July 2019


The 7 Rivers Region is blessed with many small businesses that provide the vast majority of our economic base.

In 2018, in the seven-county region served by the UW-La Crosse Small Business Development Center, there were 3,081 new businesses started, according to Mark Lange, executive director for the Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship. 

That’s great news, right? Yes, but 3,229 businesses closed in 2018, leaving us a deficit of 148.

That’s surprising to me, given the generally strong economy right now.

Lange -- who was a speaker at the UW-L SBDC Celebrate Small Business event on June 6 -- provided an interesting explanation. Only 30 percent of the 14,725 business establishments in the seven counties have employees.That means 70 percent of our small businesses are owner-operated and many will never become any larger.

Lange said 2% of the businesses -- 231 -- have more than 100 employees and 80% have fewer than 10. That leaves 18% in the 10 to 100 employee range.

Diving deeper into the data, Lange said there were 157,175 jobs in the region in 2018. Here is the breakdown.

  • 38% worked at companies with more than 100 employees

  • 39% worked at companies with between 10 and 100 employees

  • 24% worked at companies with less than 10 employees


There were 16,411 jobs gained from companies that opened in 2019, Lange said and 17,299 jobs lost from companies that closed -- a total loss of 888. That was offset by a net job gain from existing companies of 1,613, leaving us with a gain of 725 jobs overall.

So what’s the takeaway from all of these statistics?

First of all, entrepreneurship is alive in the region with many new start-ups. The success rate is a challenge -- Lange said there is a 47% survival rate for businesses that opened five years ago. But that’s not unusual with start-ups.

Secondly, our view of economic development and assistance to businesses needs to broaden. Traditionally economic development focuses on the larger employers -- and for good reason. Companies that employ many workers are key to our economy and we want them to continue to be successful.

But given that only 2% of our businesses have more than 100 employees, perhaps our focus also needs to be on those smaller companies. If we can get some of those 80% to move from less than 10 employees, we will gain in the middle and further diversify our economy.

My last takeaway is that the major emphasis of the 7 Rivers Alliance -- growing our workforce -- is still critical. We won’t be able to help any employers -- from the single proprietor looking to add their first employee to the large company looking to add its 3,000th -- if we can’t find them the right person for the job.

Our work on the workforce will continue. 

We’re asking for your input again. The 2019 Executive Business survey is ready for release!  The information collected will be used to plan programs and services that help companies address challenges and barriers to growth. The results of the survey will be unveiled at the 7 Rivers Alliance State of the Region event.

Click here to access survey!
The River Valley Media Group and The 7 Rivers Alliance have joined together to launch a regional program to recognize rising stars, celebrate their achievements and encourage them to remain in the region. Honorees are chosen through an independent judging process, not by the quantity of nominations received. Nominees must be younger than 40 on Aug. 1 and work in the 7 Rivers Region. The nomination deadline is July 19th, 2019.

Click here to access form!

MARKETPLACE runs a competitive awards program to recognize Wisconsin companies that exemplify growth excellence, with dedicated award categories for larger and smaller, newer and more established businesses. In addition, the conference honors individuals and organizations that are providing leadership in the business communities served by MARKETPLACE.

For 2019, awards have been expanded to include Wisconsin-based minority, woman and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses certified by the agencies listed below. The deadline to apply for the 2019 awards program is July 15, 2019.
Click here to nominate someone!

Minnesota Veterans Employment Services and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs invites all veterans, active military members, and their spouses to this 13th annual event. If you are a veteran and looking for a career, a higher salary or are interested in exploring new careers, come to the largest veterans career fair in Minnesota.
Over 100 employers will be on-site and a complimentary LinkedIn Photography station will be available for career seekers. In addition, the event will include providers who offer services for veterans. Hope to see you there!
Click here to nominate someone!
An opportunity to find potential candidates to meet your workforce needs. Last year over 200 job seekers visited the Coulee Region Job Fair. Join the Coulee Region Job Fair and take advantage of this opportunity to increase your business exposure to the workforce. This event is open to the public and will be highly publicized to attract job-seekers. Business registration is required.

Click here to register!
The Inspire 7 Rivers team has taken initiative to grow its network of employers and students. Inspire is a way to link together education and industry to help students and job seekers achieve their goals and address communities’ workforce development needs. Inspire 7 Rivers has launched in school districts throughout the region and will be active in all Wisconsin districts in the region by the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. 

Our team continues to communicate about the benefits of the program to local organizations.
If you or any employer is interested in learning more please email Jeff at
Driftless Wisconsin, a non-profit organization promoting Crawford County, Vernon County, and the Kickapoo Valley as a tourism destination, unveiled their new website!

The website also features improved rendering on mobile platforms, offering a one-stop information center for visitors using smartphones while traveling through the region. Driftless Wisconsin has contracted with River Travel Media to implement a digital advertising campaign – including “native” website advertising, Google Adwords, and blogging – to drive visitors to the new website.

The website was funded by a $5000 Vernon County Community Grant award presented by the Tourism, Promotion and Economic Development Committee; and a $5000 investment for tourism promotion from the Finance Committee of Crawford County. “Driftless Wisconsin began as a partnership between Crawford and Vernon Counties, and we are very grateful for their generous and continued support,” said Driftless Wisconsin Administrator, Eric Frydenlund.

Driftless Wisconsin was formed in 2008 as a collaboration of the Crawford County Tourism Council, Vernon County Tourism Council, and the Kickapoo Valley Association. It published its first website in 2009, its first Driftless Wisconsin Map in 2011 – a very popular tool for visitors navigating the area – and officially incorporated in 2012. Any questions about the Website Unveiling or Driftless Wisconsin can be directed to Eric Frydenlund at or calling 608-326-6658.
Check out the new website here:
Driftless Wisconsin

Juneau Country Recognized as Driver for Small Business & Economic Development in the Coulee Region
Juneau County has always been on the fringe edge of every economic regional basin, whether it be the 7 Rivers Region (14 counties), the North Central WI Region (10 counties) or the Coulee Region (7 counties).  But that doesn’t mean they are on the fringe of the economic action.

Thursday, June 6th, the University of Wisconsin La Crosse Small Business Development Center awarded Juneau County Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC) the Business Development Champion Award at their Celebrate Small Business Event on the UW La Crosse Campus.
Of the Coulee Region’s 14,725 business establishments (in 2018), 3081 were start-ups that created 16,411 jobs.  80% of these total business establishments are very small or entrepreneurial businesses with less than 10 employees.

One of the main reasons JCEDC was recognized was for its role in creating a high level of entrepreneurial activity throughout the Coulee Region via the Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club, which was founded in 2003 by JCEDC.  Anne Hlavacka, Director of the Small Business Development Center in La Crosse, shared how the I&E Club concept has spread throughout the Coulee Region, State of Wisconsin, the Midwest, and even into other Countries like Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet Republic.  Hlavacka, who has been a speaker at many I&E Club meetings, attested to the thousands of people who have been touched by the I&E Club model, and many that have been encouraged to explore entrepreneurship and become their own boss.

Hlavacka was quoted by WKBT News8000 saying "Business in the Coulee Region continues to expand and area resources are critical to enable those businesses to start and grow.  The increase we've seen in client activity which has more than doubled since 2010 speaks well of the region's resilience and strength as a place to foster innovation and entrepreneurship."
Click here to view the full article and video broadcast 

Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) announced that 20 school districts throughout the state have been awarded a total of more than $500,000 in grants to establish or expand local fabrication laboratory (fab lab) facilities.


“Over the last four years, WEDC has invested over $2.1 million to provide 58 schools across the state the type of equipment needed to help students master the skills that are in high demand in the job market, including manufacturing, technology and engineering,” said Mark R. Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “These grants represent an important investment in education and workforce development to ensure that Wisconsin students have the skills and training they need to compete for the jobs of the 21st century.”
Read the full story here!

Minnesota gained 100 jobs in May according to figures released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained steady at 3.3 percent in May and the U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6 percent.

April’s job gain was revised downward from 3,600 jobs to 200, and annual gains fell to 4,164 jobs or 0.1 percent.

Over the year, construction lead all other sectors adding 7,443 jobs.

“Steady unemployment suggests that the Minnesota workforce is operating near its capacity,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “The tight labor market continues to represent a major challenge to Minnesota’s job growth.”
Read full story

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