5 (Not-So-Secret) Origins of the Valley's Household Business Names

Tom Giffey

Royal Credit Union
Royal Credit Union

1. RCU

Officially known as Royal Credit Union, this locally based financial institution wasn’t named to honor any crown-wearing monarch. Eau Claire old-timers know that “Royal” comes from “Uniroyal.” Founded in 1964, RCU began as the in-house credit union for employees of the now-defunct Uniroyal tire plant.

2. Banbury Place

Speaking of Uniroyal, it would be easy to assume that the factory complex’s current name, Banbury Place, comes from the name of someone who built or bought the huge multiuse business park. In fact, Banbury gets its name from Fernly Banbury, an English engineer who invented an industrial mixer used in the rubber-making process.

3. National Presto Industries

Originally founded as Northwestern Steel and Iron Works in Eau Claire in 1905, the company later became known as the National Pressure Cooker Co.  By the 1950s, the company had expanded its production to include many other appliances and changed its name to Presto to reflect the diversification (and, perhaps, the magical implications of the plugged-in postwar kitchen).

A small bit of the Banbury Place complex, seen from the
A small bit of the Banbury Place complex, seen from across the "S Bridge."

4. Xcel Energy

The utility company was once known by the old-fashioned but descriptive name Northern States Power Co. In 1999, however, NSP merged with Colorado-based New Century Energies and adopted a 21st century-sounding name, Xcel, which the then-CEO said was “a broad umbrella name that we believe sets the tone for the kind of company we want to be.” Presumably, this meant they’d strive for excellence, or maybe they just really liked spreadsheets.

5. Midelfort Clinic

While it now operates under the Mayo Clinic Health System name, it’s safe to say locals will be using the word “Midelfort” for years to come. The clinic was founded by Dr. Christian Midelfart, a Norwegian immigrant, in 1927. Over the years – likely to quell juvenile snickering – “Midelfart” officially became “Midelfort.”

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