July 2017 Unemployment Rate

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St. Croix County’s July Unemployment Rate at 2.8%

On August 23rd, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced the preliminary July 2017 unemployment rates for Wisconsin’s 72 counties and the 32 cities with populations greater than 25,000 residents. St. Croix County’s rate was estimated at 2.8%. For comparison, St. Croix’s final rate in June was 3.0% and the final rate for May was 2.5%. One year ago, the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 3.6%.

DWD said preliminary unemployment rates for July decreased or remained the same in all 72 counties when compared to July 2016. The current rates ranged from 2.5% in Dane and Iowa counties to 7.4% in Menominee.

The July 2017 preliminary unemployment rates decreased in all of Wisconsin’s 32 municipalities with population bases of least 25,000 residents when compared to July 2016. The July rates ranged from 2.4% in Fitchburg to 5.4% in Beloit.

Dane and Iowa counties had the lowest rate in July at 2.5%, followed by Lafayette (2.6%), Sauk (also at 2.6%), and Calumet (2.7%). Menominee County had the highest rate in July at 7.4%, followed by Iron (5.5%), Forest (5.1%), Adams (4.6%), and Marinette (4.5%).

St. Croix, Pierce, Polk, and Dunn counties comprise Wisconsin’s Greater St. Croix Valley. In addition to St. Croix referenced above, the preliminary rate for July 2017 in Polk was estimated at 2.9%. Pierce’s rate in July was estimated at 3.1% and Dunn’s rate was 3.3%. The current rates in all four counties are lower compared to July 2016.

St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the 16-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metro area. The July 2017 unemployment rate for the Twin Cities was estimated at 3.3%, which is lower than June’s final rate of 3.5%, but higher than May’s final rate of 3.2%. The unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was 3.6% in July 2016.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Wisconsin in July was estimated at 3.2%, which is higher than the final rates of 3.1% in June and May. One year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 4.2%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in Minnesota in July 2017 was estimated at 3.7%, which is the same as the final rates for June and May. Minnesota’s seasonally adjusted rate one year ago was 3.9%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in the U.S. for July was estimated at 4.3%, which is lower than June’s final rate of 4.4% and the same as May’s final rate. One year ago the U.S. rate (seasonally adjusted) was estimated at 4.9%.

Wisconsin’s preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for July 2017 was estimated at 68.8%, which is lower than the final rate of 68.9% in June and the same as May’s final rate. One year ago, Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate was 68.3%. The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for the U.S. in July was estimated at 62.9%, which is higher than the final rate of 62.8% in June and May’s final rate of 62.7%. One year ago, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. was 62.8%.

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

Amber Waves


Amber Waves


A small town guy like me grew up in farm country in southern Minnesota. Classmates were farm kids who drove tractors and combines before they legally drove trucks or cars. Even in a class of 16 students, I was the so-called city slicker. A kid brother did grow up to enjoy a lengthy career at the ag processing giant, ADM in Decatur, Illinois.

Agriculture makes a substantial contribution to the economy of St. Croix County. The state’s welcome sign along I-94 in Hudson reminds us of this, listing industry, recreation, and agriculture for passing motorists to see. From 2014 statistics, UW-Extension estimated 3,678 jobs in St. Croix were connected to agriculture; it accounts for $551 million in economic activity; and pays $8.6 million in sales, income, property, and other taxes. The 2012 Census of Agriculture estimated nearly 50,000 head of cattle and calves were in the county, as well as nearly 4,600 broiler-type chickens and around 3,900 hogs and pigs.

Old timers probably would not recognize the products that come from modern agriculture. Field corn stands eight feet tall and beans are waist-high, maybe taller. It’s all about increasing production.

Smaller farms may have given way to bigger farms. Dairies have gotten bigger in the same way field equipment has. However, there’s still room for specialty-type farms, whose owners promote organic, farm-to-market crops or grass fed livestock. There’s room for those uses in St. Croix County, too.

All of this occurs within the shadows of the Twin Cities. The 16-county metro area now boasts a population of 3.5 million residents. As St. Croix and the metro area grow, farm fields yield to subdivisions. I suspect farmers see their land near city borders as their retirement plans.

A farmer along U.S. highway 52 toward Rochester put things in perspective for all to see. He or she wrote “Hungry?” across the top row of white bale wrapping. It was followed by “Thank a Farmer”.

I’ll do just that. Thanks Farmers!


Featured Properties – June 2017

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Featured Properties – June 2017

Available Properties St. Croix County, Wisconsin

St. Croix EDC is collaborating with colleagues from Polk, Pierce, and Dunn counties to create a quarterly marketing piece of randomly selected available properties available for sale or lease throughout the Greater St. Croix Valley. For information on additional available buildings, check here.

The flyer is published quarterly and new properties are included in each new edition. It is done in collaboration with Xcel Energy.

Recipe for a New Bridge


Recipe for a New Bridge


After four plus years of construction, the St. Croix Crossing opened for traffic on Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017.

It’s been said I am one of the project’s biggest boosters. Did I drive across it as soon as I could? Did I walk across it? Cycle across it? No comment. No comment. No comment.

What goes into constructing a bridge measuring nearly one mile long by one hundred feet wide and one hundred to one hundred fifty feet above the water?

Start with an inflatable kiddy pool. Add 563.8 million pounds of concrete, according to the DOTs. An estimated 20,947 cubic yards of concrete was used for the pier foundations. That’s about 2,100 truckloads. Some of the trucks were barged to their destinations, so the big rigs you saw floating on the river were not optical illusions. Pumping the concrete into forms may have tested the limits of hydraulic science.

There’s 5.2 miles of visible stay cables that contain another 400 miles of cable strands. There’s another 1,969 miles on non-visible cable strands. The DOTs say that’s the distance from Houlton-Stillwater to Dallas, Texas.

Assembled like a jigsaw puzzle, about 980 individual bridge segments comprise the box girder portion of the bridge. Each segment weighed up to 180 tons and was secured with epoxy and steel cables. If it’s possible for multi-ton segments to be considered hollow, then accept the fact that you could walk across the entire span from inside the bridge deck. Bring your own flashlight.

The price tag can be argued. Around $650 million is close for the entire project, and includes intersection improvements in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, a major interchange in St. Joseph, Wisconsin and new segments of Wisconsin State Highways 35-64. Both states split the $377 million attributable to the bridge.

Kiddy pool? True story. It was used in 2012 when the contractor drilled borings into the bedrock beneath the water and muck. Because the St. Croix River is federally protected, extra steps were taken to prevent mishaps like a failed hose leaking oil onto the deck of a barge or into the river. Construction workers were instructed to spit the empty hulls of sunflower seeds into an inflatable pool to prevent them from finding their way into the St. Croix.

As Labor Day approaches, I may be seen on the new bridge again. This time reflecting on the hundreds of skilled workers who touched the project in the heat, bitter cold, rain, and humidity. The women and men from trades and labor experienced it all. The St. Croix Crossing will stand the test of time. Long may it serve the St. Croix Valley.

Real Estate Values Finally Recover


Real Estate Values Finally Recover


Today’s hot real estate market is far different than the downward spiral and crash that started in 2008 and impacted 2009 values and beyond, according to annual reports from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Equalized values are the foundation to support local taxes levied by towns-villages-cities, school districts, and counties.

Collectively, properties in St. Croix County lost $1.807 billion (with a “B”) from 2009-2012. 2010 was the most painful year when $616 million of value went off the books.

At the highpoint in 2008, properties in St. Croix were valued at $8.738 billion. The $1.807 billion in reductions meant a decline of almost twenty-one percent (21%). In 2012, the drop hit bottom and total equalized values settled in at $6.93 billion. Seemingly, there was nowhere to go but up.

Good News. Equalized values in 2013 showed an uptick of three percent, followed by three straight years of six percent (6%) increases (2014-16). The 2017 preliminary equalized value estimates from Revenue reflect a seven percent (7%) gain for St. Croix County, or an increase of $602 million.

St. Croix’s new total for 2017 edged over the $9 billion threshold for the first time. Through appreciation, new construction, and property reassessments, the recovery in St. Croix appears complete.

Does time really fly? Five years of increases enabled values to surpass reductions that ran from 2009-2012. That seems like a long time.

Lessons learned? The double-digit increases leading up to the crash represented an unsustainable model. Those six percent gains of late look more realistic.

Meanwhile, the red-hot real estate market continues.

Who Are We?


Who Are We?


The question, ‘Who are we?’ should not be confused with the album and song from the late 1970s, ‘Who are you?’

But I really want to know.

Who are we? Who, who, who, who? In particular what makes up St. Croix County? Some of the answers can be found in an electronic QuickFacts system created by the U.S. Census Bureau.

From April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016, the Census Bureau estimates St. Croix has grown 4.4 percent to a little over 88,000 residents.

At 96.2 percent, county residents are predominately White (Census’ word). Asians comprise 1.1 percent of the population, followed by 0.8 percent Black and 0.4 percent American Indian-Alaska Native.

Veterans in the county total 5,465 people. Thanks for your service.

Residents who are foreign born are estimated at 1.9 percent of the population.

There are 2.73 persons per household and around 35,224 housing units.

About 73 percent of the residents, aged 16-years and older, are in the workforce.

For commuters, the mean travel time to work is 28.4 minutes, excluding the time spent in the drive-through lane of a coffee shop (or a pit stop at a micro-brewery on the drive back home).

While the median household income is estimated at $70,886, the Census Bureau also concludes there are 5.7 percent of St. Croix’s population living in poverty, compared to 12.1 percent in Wisconsin and 13.5 percent in the U.S.

All of this sounds like a melting pot.

QuickFacts can produce tables of information on a specific city, village, or town for those wanting a deeper dive. If you want to learn more about that little hamlet you grew up in two time zones away, just plug the community’s name into the search box and off you go.

Get started at www.census.gov.

Who, who, who, who.