Expansion Economy

Celebrating Development in Chippewa Falls

from furniture to cheese curds and far beyond, entrepreneurship and expansion brings economic growth to the region

Danielle Bauer / Chippewa Economic Development Corporation |

DIGGING IN. The Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation helps the region
DIGGING IN. The Chippewa Economic Development Corporation helps foster economic expansion in the region. (Submitted photo)

Chippewa Falls is not only attractive to tourists and lovers of the great outdoors, but the community also draws major attention from businesses and real estate developers seeking expansion opportunities. This is due in part because the city and county are fueled with a can-do attitude, abundant collaboration, community involvement, and adaptive, ground-breaking ideas. They understand that new growth and developments are key to bringing talented workers to the community and work with the Chippewa Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) on their organizational activities. To increase awareness of the community’s economic development program, CEDC continued the tradition of celebrating Economic Development Week: May 9-13.

Created in 2016 by the International Economic Development Council, the week is designed to recognize the unique role that economic development teams such as CEDC play in creating vibrant communities and helping them grow, adjust, adapt, and bounce back when disasters, pandemics, or recessions occur. Local governments have officially proclaimed Economic Development Week. The CEDC is the lead economic development agency in Chippewa County, working with existing and new businesses on expansions, as well as to assist developers and entrepreneurs.

BIG FOOTPRINT: Hoeft Buildings is working on a new 425,000-square-foot fulfillment center for Mason Companies. (Submitted photo)
BIG FOOTPRINT. Hoeft Buildings is working on a new 425,000-square-foot fulfillment center for Mason Companies. (Submitted photo)

OPPORTUNITIES FOR EXPANSION

The addition of new companies to Chippewa Falls and Chippewa County continues. This brings more jobs, more economic diversity, more taxes, and more residents to the area. Just this past year, Ashley Furniture expanded into Chippewa County, and Rural Electric Supply Cooperative as well as Northside Elevator selected Stanley as the future location for their new facilities. These successful recruitment projects are examples of how business attraction provides positive economic growth for a community. This type of growth spreads the existing tax base further, among more new payers. These companies bring wealth into the community, raise the community’s standard of living, and have a positive economic multiplier effect. 

The CEDC is the lead economic development agency in Chippewa County, working with existing and new businesses on expansions, as well as to assist developers and entrepreneurs.

The CEDC semi-annually hosts a Developers Update, where more than 40 participants meet and welcome local and regional developers, brokers, and site selectors to highlight the advantages of investing in Chippewa County. At the most recent event, companies such as Eau Claire Realty, P&R Companies, and Wangard Partners Inc. shared with city officials, business owners, utility representatives, and community leaders reasons why they believe investing in Chippewa County makes sense. The Developers Update furthers the open communication environment that is so necessary for the community to collaborate and grow.

“From the new Festival Foods at Chippewa Crossing to the redevelopment of a historic building by the Wisconsin Farmers Union in downtown Chippewa Falls, Chippewa continues to see a positive inflow of investment,” stated Maureen Carlson, business development manager at Greenfire Management Services and CEDC board member. “The county continues to experience positive development in 2022.”

“Besides giving local leaders an update on Chippewa Crossing, the forum gave Wangard Partners Inc. the opportunity to stay abreast of other developments that are happening in the community as we build out our project,” noted Stewart Wangard, CEO of Wangard Partners. “Chippewa Falls certainly is safe and conveniently located by Eau Claire, and is where people want to be.”

YOU CURD IT HERE FIRST: Employees at  Water's Edge Cheese Curds in Chippewa Falls.
YOU CURD IT HERE FIRST: Employees at Water's Edge Cheese Curds in Chippewa Falls. (Submitted photo)

ENTREPRENEURS ABOUND

While attracting new businesses is fun and exciting, maintaining, protecting, and nurturing our existing businesses is also essential to our Chippewa Valley economy. For instance, Water’s Edge Cheese Curds made its official debut in the City of Chippewa Falls this year.

Over 12 years ago, Water’s Edge Cheese Curds started in a small building in nearby Jim Falls. Beginning as a secret recipe in the kitchen of a northwoods Wisconsin supper club, it has grown to be one of the nation’s best-selling cheese curd products. Through practice and much trial and error, the owners of the supper club discovered the perfect cheese curd. When they decided to retire, entrepreneurs Rick and Sara Drolet and Al Grube took the secret recipe and the cheese curd product to the next level.  

Today, the company produces frozen, ready-to-fry beer-battered cheese curds. But these are not just any cheese curds: They make the unique “square ones,” using a cube of fresh Wisconsin cheddar and covering it with a secret beer-batter crust, made with beer from their neighbors at Leinenkugel’s. Light, crispy, and fresh, Water’s Edge Cheese Curds are rapidly becoming a national sensation in bars, pubs, and restaurants. In 2018, Water’s Edge was named the Best Cheese Curd in Wisconsin, and in 2019, it was chosen as Minnesota Cheese Curd of the Year by Minnesota Monthly Magazine. As the fried treat continues to increase in popularity, the product has been introduced in other states throughout the country as a “mini grilled cheese.” With this growth, the business needed to expand.

However, in 2020, their current facility was forced to shut down for months due to the pandemic. Water’s Edge Cheese Curds scrambled, pivoted, and adjusted its business operations to survive, and yet they continued plans to expand into a new facility that would be capable of positioning the company for growth after the pandemic. With the help of the CEDC and the Main Street BounceBack program, Water’s Edge identified a 5,000-square-foot vacant building, remodeled it, and continued their growth.

“The majority of CEDC’s work is focused on the Chippewa Valley’s Business Expansion And Retention, or, as we like to call it, the BEAR Program,” noted Charlie Walker, president and CEO of the CEDC. “Statistics and studies have shown that 85 to 95% of all job creation comes from a community’s existing businesses, so helping them grow and expand only makes sense. This certainly is the case when it comes to Water’s Edge Cheese Curds, Mason Companies, Charter Next Generation, Badger Liquor, and Advanced Laser, who have all announced their Chippewa expansions. Several have even had to build through the Wisconsin winter to meet their growth time lines.”

Entrepreneurs drive the economy much more than you may think: According to the Kauffman Foundation, startups create more than 3 million jobs in the United States yearly. To be successful, entrepreneurs need and rely on a culture and environment (we call it the entrepreneurial ecosystem) that inspires, fosters ideas, and provides resources to assist them in launching their businesses. The CEDC works continuously to strengthen the Chippewa Valley entrepreneurial ecosystem through its Honeycomb HATCH Program. Established a few years ago, this Shark Tank-like business pitch competition has assisted entrepreneurs throughout the Chippewa Valley in improving their pitches, introducing them to capital resources, and mentoring them for the next stage of their development journey. By pitching to a panel of experienced judges during Honeycomb HATCH, entrepreneurs get the exposure they need. 

Acting as a catalyst in talent development, CEDC continues to help implement workforce development activities, services, and programs that help attract workers to the community, identify future talent pools, and help ease future labor shortages. Collaborating with the community, CEDC helps organize events and establish programs that highlight the opportunities for our workforce with local companies and educational institutions.

Through the organization’s many activities with Chippewa Valley manufacturers such as BEAR Visits, CEDC has a pulse on the local economy and knows how important skilled trades are. Skilled trades vary from mechanics to construction workers, from welders to hairstylists, and are abundant. Newcomers to the community find that no matter what their skills, Chippewa has an opportunity for everyone. Understandably, Economic Development Week is the perfect opportunity to celebrate all that Chippewa has to offer. It certainly is a great place to “work, raise a family, and a business!”


Danielle Bauer is a creative storyteller for the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation. Learn more about the agency and its work at chippewa-wi.com.

PARTNER CONTENT

 

Best of Chippewa Falls is brought to you by:

Leinie Lodge
Northwestern Bank
Mason Companies, Inc
Go Chippewa Falls

Best of Chippewa Falls is brought to you by:

Leinie Lodge
Northwestern Bank
Mason Companies, Inc
Go Chippewa Falls