Business of the Year; and Phillips-Medisize Corporation (Hudson and New Richmond) as Business of the Year.

Thomas Schumacher, one of the founding attorneys of the Bakke Norman law firm, received the 2015 EDC Directors Award. Schumacher has over 30 years of legal experience and represents closely held businesses with all aspects of business planning, including choice of entity, capital formation, business transitions, and mergers and acquisitions. Bakke Norman has a strong municipal practice, including land use and development, ordinances and resolutions, public finance, and economic development, including tax incremental financing matters. Tom helped shape economic development in St. Croix County with his legal work and involvement in economic development organizations. He served on St. Croix EDC’s board of directors from 2006-2013 and was president from 2010-2011. He currently serves on the New Richmond Area EDC board.

EDC president Chuck Jerrick served as the evening’s emcee.

About the Winners
Sixty-Five Vines was founded by the husband-wife team of Scott and Julie Andrzejcak. Julie is the proprietor and Scott is the winemaker and vineyard manager. In 2012, following four years of searching for land in west central Wisconsin, the Andrzejczaks found their 33-acre dream property along Coulee Trail in the Town of Kinnickinnic and relocated from the western Twin Cities. The move allowed Scott, originally from Franklin, Wisconsin, to follow his dream of operating a vineyard and winery. Next came 10 months of meetings, introductions, and education involving town and county officials. With municipal approvals secured, 65 Vines became St. Croix County’s first bonded winery. The Andrzejczaks, with the help of family and friends, planted their first acre of grapes in June 2013. Scott and Julie’s wines have whimsical names, including Up a Creek, Dry Fly, Tippy Canoe, Kinni River Red, Lilydipper, Shuttlebuns, and PFD (Personal Floatation Device). This past fall the winery received approval for extended hours (now August-November), additional parking spaces for vehicles, and removal of the “By Appointment Only” restriction. 

St. Croix Castings is owned and operated by Milton and Robert Sell. Milt serves as the sales manager and Bob is the project manager. The company is a job shop that offers medium to small volume aluminum castings in sand and permanent mold. The business has expanded over the last 10 years with ongoing automation and modernization of the operations. The Sells anticipate future growth and automation to enable St. Croix Castings to continue providing new and better ways to meet customer’s needs. Commercial lighting, fire suppression equipment, bulk material handling and transfer, ag equipment, industrial and recreational vehicles, and industrial tools and equipment are reflective of the industries served by St. Croix Castings. The company is 9001:2008 ISO certified.

Phillips-Medisize Corporation is a global leader in outsource design, development and technology-driven manufacturing. Based in Hudson, Phillips-Medisize employs over 3,400 people in 14 locations throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico and China, totaling 1.7 million square feet. The company has design centers in Wisconsin, California, The Netherlands, and China. Three of the company’s locations are in St. Croix County – the corporate headquarters and a design center in Hudson and a medical manufacturing facility in New Richmond. Phillips-Medisize is a dominant force in the medical device and diagnostics, drug delivery, primary pharmaceutical packaging, and commercial markets. The company features a list of blue chip medical device, pharmaceutical and commercial customers. Phillips-Medisize has annual sales of over $600 million with 80 percent of the total revenue coming from drug delivery, medical device and diagnostic products, such as disposable insulin pens, glucose meters, specialty inhalation drug delivery devices, single-use surgical devices and consumable diagnostic components. The company is led by Matt Jennings, Chairman and CEO.

Each of the honorees received a plaque from the EDC as well as a Legislative Citation from the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly, and congratulatory letters from Governor Scott Walker and Mark Hogan, the chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC); U.S. Representative Sean Duffy, and U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin.

Past business of the year recipients were introduced during the program.

Entertainment was provided by Scott Novoty, a comedian from New Richmond, Wisconsin.

The 22nd annual awards banquet was sponsored by Bakke Norman Law Offices, Baldwin LightStream, Bremer Bank, Citizens State Bank, Derrick Building Solutions, Eckberg Lammers Law Firm, First Bank of Baldwin, First National Bank of River Falls, First National Community Bank, Hiawatha National Bank, Market & Johnson, Phillips-Medisize Corporation, Sandeen Insurance, Security Financial Bank, WESTconsin Credit Union, Wipfli CPAs and Consultants, Wisconsin Business Development Finance Corporation, and Xcel Energy.

 
 

President’s Column:
What Does Business Want?

Area Development magazine is a well-respected publication for economic development-types and site selection consultants. How about that? Magazines like Area Development, Site Selection, and Business in Focus are at the top of the reading list for our EDC staff, rather than Sports Illustrated, Car and Driver, and . . . Mad Magazine. Just a note to our readers -- I read Mad Magazine as a kid and I will be keeping it away from my sons when they get old enough to read.

Every year Area Development publishes a survey on site selection priorities from corporate executives. As you would expect, priorities move up and down the list. When the economy is humming along incentives may be less critical, compared to a struggling economy and an impending expansion when incentives may drive a deal. Regardless of positions, site consultants and real estate brokers do take numerous factors, including quality of life, into consideration when they assist expanding companies.

Results from Area Development’s  29th annual survey were published a while back. The survey is slightly complicated with ratings of “very important”, “important”, a “minor consideration,” or of “no importance” for each of the factors on the list.

Without going on-line to peek at the results, what do you think the number one site selection factor was in the 2015 survey? Considering business and industry need to move raw and finished goods and employees in and out of facilities, the answer is “Highway Access”. On a related note, “Proximity to Major Markets” ranked Number 8.

“Occupancy and Construction Costs” are ranked Number 2 in last year’s survey.

“Available Land” reportedly moved up 10 spots to the # 3 factor in Area Development’s survey.

Number 4 was “Available Buildings”. One nationally-recognized real estate brokerage firm says U.S. industrial vacancies are at the lowest levels in 14 years. It’s about supply and demand, so the limited number of existing buildings ranks high on the list.

Site consultants ranked “Availability of Skilled Labor” as their Number 5 issue in 2015. This factor was ranked Number One in the 2014, and with the growing number of “Help Wanted” signs popping up, I cannot argue labor’s importance in the site selection process.

Are site selectors seeking training or the close proximity of colleges/technical training on behalf of their clients? This factor ranked Number 20. Related to labor is “Labor Costs” and this factor was ranked Number 6.

A right-to-work state moved from Number 11 in 2014 to Number 7 in the 2015 survey.

What about the corporate tax rate and state-local incentives? The editors of Area Development said surprisingly those two factors moved down in the 2015 rankings to spots Number 10 and 11.

Factors that dipped from 2014 to 2015 included the availability of advanced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services, going from Number 5 in 2014 to Number 24. Long-term financing also fell in the 2015 survey to Number 17. As interest rates continue to remain very low and very competitive, this should not come as a surprise.

What about meaningful Quality of Life factors? In Area Development’s separate rating on this topic, a “Low Crime Rate” is the Number 1 concern for site selectors. Ratings of public schools moved up two spots in the 2015 survey to the Number 2 ranking. Healthcare facilities ranked Number 3 in 2015. Of interest, Wisconsin is often considered the Frozen Tundra. At Number 9 of the Quality of Life factors is “Climate”. I have to ask, how often do you see guys around town wearing a sweatshirt and shorts, and it’s only minus 5? Busses run 40 minutes late in Florida when it’s 35 degrees. In St. Croix County, at minus 10, bus drivers finally close the windows and turn on the heat.

Last fall, Site Selection published its Top 10 most important location criteria. It included existing workforce skills at the top, followed by state and local tax scheme, transportation infrastructure, utility infrastructure, land/building prices and supply, ease of permitting and regulatory procedures, flexibility of incentive programs (tie), right-to-work state (tie), availability of incentives, and access to higher education resources in tenth place.

Look at the critical factors on the lists again. Without question, St. Croix County has many of the factors that site consultants are seeking. There’s I-94, U.S. 12 and 63, and many state highways. We’re an easy commute into the metro area of the Twin Cities, with a population now approaching 3.5 million residents. There’s plenty of available land in business and corporate parks, and our quality of life is second to none.

In short, we like it here. If you are the owner of a growing business and are looking to expand, consolidate, or relocate operations, then the many communities in St. Croix County are ready to assist.

Here’s to the end of winter. Hello spring.
 
 

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Russ Davis Wholesale Acquires Facilities in Hammond



Russ Davis Wholesale, a Minnesota corporation, acquired two facilities in the Hammond~St. Croix Business Park in mid-November 2015. Details on the transaction and details on the company were made public at the January 11th Village of Hammond board meeting. Adam Gamble, the president of Russ Davis and several key managers, provided the update.

The company is based in Wadena, Minnesota and currently has two facilities in Wisconsin – one in Merrill and another in La Crosse. The company is employee-own. By working a minimum number of hours, Russ Davis associates enjoy individual shares of the company.

The company intends to use the former Hammond Cold Storage facility as a fresh produce production facility. From Hammond, produce will be distributed to a multi-state area. Gamble told the Hammond board that a freshly-prepared product at its Twin Cities facilities will be on the shelf as far away as North Dakota the next day. The produce from Russ Davis carries the “Crazy Fresh” label. 

A building permit has been issued to make the necessary improvements for the conversion of the building to the needs of Russ Davis. A 30,000 square foot addition to the main facility will be added later this spring. A second facility included in the November transaction will be used for fleet maintenance.

The main facility in Hammond will allow Russ Davis to relocate from two facilities in Minnesota. One is in Inver Grove Heights and the second is in Eagan.

The company expects to create nearly 300 jobs in Hammond over a multi-year period.

Learn more at www.russdaviswholesale.com.

Welcome to Hammond & St. Croix County, Russ Davis Wholesale!
 

St. Croix County Retains Strong Rating 
for $10 Million Bond Issue

On January 28th, Moody’s Investors Service announced its assignment of an Aa1 rating to St. Croix County’s $10 million General Obligation (GO) Health Center Bonds for the second phase of the county’s skilled nursing, community-based residential, and dementia crisis facility in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

The Aa1 rating is the second-highest offered by Moody’s, a bond rating service. St. Croix’s rating is considered high quality and a very low credit risk. 

Just like a consumer credit score, prospective bond buyers use Moody’s rating to determine the quality of the bond issue and likelihood of the borrow to repay its debt. The higher the rating, the lower the interest rate on the borrowed funds. In the end, taxpayers are the winners as the county’s debt is a function of strong financial management.

At its February meeting, the St. Croix County board of supervisors accepted the low bid from Stifel, Nicolaus & Company Inc. and will pay a true interest rate of 2.3114 percent on the 20-year, $10 million bond issue. The county’s bond advisor said the county will pay $650,000 less in interest than projected. 

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St. Croix County’s First Winery: 65 Vines Winery

By Brenda Bredahl 

         
This year is shaping up as a big one for 65 Vines Winery, St. Croix County’s first winery. As the recipient of the 2015 St. Croix Economic Development Corporation’s Emerging Business of the Year Award, 65 Vines is in its fourth year of production and will harvest its first estate-grown grapes this summer. 

Scott and Julie Andrzejczak planted their first acre of Marquette vines in 2013, so the grapes will be ready for harvest this fall. They’ve also planted Frontenac Blanc, which should bear fruit in 2017. 

The couple spent several years looking for the perfect property, and in 2012 found 34 acres with an old horse barn in a Kinnickinnic River coulee near Roberts, Wis., with just the right slope for growing grapes. 

Since 2013, the Andrzejczak’s have been making wines named for the Kinni, such as Dry Fly, Up a Creek and Tippy Canoe.  

“The first year we made 200 cases using local grapes from Minnesota and Wisconsin vineyards,” said Scott. “We hope to make 650 cases this year.” 


The wine community  

As the first winery in their town (Town of Kinnikinnick), the couple found that often the zoning and processes were evolving as they sought necessary permits. You might say 65 Vines Winery essentially helped plant the seeds for other wineries in the county. 

Unlike other industries, winemaking is reliant on knowledge exchanging, equipment sharing and volunteers, who help during the busy harvest season and with the bottling process.

“So far, we’ve used other wineries’ crush pads to take the grapes from fruit to juice form,” Scott said. “We process the juice at our site, which means starting the fermentation and doing the chemistry testing, blending and bottling/labeling.” 

Scott spent the previous decade working with other wineries, as a volunteer, employee or consultant. A graduate of the UW-Madison College of Agriculture, his love of the grape began in 2001 when he was studying abroad in France for an M.B.A. from Edgewood College in Madison.

“When in France, it was a natural to learn about wine, and I was very interested in all aspects,” he said. One of Scott and Julie’s first dates was picking grapes at a local vineyard and orchard. There they met a grape researcher at the University of Minnesota and owner of St. Croix Vineyards, who helped Scott and Julie begin exploring the world of grape growing while Scott volunteered at the vineyard and worked at an arboretum where the researcher worked. 

“I wanted to create a business right away,” said Scott. “So I became a student of the trade, visiting a lot of wineries and volunteering whenever I could. I also have worked as an assistant winemaker and assistant vineyard manager and have done consulting with several start-up wineries.”  

The camaraderie of regional winemaking is something to celebrate, Scott says. “We’ve been a little winery with steady growth, and it’s great to see all the other wineries now opening in this area,” said Scott. 

Negret Wine Company opened in Hudson in 2015, and Scott occasionally volunteered for the owner when he was at Cannon River Winery. “He’s a long-time friend,” says Scott, who also has 
consulted during the start-up phase with Belle Vinez Vineyard & Winery in River Falls. 

Yet another, Cracked Barrel Winery, is opening in St. Croix County this year. “It’s a win-win for all wineries, because this will strengthen our area as a wine destination, drawing more visitors,” Scott says.  

Blending knowledge and passion 

Scott’s M.B.A. coupled with an agricultural undergraduate degree gives him a strong background in the branding, marketing and business development of winemaking and well as the agricultural aspects. Several unique marketing programs link customers with the personality of 65 Vines Winery and its products. 

An Adopt-A-Vine Program is an opportunity to sponsor a vine without the labor involved in actually caring for the plant. The sponsorship program offers a personalized sign, vineyard visits, exclusive offers and events. In addition, 65 Vines donates $1 to the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, a River Falls-based nonprofit organization dedicating to protecting the Class 1 trout stream and its recreational and environmental value.  

The Barrel Club helps 65 Vines  Winery purchase American, French and Hungarian wine barrels for its winemaking program. The four-year membership offers a wooden recognition plaque, credits for wine purchase, a monthly complimentary tasting, invitations to club events, a 5 percent discount on purchased wine after the credits are used during the membership period, and a take-home empty wine barrel after the membership period.  

In addition, 65 Vines Winery is seeking funds to install an 8 kilowatt solar panel system near the vineyard to help power operations in an environmentally sustainable manner. By donating $65 through Go Fund Me Row 65: Vines & Wine Solar Garden, donors will receive a gift certificate for two of Vine 65’s most sought-after vintages and get their name listed on a recognition plaque by the panel installation site. 

The future is local

Like other wineries, volunteers are integral to 65 Vines Winery harvesting and bottling operations. Volunteers, friends and family also helped the Andrzejczaks retrofit the horse barn on the property to a 750-square foot finished production and tasting facility. 

“People love to share in the experience,” Scott says. “We chose this location because people want a break from city life, yet it is close enough where they can meet artisan craft producers, pick the fruit and taste the product. Wineries in more rural areas might have a harder time getting volunteers on a regular basis.” 

Eventually Scott and Julie hope to purchase their own crusher/destemmer and a press. They are also seeking to expand their current hours, which are based on the type of license the business currently holds. Last year the winery was open August to November on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. 
In addition to running the vineyard and winery, Julie works full-time as a nurse at Allina Health and Scott works part-time at the Historic Casanova Liquors in Hudson plus as a vineyard/winery consultant. He also completed a course to be a Level 1 Sommelier. They have two children, who love to help out in the vineyard. 

“We are really about keeping it local, and this is a great area to do so,” said Scott. “In the future, we hope to expand upon budding partnerships with a local beekeeper to make honey wines and a nearby apple orchard to make hard cider. There are so many local artisan-producers plus outdoor opportunities like horseback riding, fishing, and kayaking. It’s not just about our little winery, it’s about our community.” 
 

just the facts:

65 Vines Winery
1105 Coulee Trail
Roberts, WI 54023-5818

(651) 245.3400
info@65vines.com
www.65vines.com
Est. 2013
Julie and Scott Andrzejczak

Open: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August, September, 
October and November


Brenda Bredahl is a writer, editor and content specialist who lives in Hudson.
She can be reached at 715-821-8000 or brendabredahl@gmail.com.

Executive Director Marks 20 years

William Rubin, St. Croix EDC’s executive director, was honored at the February 25th business of the year banquet for 20-years of service.

He received a framed image of the St. Croix Crossing project complete with architectural blueprints. The St. Croix Crossing Project  will connect St. Croix County, Wisconsin with Washington County, Minnesota in late 2017. Once opened, the 1931-era lift bridge in Stillwater, Minnesota will be converted to a recreational amenity for pedestrians and bicyclists. A looped recreational trail will connect the lift bridge to the St. Croix Crossing, and will create numerous opportunities to expand tourism activities in both states.

St. Croix EDC was among several organizations that promoted the approval of a new bridge over the St. Croix River, a river that is protected by the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. An exception to the Act was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in early 2012 and the ceremonial groundbreaking to mark the start of construction on the St. Croix Crossing was held in May 2012. 
 

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Opening of St. Croix River Crossing Revised to 2017

On January 6th, the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation announced that the St. Croix River Crossing project will be open to traffic by the fall of 2017. Last September, MnDOT and WisDOT and the project’s contractor, Lunda/Ames Joint Venture, announced that the original completion date of November 2016 was not attainable. The revised completion date was determined by analyzing work completed to date and work that remains to be done. 

“We believe this new date is well within the project team’s capability to meet,” said Michael Beer, MnDOT’s project director. “It is a large and complex project, and we want to be sure that it is done safely and meets our high standards for quality.”

The roadway portions of the project remain on track. Improvements to Minnesota State Highway 36 and Wisconsin State Highway 64, which will connect to the bridge, are either complete or on-schedule.

Construction activities on the Crossing continued into the winter months. Workers installed rebar for the framework of Pier 13’s columns, the project’s only on-land pier in Wisconsin. Forms were later added to allow for the concrete pours. Crews completed the last concrete pour for the columns in late February.This spring, workers will use a Ringer Crane instead of segment lifters to place multi-ton segments at Pier 13. Bridge segments placed on the east side of the pier will be transferred on a rail system constructed atop a temporary trestle that was built to minimize impacts to the Wisconsin bluff.
 

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