2013 Chippewa Valley Report Card

We’ve studied the statistics and asked the experts. Now the grades are in. Here’s how the Valley measures up this year...

Words: Tom Giffey | Design: Josh Smeltzer | Web Design: Don Ross

The No. 2 pencils have been put away and the fill-in-the-bubble tests have been fed through the Scantron machine. The essays have been collected and annotated with red pen. Worksheets have been weighed, portfolios have been perused, and extra credit has been compiled. At last, the grades are in, and Volume One is ready to present its first-ever Chippewa Valley Report Card.

Why a report card?

It’s true that we Chippewa Vallians pride ourselves on living in a special place with a great quality of life: We’ve got the natural beauty of rivers and lakes, a thriving cultural scene, a relatively low unemployment rate, good schools, a guy who won two Grammys, and a national championship hockey team. However, we know the Chippewa Valley isn’t perfect. If we work together, there’s always room for improvement. This report card is an attempt to quantify how we have performed during the past year in a broad array of subjects, from economics to education, from recreation to the arts and culture. 

In today’s information-rich environment, we’re bombarded with statistics and indicators every day, but rarely are they assembled comprehensively in a format that allows us to draw informed conclusions. With each segment of the report card you’ll find a list of the individuals and organizations that provided input, both objective and subjective, that helped us formulate our grades – grades we arrived at by comparing the Valley with its own past (as well as with other communities) and considering where it can go in the future. You’ll also see a list of key statistics – everything from ACT scores to the number of organic farms – and which direction they are moving.

And while these may be the grades for 2013, they aren’t really final. We hope to make this an annual project and – more importantly – an annual conversation-starter about the successes and challenges of life in the Chippewa Valley.


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In creating this report card, we’ve tried hard to find the freshest information possible. In most cases, the most recent data came from 2012, so we’ve compared it with data from 2011 to establish a trend. In some cases because more recent information was unavailable, we’ve compared 2011 and 2010. And in a few cases numbers from 2013 were already compiled, so we’ve compared them with 2012 stats.



The Chippewa Valley is an often-used but flexible term that’s usually understood to include the region around Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, and Menomonie. Unfortunately, the public and private entities that crunch numbers tend to stick with more well-defined political boundaries. That’s why, for the most part, you’ll find numbers in this report card refer to one of three entities: the city of Eau Claire (population 66,623); Eau Claire County (population 100,677); and the Eau Claire metropolitan area, which the federal government defines as all of Chippewa and Eau Claire counties (population 163,599). Unfortunately, that means nearby Chippewa Valley communities outside those counties (Menomonie, Durand, etc.) aren’t typically included in these statistics because comparable numbers simply aren’t available.