Fishing is an economic boost to region

I was running an errand the first Saturday of May when I saw a tent in a pasture on Douglas Creek near Melrose.

Seemed like an odd place to camp, but there I remembered what day it was -- the opener of the annual inland stream fishing season. Seeing that tent took me back nearly 50 years to a cold, dark and rainy morning.

Despite the dreary morning, I was excited to experience my first opening day of trout fishing and convinced my mother to give me a lift -- even though the trout stream was only a mile away from our farm.

I had an old fishing pole that belonged to my mother’s grandfather. The rest of my tackle was a hook more suited for deep sea expeditions than a trout stream, several large lead sinkers and a big bobber. I had dug worms the night before and had them stored in an old coffee can with some dirt.

I walked down from the road to the stream, baited my hook and plopped my line in the water. I waited a few minutes and nothing happened. I reeled in my bait. It was still there. Where were the fish?

A few more minutes went by, which seemed like hours to a 9-year-old. I tried another spot. The same results. I was confused. Everyone on the school bus said trout fishing was fun and exciting. But I was cold, bored and tired.

Then around the stream bend came a familiar face. It was Grandpa Hardie, who lived just a long cast away from the creek.

 “Did you catch anything,” he whispered.

“No Grandpa,” I said. 

“Let me see what you’re fishing with,” he said.

I pulled out my line and his eyes widened a bit. “You can’t catch trout with that,” he said. “How about if I help get you fixed up? We’ll go up to the house in a bit.”

I knew that if anyone could help me with trout fishing, it would be Grandpa. But “in a bit” seemed like a long time to me, so I told him that I was going to go up to the house and wait for him. I quietly walked into the house to not awake Grandma and immediately hit the coach for a nap.

Later that morning after a breakfast of pancakes, Grandpa showed me how to thread a proper-sized trout hook, how to install a sinker and explained that bobbers were not necessary in the creek. 

I didn’t catch any fish that day, but I was now a proper trout fisherman. And for the next few years I stayed overnight with Grandpa and Grandma on the first Friday of May so I would be closer to the opening morning action in Beaver Creek.

A few years later my best friend Merle and I -- along with some other friends -- started camping along the creek. We cooked food over a campfire, kept our pop cool in the stream and woke up at the crack of dawn to start our fishing. We wanted to beat the rest of the opening day crowd to the best holes. 

I was quite unhappy my freshman year of high school when a trombone quartet that I was a part of received a starred first in the district ensemble competition. That meant that we advanced to the state tournament -- which just happened to be the first Saturday in May. We also got first place at state, but I would have rather been sitting on the banks of Beaver Creek competing for a big brookie.

After the madness of opening weekend, I would return several times to fish each summer. I learned to be more patient and found I had better luck catching trout when I just relaxed. A few hours fishing and everything in the world was just fine. I could catch my limit working only a quarter-mile of the stream. 

Somewhere along the line life got busier and I stopped fishing. I’ve been back a few times, but Beaver Creek is nowhere near the trout stream today that it was in my youth. However, trout fishing is still a big deal in Wisconsin. The state boasts nearly 3,000 trout streams totaling more than 13,000 miles, with additional streams being added each year as more waterways benefit from habitat management.

It also creates economic activity. In 2017 Wisconsin sold more than 1.3 million fishing licenses that generated $2.3 billion in economic benefits. One impact of the pandemic last year was a surge in the sale of first-time fishing licenses, which grew by more than 93,000.

It’s also a big business in the 7 Rivers Region. A 2015 report showed trout fishing had an annual economic impact of $1.6 billion in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

One way to encourage even more visitors to fish in our region would be to establish a multi-state trout stamp. Anglers don’t care about geographic or political boundaries -- they want to hit the waters where the fish are biting -- whether it’s in Winneshiek, Fillmore or Vernon county.

Fishing tournaments are also a more visible form of economic impact, creating overnight stays and commerce in the area. 

One of my personal long-term goals is to restore the creek that runs through my valley that is a tributary of Beaver Creek. I’d love to share some fishing time with my grandchildren someday. I know we’ll be joined by at least one expert fisherman who would be smiling from above.

Chris Hardie, CEO

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 Shopko – 2415 State Road, La Crosse, WI 54601

4344 Mormon Coulee Road is a former 88,161 SF Shopko retail center located on the south-side of La Crosse, WI 54601. This property sits on a 8.10 acre lot. The immediate surrounding area features a mixture of residential and commercial. A 3-mile radius includes a population of 33,672 individuals and 14,774 households. It also includes major employers, Trane Company and Chart Industries. The property includes 928 stalls of shared parking.

For more details, please view the Property Listing

3210 Kinney Coulee Road South, Onalaska, WI 54650

50 +/- acres of prime commercial development space near Valley View Mall and the new Gundersen Clinic. The site provides easy access to I-90. The existing space features a 12,000 SF commercial building that formerly hosted a dog kennel/veterinary service. Space could easily be used for office, warehouse, or manufacturing operations.

For more details, please view the Property Listing.

Hawkeye Sites, Holmen, WI 54636
Commercial/Industrial sites ranging from 4.18 acres to 19.92 acres, starting at $2.50/SF. The site is highly visible, located at the HWY 53 and 35 interchange. Across the highway is a large residential development. The developer of this site is to complete streets and utilities and provide a build-ready site. The site is serviced by Xcel Energy and Village of Holmen utilities. The location is 15 minutes from the La Crosse Regional Airport and Downtown La Crosse.

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 May events

Check out our May schedule of Educational Opportunities at WWBIC!  In addition to our business classes, this month our May 26th Strong Women, Strong Coffee will feature La Crosse’s own Jen Barney, Owner of Meringue Bakery and winner of two Food Network Baking Championship Titles! Register for this event here:

May Opportunities:

 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: Banking 2.0

Specialty Classes: Marketing Mondays: Getting Started with Pay Per Click Advertising, Technical SEO, How to Protect Against Scams and Fraud, Privacy Protection for Small Business, Veteran Procurement, and classes for Spanish Language speakers

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


The benefits of living in rural Minnesota  

By Tim Penny

Anyone who knows me well knows that I regularly champion the benefits of living in rural Minnesota. Not only was I born and raised here, but I have served Greater Minnesota for many years, first during my time in the U.S. Congress and now as the president and CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF). Now there is growing evidence that many young people are putting down roots in small towns, drawn to a strong sense of community, the lower cost of living, the proximity to natural areas and, increasingly, the awareness of the ability to work remotely.

Married couple Caleb and Blake Lauritsen-Norby were happily settled in the Twin Cities but made the decision to move to Lanesboro after their first visit there reminded them of the small towns where they grew up. They ended up opening a grocery store, Parkway Market and Coffeehouse – a much-needed amenity in Lanesboro. With the help of a Small Enterprise Loan from SMIF and loan partner CEDA, Caleb and Blake were able to update the building’s equipment. Caleb also has a Lego business, Planet Brick, upstairs. For Caleb and Blake, the reasons behind moving to rural were plentiful. The real estate is more affordable, the high-speed internet is faster than what they experienced in the metro, they are surrounded by beautiful landscape and they are able to have a close connection with their customers.

For Shawn Vogt Sween, one of SMIF’s Board of Trustees, her move to rural Minnesota was about returning to the place where she grew up, in a small township between Grand Meadow and Spring Valley. Now a Harvard-educated lawyer, Shawn initially left her hometown to pursue her education and kickstart her career. She found herself moving across the country for a span of 14 years with her husband and high school sweetheart, Patrick. From Washington, D.C. to California, nothing felt home to the couple quite like life in rural Minnesota. The pair realized they wanted to raise their children in their home community. Today, Shawn, Patrick and their five children live on a hobby farm two miles from the farm where Shawn grew up and her family still lives. Shawn serves her community through her law practice and is proud to demonstrate that small towns are an excellent place for business owners to be. She has found that people are eager to support local businesses and has enjoyed being able to give back to the community where she grew up.

A recent report from the Center for Rural Policy and Development found that wages in rural Minnesota can go further in meeting the cost of living compared to the seven-county metro area. Employers and economic development professionals can use this report, and the accompanying tool that shows wage data for various occupations across the state, to recruit more people to move to rural Minnesota. Additionally, remote work has become so commonplace that more people are able to live where they want to live instead of where their work is located. This is a huge opportunity for small towns to gain a younger generation of workers who are committed to building their lives in rural Minnesota.

SMIF is able to play a supporting role for people moving back to the region. For entrepreneurs who want to start or grow a business here, we offer business financing and training opportunities. For families who have young children, we support early childhood through a variety of programs and funding, including efforts to enhance the availability and quality of childcare facilities.

Personally, there is no place I would rather be than in rural Minnesota. As the pandemic continues to shape our lives, I believe more and more people will be moving back home or choosing rural where they can work remotely or start their own businesses while taking advantage of small-town life.

To read more stories about young people who are choosing to work and live in SMIF’s 20-county region, visit

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at or (507) 455-3215.

About Tim Penny

Tim Penny is the President & CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Tim represented Minnesota’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 – 1994.

Women landowners focus of new project 

Madeline Schultz
Iowa State University Extension

women with beef cattle.AMES, Iowa – Owning nearly half of the farmland in Iowa, women landowners play an influential role in decisions that impact agriculture and natural resources.

To better understand this demographic, a team of specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is beginning a three-year project to study the needs, challenges and opportunities of women landowners.

The project is called “Enhancing Conservation, Access and Generational Transition of Iowa Farmland through Women Landowners” and is being funded through a $300,000 grant by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

According to the 2017 Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure survey, 47% of all acres and 55% of all leased acres in Iowa were owned by women. In addition, most owners were over the age of 65 and 13% of female farmland owners in Iowa were over 80. 

Madeline Schultz, program manager for the farm management team’s women in ag program with ISU Extension and Outreach and the project’s lead, said the disconnect between ownership and operator can sometimes lead to a disconnect with land-based decision making, whether that’s with leasing, conservation, farmland transition or a combination.

Her goal with the project is to bring women landowners together to help answer their questions.

“There’s a great opportunity for women to learn more about farmland ownership and we’re happy to be a part of this initiative,” said Schultz. “We also have some gaps in our knowledge of what women farmland owners need to help them manage their land, so we’re hoping to learn from them.”

The first part of the project will consist of collecting more data and analytics about women farm ownership. From there, the team will assemble area meetings of women landowners and stakeholders, to discuss and gather concerns. Lastly, the team will hold online and face-to-face workshops to deliver information and resources that improve women’s knowledge of land ownership.

Specific goals include the use of equitable leases and other economic incentives to increase conservation and land access for beginning farmers, adoption of soil and water conservation practices, and the implementation of efficient plans to transition farmland to the next generation of Iowa farm owners.

A survey will be sent to known women landowners in June, and those interested in participating can contact Madeline Schultz at 515-294-0588 or The grant portion of the project began Jan. 15, 2021, and will conclude Jan. 14, 2024.

La Crosse area diversity program May 22

The Greater La Crosse Area Diversity Council will continue its conversation on making the workplace more inclusive with an online lunch event from 11:30 to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 22 with Amanda Florence Goodenough presenting "The Language of Inclusion: How to Implement Inclusive Language Within Your Place of Work, Close Circles, and Community"
If language communicates values, what do your words say about you and your organization?
Join this conversation to explore how we can make workplaces more inclusive by addressing the “little” things, like microaggressions, before they become the big things. It takes intentionality to ensure our everyday, commonplace exchanges and environmental symbols don’t exclude people on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, size, age, and other social identities. Participants will discuss how microaggressions manifest within the workplace, and collectively, we’ll practice noticing, disrupting, and responding to them in an effort to promote a language of inclusion that fosters belonging and mattering across an organizational culture.
For more information on the program or to register, click here

Wisconsin fared better on COVID-19 job loss

Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin fared better than both the national average and all four of its neighboring states in terms of the percentage of jobs lost during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report. The report by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum, found that between September 2019 and September 2020, Wisconsin saw a 5.2% drop in total jobs, compared with 5.3% in Iowa, 7.4% in Minnesota, 7.8% in Illinois and 7.9% in Michigan. Nationwide job loss was 6.8% over that span, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“In this region, only Iowa rivals Wisconsin in limiting its employment losses during this period,” the report states. “Since then, more recent monthly survey data running through January show relatively modest changes in overall employment in Wisconsin compared to September and to other states.”
At the same time, Wisconsin was still down more than 150,000 jobs by September of last year compared with a year prior. Businesses that rely on face-to-face interactions with customers were the hardest hit, particularly those in leisure and hospitality, which saw an 18.8% drop in jobs over that span.
The Forum’s report notes Wisconsin’s large manufacturing sector saw a 5.5% drop in employment, accounting for more than 26,000 jobs, between September 2019 and September 2020, compared with a 6.8% drop in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan. Wisconsin’s percentage of jobs lost during the pandemic was lower than neighboring states in nearly every sector.
Click here for the full story. 


CEDA annual meeting June 10

The Community and Economic Development Associates of Chatfield, MN will celebrate 35 years at its annual meeting June 10 which will be held virtually beginning at 10 a.m.
The event will include sessions on:

  •  Hosting effective brainstorming sessions in your community
  • Using podcasts to educate youth about career opportunities in their hometown
  • Creating valuable incentive programs to encourage business development
  • How supporting Hispanic community development strengthens small towns

You'll also learn about CEDA’s COVID-19 response including programming, small business assistance and creative approaches. 
Click here to register for this free event. If you have questions or would like assistance with registration, please contact CEDA at or 507-867-3164.

State offers employer vaccination help

The Department of Health Services wants to help Wisconsin employers find a vaccine provider  willing to hold an on-site or off-site vaccination clinic to get employees vaccinated.
Workplace vaccination is a critical strategy in boosting vaccination rates by reaching individuals who might otherwise be hard to reach. DHS has been working with vaccinators to support employers who wish to establish a vaccination clinic for their employees. However, DHS has learned that some employers are struggling to find local vaccinators who are available to conduct an on-site or off-site clinic for employees.
In order to support employers’ efforts to ensure their employees are knowledgeable about and have access to vaccine, DHS is now offering employers of any size the opportunity to be ‘matched’ with vaccinators willing to hold employer-based clinics.
Employers play a key role in encouraging vaccination among their employees. Workplace vaccination initiatives are successful both because they offer convenience, and also because workers may be reassured by seeing co-workers get vaccinated - and therefore be more likely to get vaccinated themselves. The goal with this ‘matching’ service is to create a dedicated space for employers and community organizations to offer vaccine specifically for their staff, families and membership.
Depending on the needs and capacity of the vaccine provider and employer, these clinics can be on-site at the workplace, or off-site at a vaccine provider location.
In the event that an employer is not able to find a vaccine provider partner through the matching process, DHS will assist in developing a solution to allow for vaccination.
If you are interested in being ’matched’: complete the Employer Matching Survey and submit it to DHS.  While you wait to hear back about possible vaccinators, please review the COVID-19 Vaccination Guidance for Wisconsin Employers, and Planning a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic Checklist to prepare you and your employees for a vaccination clinic.  In addition, there are other useful COVID-19 education and resource materials on the DHS employer landing page here: COVID-19: Businesses, Employers, and Workers | Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Fort McCoy holds ground-breaking for barracks

by Scott Sturkol, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office

Fort McCoy senior leaders, Army Corps of Engineers and contractor representatives, and other distinguished guests participated in a special ground-breaking ceremony April 15 to highlight the start of the construction of a second modern transient training barracks on post.

Fort McCoy leaders participating included Maj. Gen. Darrell Guthrie, 88th Readiness Division commanding general and Fort McCoy senior commander; Garrison Commander Col. Michael Poss; Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Director Liane Haun; Sean Giese, resident engineer with the Omaha District Corps of the Army Corps of Engineers; and James French, chief operating officer with LS Black Constructors. Also attending were Wisconsin State Rep. Nancy VanderMeer and staff personnel for federal lawmakers.

Haun opened the ceremony discussing the $18.8 million project that was awarded to L.C. Black Constructors in September 2020. It is also the contractor building the first barracks building, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Resident Office at Fort McCoy. The contract duration is scheduled for completion in 780 calendar days. Currently contract completion is scheduled for December 2022.

Guthrie followed Haun to discuss the importance of the construction of only the second and third brick-and-mortar barracks at Fort McCoy since the 1940s.

“Projects like the transient training barracks complex are a direct result of the continued support for Fort McCoy,” Guthrie said. “And they enhance the ability of the Army, and especially the Army Reserve, to train here at Fort McCoy. The United States Army Reserve is the key customer for Fort McCoy. Its economic impact alone in Wisconsin is $323 million a year.”

Poss followed Guthrie and highlighted how construction projects like the barracks projects add to a big economic impact in the local area. Fort McCoy’s total economic impact for fiscal year 2020 was an estimated $1.479 billion, above the $1.184 billion reported for fiscal year 2019.

Poss also said that despite the difficulty the pandemic presented, Fort McCoy trained more than 60,000 troops in fiscal year 2020 and continues to strive forward with continued training and infrastructure improvements like the barracks projects.

“Fort McCoy continues to demonstrate its resolve to be a preferred training location for the Army Reserve, the National Guard, active Army, and joint services,” Poss said. “Our efforts today ensure that Fort McCoy’s relevance as a Total Force Training Center are here for many years to come.”

Guthrie, Poss, French, and Giese also performed a ceremonial breaking of the ground with shovels at the construction site. Numerous attendees also received a tour of the construction site of the first barracks project, which is more than 80 percent complete. A ceremony for the first project was not held in 2020 because it would have happened just as the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Ground preparation and infrastructure construction for the second barracks has been ongoing since early March. Like the first barracks project, the second also will be four stories and will be able to house 400 people in approximately 60,000 square feet.

The building also will be built with the latest in construction materials and will include state-of-the-art physical security and energy-saving measures.


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


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