Irish For A Day


Irish For A Day


St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th is an important day for the Irish and wannabe Irish around the globe.

Ask the Moore’s, Donahue’s, Ring’s, Casey’s, Geraghty’s, Early’s, Padden’s, Brennan’s, Murtha’s, Riley’s, and Clennan’s of St. Croix County. For good measure, throw in the O’Keefe’s to keep Mike and Rob happy.

Ask many of the residents in Cylon, Erin Prairie, and Emerald. Flags of Ireland fly year-round in these towns, and garden monuments likely read Erin Go Bragh, literally meaning Ireland till the end of time. Stone leprechauns may be as common as barn pigeons.

Ask the Mayor of Hudson, Rich O’Connor. His Notre Dame apparel gives him away. Go Rich. Go Fightin’ Irish. Go Touchdown Jesus.

As for wannabe Irish like the Rubin’s, going with O’Rubin or McRubin on the big day is a more difficult sell. Holy McSauerkraut. Sounds like a bad sandwich. Even with the strong German name, the Rubin matriarch proudly claimed Scottish, Irish, English, and Danish as her heritage. By the tip of a long shirttail, the Irish bases appear covered.

To better assimilate on St. Patrick’s Day, consider these historical tips:

-March 17th is the anniversary of the death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland in the fifth century. Born in Roman Britain, Saint Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at a young age. He later escaped Ireland, but returned and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people. He reportedly explained the Holy Trinity by using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock. Combining all of this, March 17 was observed as a religious holiday.

-Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day has been around since the ninth or tenth century. But wait. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually took place in the Americas, not Ireland. Records show a parade was held in 1601 in a Spanish colony of what is now St. Augustine, Florida. By 1772, homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military (the Red Coats) marched in New York City. Its popularity in the U.S. grew dramatically.

-When the potato famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to one million poor and mostly uneducated Irish families fled to the U.S. to escape starvation.

-With growing numbers, Irish Americans realized they had potential political power. They organized in solidarity on certain issues and their voting blocs became known as the green machine. President Harry Truman joined the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City in 1948 as a way to better align with the Irish. Today politicians don’t miss parades.

Whether it’s dyeing a river green, wearing a derby, parading, or consuming soda bread, corned beef and cabbage, a shamrock shake, or an Irish coffee stout at a local brewery, St. Paddy’s Day worldwide and in the St. Croix Valley is a grand day for the Irish. Just ask the Moore’s, Donahue’s, Ring’s, Casey’s, Geraghty’s, Early’s, and of course, the wannabe O’Rubin’s. . . . Erin Go Bragh.

St. Croix EDC Honors 2021’s Top Businesses and Individual

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St. Croix EDC Honors 2021’s Top Businesses and Individual 

On February 24th, St. Croix EDC honored its 2021 business of the year winners and recipient of its Directors Award during an event conducted on an electronic meeting platform. 

Honorees include Aster Beverage (City of New Richmond), Alms Creative (City of Hudson), and Indue (Town of Hudson) as recipients of the 2021 Business of the Year awards in St. Croix County, Wisconsin.

Ruthie Johnston received the EDC Directors Award, an occasional award presented to an individual or organization for championing economic development through innovation and actions, making St. Croix County an exceptional place for business, industry, and residents. 

Angela Popenhagen, the EDC’s 2021-22 President, served as the event’s emcee.

About the Honorees:

Aster Beverage: The company was formed in late 2020 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Watt Beverage, Inc. and commenced operations in New Richmond last year in a previously vacant facility in the city’s business park. Aster operates as a beverage manufacturer specializing in ready-to-drink and ready-to-serve functional beverages, hard and nonalcoholic sparkling products, and as a contractual co-packer for other beverage companies. The co-packing partners are local, regional, and national operations. The company is led by Tom Meyer and a number of partners who have ownership interests in Big Watt Beverage and the limited liability company which own the real estate and capital equipment at 1280 Madison Avenue.

 Alms Creative: Alms is a full service video production agency with over 25 years of experience in all phases of production. Based in Hudson, Alms Creative is owned and led by William (Bill) Alms. The company was launched in 2013 and used Alms’ passion of storytelling with nonprofit organizations as its foundation. Alms and staff rely on their respective keen eyes and focus to produce authentic awareness and content for clients. In late 2021, Alms Creative was awarded two Gold Marcom awards for marketing and communication excellence. Bill Alms serves as an alderperson on the Hudson Common Council and represents constituents in the city’s second district.

Indue: Indue is an industrial flooring company that installs and manufactures polyurethane concrete coatings, concrete polishing, and decorative floors. Indue provides these flooring services to companies in the food industry sector throughout the upper Midwest, east central and southern U.S., as well as Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico. Reflective customers include Mead Johnson, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Mars, Incorporated, and American Crystal Sugar. The company has been in St. Croix County since 2004 and has grown from five employees in 2000, to 20 in 2004, and to over 100 including the associates in a Michigan sales office. Indue is led by Tom Scanlan.

EDC Directors Award

Ruthie Johnston is the CEO of Croix Gear and Machining in Hudson. Her story is one of opportunity within a tragedy. In 2010, Ruthie’s husband Mark unexpectedly passed away. Ruthie was not involved in the family’s manufacturing business, but was thrust in the leadership role of running the company. Although not prepared, she stepped into the CEO role of then-named Marine Associates. From Day One, she asked her leadership team for assistance and grew into the role of the leader. The company name was changed to Croix Gear to more accurately reflect the manufactured products. Numerous metrics and goals were introduced along with a 23,000 square foot addition in 2016. Through the efforts of Ruthie and her leadership team, Croix Gear continues to prosper. The company’s tagline is Precision with Purpose. Her success is testament to learning and adapting.

Each of the winners received a plaque from the EDC as well as a Legislative Citation from the State Senate and Assembly, and numerous congratulatory letters from state, federal, and local officials.

The 28th annual awards event was sponsored by 32 organizations.

For more information contact: (715) 381-4383 William Rubin or Nita Dusek

Not So Fast, River Crossing’s 10-Year Milestone


Not So Fast, River Crossing’s 10-Year Milestone


Tempus fugit. Time flies.

An internal calendar suggested something significant in the St. Croix Valley happened ten years ago.

But what?

Keys words typed into a search engine confirmed what the memory bank could not.

After decades of debate, after decades of hue and cry in the valley, after decades of government agencies fighting government agencies . . . the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation for a new bridge over the St. Croix River between St. Croix County, Wisconsin and Washington County, Minnesota.

The House vote of 339-80 occurred on March 1, 2012. The Senate’s bill was approved by unanimous consent back in January to set the stage for the House. The House vote followed a lively evening of floor debate on February 29th, or Leap Day. The Internet carried the House debate and vote live. The representative from Wisconsin whose district included the St. Croix Valley spoke with passion. He likened the rarity of a Leap Day debate with the unique opportunity to support the bill. He included the likes of the Packers and Vikings as an example of how people with differing viewpoints could come together to ensure passage. Sensing every vote mattered, the same representative may have been seen escorting a colleague toward the rostrum and well of the House chambers as a prelude to casting the vote.

On the eve of the House debate and vote, a local official was quoted, “I feel we’re in the final 48-hours of a 60-year-long race to get this bridge built.” Sixty years? Not so fast.

Would he or wouldn’t he? The legislation was sent to President Obama for his signature, and on March 14th the bill was signed. YES!

What a conundrum. What a puzzle solved. An aging Lift Bridge, opened in 1931 and approaching the end of its economic life, needed replacing. But not so fast. The St. Croix River was part of a network of Wild and Scenic Rivers protected by federal law. Historic preservationists and environmentalists were pitted against progressives due to a misunderstood codicil – Build a Bridge; Tear One Down. Not so fast. A federally-facilitated stakeholder group, convened from 2002-2005, recommended approval of a new bridge in a corridor about a mile downstream from the Lift Bridge. Their work came long after a December 1996 pronouncement from the National Park Service recommending no federal permits be issued on what was thought to be construction of a replacement bridge starting as early as 1997. Not so fast. In the project’s Record of Decision in 2006, the Federal Highway Administration said funding for a new bridge was years and years away – – 2024 to be exact. Not so fast.

One by one, U.S. Representatives and Senators started visiting the old Lift Bridge. Their support helped jumpstart a new effort to secure the federal bill authorizing an exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Funding would follow.

And the rest? The rest is history. MnDOT named a project leadership team about the same time the bill was signed. The balance of 2012 was spent obtaining bedrock samples from beneath the riverbed. This gave project bidders the needed intel for informed estimates. One set of piers was eliminated from the project to further reduce an environmental impact. The iconic Lift Bridge was converted to a recreational amenity for pedestrians and bicyclists.

To fanfare, the St. Croix River Crossing opened in early August 2017, making it five years old this summer. Not so fast. History is still being written. Tempus fugit.

By Billions, Cupid Tops Big Game


By Billions, Cupid Tops Big Game


In a battle of titans and pocketbooks, the ‘Big Game’ on February 13 will face off against the Big Day of Love on February 14. Hopefully there is enough money for both. Billions (with a ‘b’) will be spent. Keep in mind there was historic spending over the 2021 winter holidays, estimated at $886.7 billion (also with a ‘b’).

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest retail trade organization. It regularly forecasts consumer spending on shopping activities like back-to-school, Halloween, Christmas, and yes, Valentine’s Day. NRF also slips in a forecast on the culmination of the NFL football season, sometimes referred to as the Big Game.

2022’s spending estimate from NRF for Valentine’s Day is $23.9 billion, up from $21.8 billion in 2021 and the second-highest to 2020’s pre-pandemic spending of $27.4 billion. Even a day of chocolates, cards, flowers and dinners is not immune to a global pandemic. While spending was off in 2021, in economist-speak, it is rebounding nicely this year. Quite nicely.

NRF says candy, at 56 percent, greeting cards, 40 percent, and flowers, 37 percent, are the most popular spending choices for Valentine’s. Around $4.3 billion will be spent on an evening out by 31 percent of NRF’s survey participants. $6.2 billion is expected to be spent on jewelry this year, well up from 2021’s $4.1 billion.

In lieu of candy and flowers, NRF says there is great interest for gifts of experience . . . . (sidebar: careful, minds are being read and hands tipped). NRF says these types of gifts include concerts, cultural activities, or sporting events. In 2022 this anticipated expenditure is trending upward, with 41 percent of survey participants saying they’d love this type of gift. Impacted by COVID in 2021, only 36 percent favored a gift of experience.

What about the Big Game? It should be noted that the NFL is hyper-protective of the use of the term, Super Bowl®. Any commercial activity that uses or refers to the Super Bowl®, i.e. “Stock up on snacks for the Super Bowl®” is a violation of the NFL’s trademark or copyright infringement. Promoters are advised not to get too cute with shuffling the words around. Even using the term “Superb Owl” along the lines of “Start Superb Owl Shopping Early” is a no-no. The Big Game is the NFL’s Golden Goose.

Details for 2022 are pending from NRF, but 2021’s spending on the Big Game was $13.9 billion. That’s down from the pre-pandemic spending of $14.8 billion in 2020. Much like Valentine’s 2022, armchair economists envision a rebound this year. And why not? Over 186 million adults will likely watch it. Thirty second ads spots command a reported price of $6.5 million. The ads represent the Big Game of sorts in creativity circles so it’s no wonder that millions of viewers will tune in. The sporting event may be secondary.

Last year, NRF estimated almost $75 per person would be spent by those watching the game. If that seems high, note that $89 was spent by consumers in 2020 and $81 was spent in 2019. But spending on what? Food and beverages, at 77 percent, followed by team apparel and accessories, 11 percent, TVs, nine percent, and decorations, seven percent, are NRF’s best estimates. Even furniture, at five percent, was a Big Game expense category. Hey, you have to be comfortable.

And lastly, NRF’s survey participants said watching the game, at 43 percent, was most important to viewers last year, followed by the commercials, at 22 percent, and the halftime show, at 16 percent.

Romantics and sport enthusiasts are reminded to shop stores and patronize restaurants throughout the St. Croix Valley. They could use a mid-winter boost. Unique jewelry, candies, cards, and menu entrees await consumers. Try a double dip on back-to-back days for the Big Game and Big Day of Love.