December 2020 Unemployment

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Month Nine of COVID-19:
St. Croix County’s December Unemployment Rate is 5.5%

On January 27th, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced the preliminary December 2020 unemployment rates for Wisconsin’s 72 counties and the 34 cities with populations greater than 25,000 residents. St. Croix County’s December rate was estimated at 5.5%, which is higher than the final rate of 4.3% for November and October’s final rate of 4.7%. One year ago, the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 3.6%.

DWD said preliminary unemployment rates from November to December increased in all 72 counties as well as year-over-over. The rates ranged from 3.4% in Lafayette to 11.1% in Menominee. 

Preliminary unemployment rates declined or stayed the same in three of Wisconsin’s 34 largest municipalities from November to December. Rates ranged from 3.8% in Fitchburg to 8.3% in Milwaukee.

The five counties with the lowest unemployment rates in December include Lafayette (3.4%), Calumet (3.7%), Grant (3.9%), Kewaunee (also at 3.9%), and Dane (4.0%). Menominee County had the highest rate in December at 11.1%, followed by Iron (10.0%), Adams (9.4%), Forest (8.9%), and Bayfield (also at 8.9%).

St. Croix, Pierce, Polk, and Dunn counties comprise Wisconsin’s Greater St. Croix Valley. In addition to St. Croix’s rate of 5.5%, December’s preliminary rate in Dunn is 5.1%, while Pierce reported 5.2% and Polk came in at 7.3%.

St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the 15-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metro area. The December 2020 unemployment rate for the Twin Cities was estimated at 4.5%, which is higher than November’s final rate of 4.0% and October’s final rate of 4.2 %. The unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was 3.0% in December 2019.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Wisconsin in December was estimated at 5.5%, which is higher than November’s final rate of 5.3% but lower than October’s final rate of 6.0%. One year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 3.5%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in Minnesota in December was estimated at 4.4%, which is lower than November’s final rate of 4.5% and October’s final rate 4.6%. Minnesota’s seasonally-adjusted rate one year ago was 3.3%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in the U.S. for December was estimated at 6.7%, which is the same as November’s final rate but lower than October’s final rate of 6.9%. One year ago, the U.S. rate (seasonally adjusted) was estimated at 3.5%.

Wisconsin’s preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for December was 66.7%, which is lower than November’s final rate of 66.8% and October’s final rate of 67.4%. One year ago, Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate was also 66.9%. The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for the U.S. in December was estimated at 61.5% which is that same as November’s final rate, but lower than October’s final rate of 61.7%. One year ago, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. was 63.2%. 

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

St. Croix EDC Names Top Businesses/Individual for 2020

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St. Croix EDC Names Top
Businesses/Individual for 2020

Rob Kreibich, president of St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (EDC), announced the EDC’s selection of National Tactical Security (River Falls), Laptop Chips (Roberts-Baldwin), and Nolato Contour (Baldwin) as recipients of the 2020 Business of the Year awards in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Patrick Thompson is the recipient of the EDC Directors Award, an occasional award presented to an individual or organization championing economic development through innovation actions, making St. Croix County an exceptional place for business, industry, and residents.

The companies will be honored during an online celebration scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2021, starting at 5:00 o’clock p.m.

“These businesses represent the very best entrepreneurial spirit that is alive and well in St. Croix County,” said EDC President Rob Kreibich.

About the 2020 Honorees

Launched in May 2020, National Tactical Security (NTS) is the 2020 Emerging Business of the Year (based in St. Croix County and in business for five or fewer years).  It was founded by business partners Dave Skinner and Troy Szotkowski, who also own and operate Applied Countermeasures Group, founded in 2015. NTS provided executive protection for clients who quickly and unexpectedly found themselves in harm’s way last summer as a result of unrest locally and around the globe. In just eight months NTS obtained security licensing in eight states where qualified security agents were hired. NTS provided security and consulting services for election campaigns and provide 24/7 services as needed.

Laptop Chips is the 2020 Small Business of the Year (29 or fewer employees). The company is a hardware recycler and parts supplier serving Minnesota and Wisconsin since 2010. Their clients span a broad range from Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and educational institutions, to small businesses, and even end users.  Services include computer recycling, asset disposition, data destruction in compliance with DoD 5220,22-M standards, reverse logistics, liquidating, and downsizing or facility closure. Laptop Chips was founded by Erik Salomonsen and operates facilities in the Villages of Roberts and Baldwin.

Nolato Contour is the 2020 Business of the Year (30 or more employees). Nolato Contour is a precision plastic and silicone injection molding company that produces and supplies plastic components and finished medical devices to major medical and pharma companies in the United States. The company was launched in 2010 following Sweden-based Nolato Group’s acquisition of Contour Plastics in Baldwin, Wisconsin. The acquisition enabled Nolato to secure a North American scientific manufacturing foothold with medical technology companies. In September 2019 Nolato announced a major expansion totaling $18+ million in Baldwin, which resulted in the creation of new jobs and a corporate tax credit award from the state. Russ Steele leads Nolato Contour as its president and managing director.

Patrick Thompson is the recipient of the EDC Directors Award. He came to St. Croix County as its first county administrator in 2011 and served in that capacity until August 2020 when he accepted a similar position in Winnebago County, Illinois. Thompson led several initiatives in St. Croix and the EDC appreciated his strong support and advocacy for economic development.

Event Details

This is the 27th business awards program conducted by St. Croix EDC. The online event is open to the public but reservations are required. Additional details on connecting to the event will follow.

About St. Croix EDC

The EDC was established in 1994 as a public-private business league that operates as the independent economic development arm of St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Reflective activities include marketing and communication, business retention, business expansion, business recruitment, new business incorporations, workforce development, and advocacy on behalf of business and industry. Initiatives taken by St. Croix EDC help improve the business climate of St. Croix County, allowing businesses, large and small, to grow and prosper.

For more information, contact William Rubin or Nita Dusek at (715) 381-4383.

Into the Future, not Back


Into the Future, not Back


December’s holidays were marked with the return of movie favorites on cable TV. The sci-fi classic, Back to the Future, was enjoyed one more time.

For the benefit of young adults who completely missed Back to the Future on the big screen or tablet screen in more modern time, Michael J. Fox plays 17-year old Marty McFly who travels back to 1955 from 1985 by way of a DeLorean automobile time machine created by McFly’s odd scientist friend, Dr. Emmett Brown. Sidebar: When Marty learns of Dr. Brown’s invention, he asks, “Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine…out of a DeLorean?” And Doc replies, “If you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” The plot thickens when Marty crosses paths with the younger versions of his parents. He must make sure they meet and fall in love or he will not exist upon his hopeful return to 1985.

Marty’s path also crosses with a younger Doc Brown who has trouble believing someone traveled 30-years back in time as a result of his own invention. Doc asks Marty, “Tell me, Future Boy, who’s President of the United States in 1985?” Marty replies, “Ronald Reagan.” Doc laughs, “Ronald Reagan? The actor? Ha! Then who’s Vice President, Jerry Lewis?” As Marty explains the details of the DeLorean’s flux capacitor, Doc realizes he’s telling the truth. Doc had outlined the flux capacitor on the same day Marty arrived in 1955. And the adventures begin.

So, what would happen if Marty McFly traveled into the St. Croix Valley’s future from 2021 to, say, 2051? Great Scott! For starters, there’d be 1.21 gigawatts of amazement. Or in the words of Marty McFly, “Sounds pretty heavy.” Doc Brown may repeat himself with, “There’s that word again, ‘heavy.’ Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?” Sidebar: Weight has nothing to do with it.

It’s 2051 in the St. Croix Valley. What does it look like? What has been learned in 30-years? How big did the quaint cities in the ’valley get? We shall soon see. The global pandemic showed that working from home was possible. Employees could set their own hours and schedules within reason, following the corporate edict, work from anywhere, at any time, forever. Brick and mortar structures would soon go the way of Saab vehicles, which are deeply missed by some. More time at home in the ’valley led to spikes in births, which led to growing enrollment pressures for school districts. Savvy superintendents deployed the so-called year-round hybrid model of learning, now accepted as the norm. Some school sports are offered twice a year, and to no one’s surprise, St. Croix Valley teams win many championships in the newly-aligned Twin Cities Winnesota Conference. Take that, Edina! Take that East Ridge!

As for roads and other infrastructure, most were deemed obsolete. This included the St. Croix Crossing, which opened in 2017. It was designated as the 12th wonder of the world following the pandemic of 2020. Remember Doc Brown’s foreshadowing, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Sidebar: OK, maybe the local ones.

Regardless of traveling into the future, St. Croix’s destiny will take careful planning and vision. The charm of St. Croix Valley communities still exists well into the future. The St. Croix River is still a protected natural resource. The St. Croix Valley is still a special corner of the world, but it’ll take hard work and difficult decisions. The ’valley consistently adapts to new advances in technology. Business, industry, and residents here enjoy high livability indexes, a modern term for quality of life, whether it’s 2021 or 2051.  

The St. Croix Valley may be wise to follow Doc Brown’s mantra, “If you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything.”

Here’s to our future.