Tourism plays role in economic development

The 7 Rivers Region with its bluffs, valleys, rolling hills and streams is as geographically diverse as its residents. 

What attracted the Native Americans to first live here -- the fishing and the hunting -- is still a major attraction today, along with boating, camping, canoeing, bicycle riding, walking, bird-watching, trail riding or simply enjoying the picturesque landscape. 

That’s an incredible quality of life asset in the world of economic development. It’s an intangible that doesn’t show up on a spreadsheet but is an extremely important aspect of promoting our region as a wonderful place to live and work.

Our area attractions are no secret to those in the tourism business, which is an often overlooked segment of our economy. It’s easier to point to tangible assets like industrial or commercial developments and visualize economic development. But the economic impact of tourism to our region is significant. 

In 2019 -- the year before the pandemic -- tourism spending by visitors in the counties of Buffalo, Crawford, Jackson, La Crosse, Juneau, Monroe, Trempealeau and Vernon -- was just shy of $600 million. Add the neighboring counties of Allamakee and Winneshiek in Iowa and Fillmore, Houston and Winona in Minnesota and you get an estimated $812 million economic impact. 

Direct visitor spending is the total amount of spending by tourists while either visiting or passing through the region. In 2019 that activity led to $961 million in business sales in those eight previously mentioned Wisconsin counties, supporting 8,859 jobs and $70.8 million in state and local taxes. Business sales in La Crosse County alone from tourism was nearly $458 million in 2019.

Along with the jobs and the revenue, the importance of tourism as a key part of economic development comes with its transient nature. Tourists come to our communities, spend money and leave. Usually the expensive infrastructure like sewage treatment plants, streets or other public works that is part of conventional development isn’t needed as much to support tourism.

Many of the same attributes that attract tourists are the same reasons why we live here. We have the ability to easily immerse ourselves in recreational pursuits as part of our day-to-day living. It’s not something we should take for granted.

It’s also a reason why I believe that talent attraction and tourism are joined at the hip. The 7 Rivers Region faces the same challenges as other parts of the country in finding workers. But few parts of the country can claim the natural assets -- combined with our quality schools, health care, ease of commute and safe communities. 

Many of our region’s tourists come back several times a year to visit. With perhaps a little persuasion and the right job -- we can get them here to live and raise their families.

It will take us a while to emerge from the negative impact the pandemic had on our economy -- especially tourism. But the latest Wisconsin Department of Tourism survey conducted by Longwoods International Research shows there is a pent-up demand for travel -- especially among those who are or will be vaccinated. 

The latest survey done in early March shows that 84% have travel plans within the next six months -- the highest level of confidence in a year. Nearly a third say they plan to drive -- not fly -- and 26% are traveling domestically.

A survey completed in December by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Recreation Department for the La Crosse County Convention and Tourism and Bureau showed 55% will travel between 10 and 200 miles. And more than 50% said they will feel comfortable going to restaurants and other local attractions. The top three reasons for travel are outdoor recreation, breweries and wineries and graduation. 

That’s a tremendous opportunity for regional tourism -- especially with our outdoor resources that were in demand even last year as we practiced social distancing. And that survey was conducted just before the vaccines were released.  

All signs point to a strong recovery. Let’s welcome our visitors with open arms and encourage them to stay even longer.

Chris Hardie, CEO

Please join the 7 Rivers Alliance, Andrew Nussbaum from Travel Wisconsin and A.J. Frels from Explore La Crosse on Monday, April 19 from 11 a.m. to noon as we discuss the latest data and outlook for this tourism season. Regional tourism is an important driver of our economy and there are some exciting opportunities for this year. 

LADCO promoting development properties


The La Crosse Area Development Corporation (LADCO) is a not-for-profit entity which has been operating for 49 years as an economic development agency for the greater La Crosse area. One of LADCO’s major roles is to facilitate the promotion real estate solutions within the La Crosse Coulee Region. Below are a few featured properties within the Coulee Region. If you’d like more information, please follow the links or contact Economic Development Coordinator, Sam Bachmeier, at or (715) 563-7100.

Former Kmart – 2415 State Road, La Crosse, WI 54601
2415 State Rd. is a former 88,400 SF Kmart Shopping Center located in La Crosse, WI 54601.
This property sits on a 6.37 acre lot. The immediate surrounding area features a mixture of residential and commercial. A one-mile radius includes La Crosse Central Highschool (and school system), Festival Foods grocery store, a shopping center/strip mall, multiple restaurants, financial institutions, and a residential population of roughly 8,600. It also includes major employers, Trane Company and Chart Industries. The property is located in the City of La Crosse TIF district 19.
1407 – 1409 County Road SS, Onalaska, WI 54650
.54 acres lot for sale at the entrance to a major grocery-anchored shopping center. Located at a stoplight-controlled intersection, one block to US HWY 53 and less than a mile from I-90. Property is made up of 2 parcels. 1407 County Road SS includes a single-family home with potential for rental income, and 1409 County Road SS is the vacant lot on the corner. Together, they make up .54 acre. Currently zoned residential, and seller can assist with rezoning.
For more details, please view the Property Listing.

Lots 3 & 4 Gaarder Road, Holmen, WI 54636
Two separate lots with more than 18 total acres of developable land. Prices starting at $8.00/SF! Located in the Village of Holmen and served by Holmen utilities, this property is zoned for agriculture and general business. Seller will sub-divide.
For more details, please view the Property Listing.
Property Contact: Damon Olson at Coldwell Banker, River Valley Realtors

750 City Hwy 16 W, West Salem, WI 54669 (Office Space)
Prime Location for doing business in West Salem. 12,000+ Cars drive by each day! Currently an office with 4 offices upstairs, 2 on main level with large modern conference room. Kitchen/break room in lower level. Can be converted back to single family home or would be great for work live situation. Have to see the inside to appreciate.
For more details, please view the Property Listing.  
Property Contact: Cathy Fox at Coldwell Banker.  

WWBIC offers April events

Basic Business classes include: What Would WWBIC Do?, So You Want to Start a Business?, ABC’s of Busines Planning, Cashflow Cashflow Cashflow

Networking Events include: Strong Women, Strong Coffee and Cup of Joe

Financial Capabilities classes include: Make your Money Talk, and Build a Legacy Like a Boss!

Specialty Classes: Marketing Monday E-Commerce, Cultural Competency, Veteran Procurement, and classes for Spanish Language speakers

Register for any of these opportunities and search for more upcoming events at:


Hope Restores launches in La Crosse 

Hope Restores Corporation is a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization aimed at uplifting, empowering and restoring the African American community through education, preservation and advocacy. While ethnic equality benefits the entire community, the work we do is culturally-specific for the black community.

The organization is built to serve the  La Crosse Area Black Community to “bridge the gap” and “uplift the power” that is inside all of us. 

 Hope Restores Website

 If you would like to have a better understanding of these two founders and hear in their own words about the project, view this story from WXOWQ:


Juneau County speaker series

The Juneau County Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC) and the UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center (MOC) have partnered to bring you this new lunch hour Zoomcast series, featuring helpful information to support your business success.
Hear from Mitotec Precision CEO John Belmonte on the Impact Automation Can Have
on Manufacturing Business Success, Tuesday, April 13 from noon to 12:45 p.m.
Terry Whipple, JCEDC Executive Director, will interview Belmonte on how automating manufacturing processes has helped them manage workforce needs, especially during the 2020 pandemic environment.
 To reserve your space in this free zoomcast and get the link to attend please email JCEDC at with your name and organization you represent (if applicable).

Decorah Distinctively event April 9 and 10

Decorah Distinctively is a two-day promotion of Decorah and the surrounding area facilitated in collaboration by the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce and Winneshiek County Development and Tourism.  It will feature local business, local artists, and local flavor. 

  On-line/In-store promotions:  Social media marketing posts will share and promote in-store/on-line promotions and shopping opportunities.    

  • Facebook Live:  The Chamber will facilitate and livestream short segments on April 9th and 10th at business and community locations to feature local products.    
  • Experiential/Interactive Activities:  On-line and/or outdoor in-person activities such as learning to make a cocktail, a hike to find spring growth and/or an outside painting event.  


Goodview promotes bicycle friendliness

Article by: Donna Mack

The City of Goodview continues to add amenities to their City parks. Donna Mack, who serves the City of Goodview CEDA contract authored a grant application to Winona County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) and was awarded a $5,500 grant. SHIP is a state-based program that works at the local level to support healthier communities by expanding opportunities for active living, healthy eating and tobacco-free living. The funds were used to purchase three bike repair stations and two bike racks to be placed in various parks throughout the City.

Michael LaCanne Memorial Park, We Valley Park and the Memorial Park will be the recipients of the new equipment. Due to circumstances with COVID-19 which created a late shipment from the manufacturer, the City will do the installations in early spring of 2021. 

The hope is the three repair stations with air pumps will encourage adults and children to keep their bicycles in good repair, including inflated tires for safety purposes. The parks will provide a convenient spot to put air in a tire or adjust brakes and derailleurs that may have become misaligned. The two bike racks are important for a safe place to park a bicycle for practical purposes.

The goal is to appeal to children and adults to bike to the Goodview parks to provide safe and attractive places for individuals and families to exercise and play. Parks provide low or no-cost recreation and sufficiently engages residents in activities to improve health.

“Parks provide a great benefit to our residents and tourists. Our goal is to have our parks safe and health friendly, to bring families together, and make our City and neighborhoods attractive places to live and work. We are proud of our City parks and appreciate Winona County SHIP for assisting us to maximize additional benefits to our parks”, stated Dan Matejka, Goodview City Administrator.

A research report written by the University of Minnesota and published by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in 2016 made clear the health benefits of bicycling to Minnesotans. The report found that bicycling can significantly lower the odds of becoming obese and/or developing high blood pressure, both of which help to lower medical costs.

 Harmony receives grant funding

The City of Harmony, MN was recently notified it was awarded a Minnesota DEED Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant of $285,000 and two (2) USDA Rural Development Community Facilities grants totaling $94,000.  

The BDPI grant of $285,000 will extend City water and sewer to a newly annexed parcel where a Dairyland Power Cooperative outpost is planned to be constructed this summer. This project will expand the Harmony Industrial Park and is the second time in two (2) years that the City has annexed property to facilitate growth. 

One USDA grant for $50,000 will help purchase a new fire truck and the second grant of $44,000 will help with the purchase of an all terrain/off road rescue vehicle and rescue equipment to outfit the new vehicles. 


Waukon receives housing grant

Awards totaling $6.18 million were announced today for 18 communities across Iowa, including $253,000 for Waukon. The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) made the awards through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which provides support for community improvements.

Awards were made for water/sewer and stormwater infrastructure improvements, housing rehabilitation and employment-related transportation projects. Grants are awarded based upon the benefit to low- and moderate-income Iowans, financial need, project impact and readiness, and commitment of local resources to the project.

The Waukon funds will be used for housing rehabilitation.

CDBG funds enable communities to make needed improvements to water and sewer systems, improve housing conditions for low-income homeowners, provide facilities for disabled and at-risk individuals and make transformative downtown improvements.

The CDBG program is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. IEDA is responsible for administering the CDBG funds in the non-metropolitan areas of the state.

For more information on CDBG or other community programs, visit or email

Diversity Council presents workshop

The La Crosse Area Diversity Council will present an educational program to cover the basics of hate/bias response in the workplace.
The virtual program will be Thursday, April 22 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No place is immune from hate, bias and everyday bigotry. Is your workplace ready to respond? What proactive measures can organizations take? How do we foster a workplace culture that resists bias and embraces inclusion?

  • Defining and identifying hate & bias
  • Understanding the impact of hate/bias and the importance of addressing it
  • Grappling with the complexities and current issues surrounding hate/bias
  • Exploring ideas and action strategies to create an inclusive organization's culture

Join us for Part I of GLADC's Three Session Series with 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award Recipient Amanda Florence Goodenough.
To register: Building Effective Hate-Bias Response Efforts and Processes-Creating an Inclusiv (


Covid-19 business resources

The business impact of Covid-19 is having an enormous impact on the business community in the 7 Rivers Region. We are committed to being a resource and a guide to get you through these challenging times.

Here are links for Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota and nationally that has important information for your business. We will update this page as more information becomes available.

Covid-19 business resources


Copyright © 2021 7 Rivers Alliance 
Our mailing address is:
601 N. 7th St., La Crosse, WI 54601

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.


This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
7 Rivers Alliance · 601 7th Street N #400 · La Crosse, Wisconsin 54601 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp