Welcome to the Business Facts newsletter with business news and information about St. Croix County, Wisconsin.


St. Croix EDC Names Top Businesses For 2011 February 16th Banquet Will Honor Winners

Ryan Sicard, president of St. Croix Economic Development Corporation, announced the EDC’s selection of the following companies as recipients of the 2011 business of the year awards in St. Croix County, Wisconsin:

Future Farm Food and Fuel, LLC (rural Baldwin) as 2011 Emerging Business of the Year (based in St. Croix County and in business for five or fewer years)

Stevens Engineers (Hudson) as 2011 Small Business of the Year (29 or fewer employees)

Sajan, Inc. (River Falls) as 2011 Business of the Year (30 or more employees)

“This year’s award winners reflect the diversity of businesses in St. Croix County,” said EDC president Ryan Sicard. “Future Farm introduces sustainable elements that are aligned with new products in modern agriculture. Stevens Engineers has a track record of more than 35 years, and now it is a certified women’s business enterprise. Sajan is a home-grown, high-tech company that has a global footprint with offices in North America, Europe, and Asia.”

The companies will be honored at an awards banquet on Thursday, February 16, 2012 at Kilkarney Hills (rural River Falls, Wisconsin). View an online invitation at http://www.stcroixedc.com/byinvitation.htm.

About the 2011 Winners
Future Farm Food and Fuel: the terms ‘sustainable’, ‘green’ and ‘locally grown’ are increasingly important among consumers. John Vrieze of Baldwin Dairy and business partner Steve Meyer had a vision to complement Vrieze’s Baldwin Dairy, a 100+ year-old family farm. They created Future Farm to use the waste streams of farms and other operations to create food, fuel and revenue and to reduce the impact on the environment. Meyer serves as director of operations for Future Farm. The state-of-the-art aquaponic greenhouse in rural Baldwin uses the fuel from the dairy farm to minimize CO2 emissions, which reduces the carbon footprint. The 27,000 square foot aquaponic and hydroponic system produces all-natural vegetables and tilapia fish without chemicals or pesticides. Fancy leaf lettuce, vegetables, and herbs are grown in an environment powered by biogas from the nearby dairy farm. The tilapia provide nutrient rich water that fertilizes the plants so commercial chemicals are not needed. Future Farms also produces a natural fertilizer that is especially created for the consumer market. The company provides consulting services to help other dairy operations enter the sustainable, locally grown markets.

Stevens Engineers, Inc.: Stevens has been providing professional engineering and planning services to public and private sector clients since 1973. Their clients include municipalities, counties, state agencies, watershed districts, and private entities. Angela Popenhagen and Scott Ward are the principals of Stevens, having purchased the company from the previous owner in February 2007. Popenhagen is a LEED Accredited Professional and with her majority interest in the company, Stevens Engineers is a certified women’s business enterprise. Ward has gained a strong, national reputation in planning, consulting, and designing ice rinks. This has allowed Stevens to provide consulting services on over 100 ice rink projects such as the Phoenix Coyotes training facility (Scottsdale, AZ); Ice Skating Center (Pasadena, CA); Schwan’s Super Rink at the National Sports Center (Blaine, MN) Division 1 colleges facilities such as Amsoil Arena (Duluth, MN); Sanford Center (Bemidji, MN) and Kohl Center expansion (Madison, WI). Other services provided by Stevens include comprehensive planning, geographic information (GIS), surveying, and site and land development.

Sajan, Inc.: was found in 1997 by Shannon Zimmerman and his wife and partner Angel Zimmerman. The business emerged as a technology company but in responding to market demands, quickly adapted the offering to blend both language technology and service as a way to offer a more complete solution to clients. Today, Sajan is the leading global provider of cloud-based language translation services and software. Sajan has global companies as clients that are served in offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia and India. From River Falls, the company provides language translation solutions to customers selling their products into global markets or those customers otherwise requiring language translation of many varieties of content. Language is often a barrier in global commerce, and the demand for effective language translation continues to grow. Sajan offers consulting services, solutions services, and managed services to its clients. Industries served include life sciences, software, e-commerce, manufacturing, legal, and travel, hospitality and leisure.

This is the 18th annual business recognition program for St. Croix EDC. The EDC was established in 1993 as a private, non-for-profit organization that operates as the independent economic development of St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Reflective activities include marketing and communications, business retention, expansion, recruitment, new business start-ups, and legislative advocacy.

For additional information, please contact William Rubin at (715) 381-4383.




Dick Jonckowski Headlines EDC Awards Banquet

Comedian and Gopher PA Voice says, “Laugh and Live Longer”

Longtime Golden Gopher public address voice Dick Jonckowski will provide the entertainment for St. Croix EDC’s Business of the Year banquet on Thursday, February 16th at Kilkarney Hills, 163 Radio Road in River Falls, Wisconsin.

As a banquet emcee and speaker, Jonckowski has entertained thousands of people across the U.S. and Canada with an unparalleled sense of humor, positive outlook, and in-depth knowledge of sports and the great players who make them memorable.

“Sports and laughter are the center of my universe,” says Jonckowski. “Ever since I was a kid, sports were the only thing I cared about. Laughter is so important. I love to see people happy.”

Jonckowski is fondly referred to as the Polish Eagle and the King of the One-Liners. Many recognize Jonckowski’s voice from the University of Minnesota’s Williams Area where he serves as the public address announcer, a position he has held since 1986. He is in both the Minnesota High School Basketball and Football Coach’s Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.

Earlier this month, the EDC announced its top businesses for 2011. They include Future Farm Food and Fuel (rural Baldwin) as Emerging Business of the Year, Stevens Engineers (Hudson) as Small Business of the Year, and Sajan, Inc. (River Falls) as the Business of the Year (large category).

The banquet is open to the public but reservations are required. They can be made by contacting Jacki Bradham of St. Croix EDC at (715) 381-4383 or jacki@stcroixedc.com. The cost of the dinner is $30 per person and the deadline to RSVP is February 6th. View an online invitation at http://www.stcroixedc.com/byinvitation.htm.



New St. Croix Bridge Moves One Step Close with Senate Action

Unanimous Consent from U.S. Senate Moves Bill to House of Reps

The U.S. Senate approved bipartisan legislation (S. 1134) on January 23rd to allow the St. Croix River Crossing project to move another step forward. S. 1134 was introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) in 2011, and is co-sponsored by Senators Herb Kohl (WI), Al Franken (MN), and Ron Johnson (WI).

The bill is known as the St. Croix River Crossing Authorization Act. It provides for an exemption to the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to allow a replacement bridge between the Town of St. Joseph in St. Croix County, Wisconsin and the City of Oak Park Heights in Washington County, Minnesota. An October 2010 ruling by the National Parks Service found that the previously-approved bridge would have adverse impacts on the protected qualities of the St. Croix River. The same regulations that allowed the Park Service to conduct an environmental review provides for a congressional exemption.

In announcing the passage of S. 1134, Sen. Klobuchar said, “This is a milestone for the St. Croix bridge project. The residents and businesses in Stillwater and along the St. Croix River Valley deserve a safe, more efficient alternative to the current 80-year old lift bridge, which is outdated for the needs of the region. I hope the House will now take action and pass this critical legislation so that we can move forward and build this bridge.”

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) has a similar bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives which is supported by U.S. Representatives Ron Kind (WI), Chip Cravaak (MN) and Sean Duffy (WI).

Included in the legislation is a package of mitigation measures to protect the St. Croix River. They were developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Park Service. They were also agreed to in 2006 by a group of almost 30 stakeholders that participated in a facilitated process that commenced in June 2003.



J&L Steel’s LouAnne Berg Receives 2012 Governor’s Trailblazer Award

LouAnne Berg, CEO of J&L Steel & Electrical Services, Hudson, Wisconsin, is a recipient of the 2012 Governor’s Trailblazer Award for Women in Business. This award recognizes women pioneers in business.

In 1997, Berg entered the steel erection business when she started J&L Steel with her former husband. She successfully overcame many obstacles in a male-dominated business like construction. J&L Steel was a subcontractor that rebuilt the 35W bridge after its collapse. In a tough economy in 2008, Berg expanded her business into electrical services. Today, J&L averages $20 million in revenues.

LouAnn is active in cultivating other women business owners as well as giving back to her community. She
is the 2012 president of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce.

About the Governor’s Trailblazer Award: The Governor’s Trailblazer Awards celebrate women’s long history of entrepreneurship and deep roots in Wisconsin’s business community. The 14 2012 recipients represent seven counties and a wide range of industries — from professional services to construction and health care. Since inception, the Trailblazer Awards have recognized 44 woman-owned business from 21 counties in the state.



Preco, Inc. Opens New Facility in Hudson

Expands Manufacturing Capacity for Medical, Packaging, and Clean Converting Services

On February 1st, Preco, Inc. opened its new facility in Hudson, Wisc. The expansion is part of a continuing effort to respond to steady and strong growth in Preco’s medical and clean converting markets by increasing production capacity and capabilities.

The new contract manufacturing facility, named Preco MPC (Medical and Precision Converting), offers laser processing and die cutting services for the medical, packaging and converting industries. With ISO certified cleanrooms and both laser and die cutting capabilities, Preco will now be the “Go To” company for medical and packaging processing needs.

Preco’s Hudson facility, located in the St. Croix Business Park, is the eighth global location that provides manufacturing solutions for customers in the medical, flexible packaging, electronics, energy, transportation/automotive and other general industries.

Preco has offered laser systems and services from its Somerset, Wisc. location since 1978 and will continue to provide laser services as well as the manufacture of laser systems for all industries worldwide.

Preco’s headquarters are in Lenexa, Kansas, which is the manufacturing site for rotary and flat die presses as well as lamination and screen printing systems.

Preco will host a series of open house events at the Hudson facility this Spring. For more information, please visit www.precoinc.com.



Governor Authorizes Rule-making for Sale of Meat Products Outside of Wisconsin

On January 12th Governor Scott Walker authorized rule-making that will allow Wisconsin’s specialty meat plants to sell their products across state lines for the first time, expanding their markets and boosting the rural economy.

“These small state-inspected meat processors have a vital place in our heritage, and now we can help assure they are just as important to our future,” the Governor said in making his announcement. “This new opportunity promises to increase their investments in personnel and capital, adding jobs and building the tax base in our state’s rural areas.”

The Governor authorized the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to begin the process of amending the administrative rule known as ATCP 55, which governs meat inspection in the state. The process will incorporate new federal regulations into the state regulation to allow meat from state-inspected meat plants to cross state lines.

Currently, only meat from plants inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture can be sold across state lines. Plants can choose to be regulated by state governments instead, but then they can sell their meat products only within their own states. Congress changed that law in 2008, and published regulations to carry out that law last May. States must get federal approval and formally adopt those federal regulations before their meat slaughterers and processors can voluntarily participate in the program.

Wisconsin has about 275 state-inspected meat plants and about 145 federally-inspected plants. There is no difference in the food safety standards between state and federal plants.

“There are roughly 30 meat plants that have already indicated to DATCP they want to sell interstate,” the Governor added. “Those 30 plants not only will be able to sell directly to consumers in other states, but their distributors will now also be able to sell to other states, which multiplies the economic impact.”

The next step is for the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to approve a “scope statement” which describes what the regulation intends to do, and then DATCP staff will begin drafting rules that will go to public hearing and ultimately to the Legislature for final approval.



UW-River Falls Honors Trudy Popenhagen with Outstanding Services Award

During the fall commencement ceremony, University of Wisconsin-River Falls presented its Outstanding Service Award to Trudy Popenhagen, a community service manager at Xcel Energy (Hudson, WI operations).

The Outstanding Service Award honors individuals, companies and governmental bodies that have made significant, sustained and lasting contributions to the mission of the university.

“Trudy Popenhagen is one of UW-River Falls’ most trusted community partners and advisors,” according to a university news release.

A 1983 graduate of UW-River Falls, Popenhagen has been a member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council since its inception in 2007 and is a member of the UW-River Falls Foundation Board of Directors.

Popenhagen also has played a leadership role in the growth of the College of Business and Economics (CBE). A long standing member of advisory boards within CBE, including her current term on the Dean’s Council, Popenhagen served as a mentor as the college developed its brand and strategic plan.

Popenhagen also was instrumental in securing a grant from Xcel Energy to support the Young Entrepreneur’s Conference, which has provided opportunities for entrepreneurial students throughout the UW System to display their creative business ideas and receive feedback and advice from established business owners in the St. Croix Valley.

“I was very surprised and honored to receive this recognition,” Popenhagen said. “I am proud to be part of a company that believes we have a responsibility to have a positive impact in the communities we serve. Thanks to that support, I can be involved with the university as part of our community partnerships.”

Popenhagen served on St. Croix EDC’s board of directors, including a term as president.



45th Parallel Spirits Expands

45th Parallel Spirits, a small batch producer of premium vodka, is expanding in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Growing demand and the need for additional storage space resulted in the decision to expand. The company also lost a portion of its original production space when a tasting room was added 18 months ago.

45th Parallel distills an award-winning vodka product with the same name. A couple years ago, the owners rolled-out two other products — Midwest Gin and Midwest Vodka. Hours for the tasting room and store are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Monday-Friday) and Noon-4 p.m. on Saturday. Guided tours are $5.00 per person and includes a flight sample in the tasting room. For more information go to www.45thparallelspirits.com.



UW-River Falls Student Accounting Society Offers Free Income Tax Assistance

Tax deadlines are approaching at a time when many households are seeking ways to lower discretionary spending. Families and individuals in the River Falls community with annual incomes of less than $25,000 can take advantage of free assistance preparing tax returns provided by the UW-River Falls College of Business and Economics’ Student Accounting Society. Walk-in clinics, on a first-come, first-serve basis, will take place at the WESTconsin Credit Union in River Falls from 6-9 p.m. on Feb. 21 and 28 and March 6, 19, 26 and 27.

Since 2007, in accordance with the College of Business and Economics mission of service to the university, community and discipline, members of the Student Accounting Society have annually provided tax preparation services free of charge to low-income families and individuals. The students are overseen by adjunct Professor Steve DeWald, who teaches a federal taxation class and is the director of the Small Business Development Center on campus at UW-River Falls.

For more information about these services, contact DeWald at 715-425-0620 or email him at steven.e.dewald@uwrf.edu.



Wipfli, Eide Bailly Announce Plans to Merge

On January 6th, Eide Bailly LLP and Wipfli LLP, two prominent accounting and consulting firms that rank among the largest in the country, announced plans to merge their professional practices. Pending regulatory approval, the two firms will officially combine on June 1, 2012.

The combined firm will be named EB Wipfli LLP, and will rank among the nation’s top 15 accounting firms, with annual revenue of more than $314 million. Combined, the new firm will serve more than 70,000 clients from 41 offices across the west-central United States and two offices in India. EB Wipfli will provide a comprehensive range of audit, tax, accounting, consulting, and professional advisory services to public and private companies across the country and internationally.

In a joint statement, Jerry Topp, Managing Partner/CEO of Eide Bailly, and Rick Dreher, Managing Partner/CEO of Wipfli, said, “Together, our firms will have the depth of resources necessary to help our clients meet their future challenges and leverage future opportunities. We are excited about what this merger will mean for our clients our associates and our partners.”

“Topp will serve as Chairman of the merged firm. He said, “We are proud to join forces with a firm of similar size, scope, culture, and service philosophy. Eide Bailly and Wipfli are both committed to offering our clients top-quality service and customized solutions to help them thrive, and to providing our staff with a positive culture and exciting career opportunities.”

Dreher will serve as the Managing Partner/CEO of the merged firm. On the merger he said, “We have forged mutual respect and a strong relationship with Eide Bailly over the years, and feel this is an outstanding opportunity to combine our collective talents and strengths to enhance the value we bring to our clients, associates and the communities we serve.”

The new firm will be comprised of 2,327 associates, including 301 partners. Among the combined firm’s many strengths, its national wealth management practice will rank as one of the largest in the accounting profession with nearly $3 billion in assets under management.

Gregg Knapp, CPA is a partner with Wipfli LLP and resides in Hudson. He serves on the board of directors of St. Croix Economic Development Corp.



Department of Revenue Issues Reminder on 2012 Manufacturing Property Returns

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) recently issued a reminder on 2012 Manufacturing Property Returns (M-Forms, including M-P Personal Property; M-R Real Estate; and M-L Personal Property Leased, Rented, or Loaned to Manufacturers).

All M-Forms are due on March 1, 2012. The M-Forms must be electronically filed, postmarked, or received at the appropriate DOR Manufacturing & Utility Section Office on or before March 1st.

In the event an extension is filed or requested, all requests must be made on or before March 1, 2012.

If a filing extension is granted, all M-Forms must be electronically filed, postmarked or received at the appropriate DOR office on or before April 2, 2012.

Wisconsin Statutes requires the DOR to assess a filing penalty if an M-Form is not filed, filed late or filed incomplete

For electronic filing, DOR’s system allows manufacturers the opportunity to prepare, save, file, view and print returns through a secure and confidential website at http://www.revenue.wi.gov/forms/manuf/m-forms.html.

DOR no longer prints M-Form booklets. Printable versions of the M-Forms will be available at http://www.revenue.wi.gov/forms/manuf/index.html.

For businesses having questions regarding the electronic filing of M-Forms, please send an e-mail to dorhelpdesk@revenue.wi.gov.



University of Wisconsin-River Falls Hosts Science Olympiad Border Battle

On January 21st, the UW-River Falls hosted some 600 students from 13 Minnesota and 10 Wisconsin high schools for the UW-River Falls “Border Battle” Science Olympiad Open Invitational Tournament for Division C. The event, organized by Physics Professor Earl Blodgett, featured 39 high school teams competing in 23 National Science Olympiad events as well as six trial events from Wisconsin.

UW-River Falls was chosen as an ideal location for the event due to its close proximity to both western Wisconsin high schools and various Twin Cities metro schools. The event also highlighted the strength in science programs at UW-River Falls, including the physics program, which in 2010 ranked fourth in number of graduates compared to all comprehensive institutions across the nation.

“One of the best aspects of UW-River Falls is our people,” explained Blodgett, “and this tournament was unique in that almost every event was supervised by faculty, students and alumni. We hope that the students and coaches enjoyed their tournament at UW-River Falls. It was certainly fun for us to host them.”

Science Olympiad is an international non-profit organization created to improve the quality of science education by increasing student interest and providing recognition for outstanding achievement to a level of enthusiasm normally reserved for varsity sports programs. Unlike many other physics, biology or chemistry competitions, Science Olympiad mixes the various science disciplines of biology, earth science, chemistry, physics and technology together in one competition.

For more information on UW-River Falls’ Invitational Tournament, including final results, contact Earl Blodgett at 715-425-3196 or visit the tournament website at http://www.uwrf.edu/PHYS/olympiad.

For more information about Science Olympiad, visit either the national website at http://soinc.org or the Wisconsin Science Olympiad website at http://wisconsinso.org.



St. Croix Advisors Presents Wisdom & Wine Session

St Croix Advisors presents a Wisdom & Wine session on Focus, Revenue and Profits, In That Order, set for Thursday, February 9 from 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. The Wisdom & Wine session will be held at the St Croix Advisors Office Conference Room at 401 Second Street, Suite 200 in Hudson. Space is limited so attendees are asked to RSVP to Brett Anderson at St Croix Advisors at 651-337-1919 or info@stcroixadvisors.com.

Wade Clarke, vice president of sales for ALLYNE Group, will lead the presentation and will discuss the best practices for executing corporate strategy by using a performance management system and other improved tools.

Additional info about Mr. Clark and his presentation is available on the St Croix Advisors’ Insights Bolg at http://stcroixinsights.com.



The Bikes Belong Coalition Offers Biking Related Grant

The Bikes Belong Coalition was formed in 1999 as the national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers working to put more people on bikes more often. From helping create safe places to ride to promoting bicycling, the coalition carefully select projects and partnerships that have the capacity to make a difference.

The Bikes Belong Grants Program provides support for projects that leverage federal funding and build momentum for bicycling in communities across the U.S.

Funded projects can include bike paths and rail trails, as well as bike parks, mountain bike trails, BMX facilities, and bicycle advocacy initiatives. The focus of the facility grant category is to connect existing facilities or create new biking opportunities. The advocacy grant category seeks to support large-scale, innovative, replicable advocacy initiatives that significantly increase ridership and improve conditions for bicycling in big U.S. cities.

The application deadline is February 29, 2012. Visit the Coalition’s website to submit an online application at http://www.bikesbelong.org/grants/apply-for-a-grant.



St. Croix County’s Unemployment Rate for December Up Slightly to 5.2%

Rate is Still Among State’s Lowest; Six Counties Report Lower Rates

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Reggie Newson announced the preliminary December unemployment rates for Wisconsin’s 72 counties on January 25th. St. Croix County’s rate was estimated at 5.2%, which is up from the November rate of 4.9%. St. Croix’s rate had been at 4.9% since October before December’s slight increase. One year ago, the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 6.3%.

Compared to a year ago, DWD said 68 of the state’s 72 counties had lower unemployment rates, two had no change and two had slight increases. Six of the 12 metropolitan areas across the state reported lower unemployment rates from November to December, while three had no change and three had minor increases. The nearby Eau Claire metro area had an increase from 5.8% to 6.0%. Of Wisconsin’s 31 municipalities with a population of least 25,000 residents, 25 had declining rates, and three reported no change.

Dane (4.4%), La Crosse (4.9%), Calumet (5.0%), Lafayette (5.0%), Grant (5.0%), and Ozaukee (5.2%) counties unemployment rates lower than St. Croix in December. Door County had the highest rate in December at 11.7%, followed by Bayfield (11.3%), Menominee (11.1%), Vilas (10.6%), and Iron (10.4%).

“St. Croix County’s slight uptick in unemployment followed the same trend as nine of the ten counties in west central and northwest Wisconsin,” said William Rubin, executive director of St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (EDC). “Only Eau Claire County’s rate remained the same from November to December. Even the rate rose within the thirteen county metro area of the Twin Cities, which is widely viewed as an economic engine for the region.”

St. Croix, Pierce, Polk counties comprise Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley. Pierce County’s unemployment rate for December was 5.3% (up from November’s rate of 4.7%). Polk’s rate also increased from 7.4% to 7.8%. The 13-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metro area reported an unemployment rate of 5.5% in December compared to 5.2% in November. Both St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the federal definition of the 13-county Twin Cities metro area. One year ago, the unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was 6.6%

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Wisconsin in December was estimated at 7.1%, which is down from November’s rate of 7.3% and October’s rate of 7.7%. One year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 7.5%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in Minnesota for December was estimated at 5.7% compared to the November rate 5.3%. Minnesota’s seasonally adjusted rate was 6.8% one year ago.

The preliminary unemployment rate in the U.S. in December was estimated at 8.5%, compared to the November rate of 8.6% and October’s rate of 9.0%. One year ago the U.S. rate was estimated at 9.4%.

December’s estimates are preliminary and are subject to revision within the next few weeks.

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