Celebrate the Fourth Locally


Celebrate the Fourth Locally


Happy 246 years of independence, America.

2022’s July Fourth is a well-deserved three day weekend. For consumers, this translates into an extra day of recreating and spending. The importance? Economists repeatedly say consumer spending props up 70 to 75 percent of the U.S. economy. They point to 2018’s Fourth of July on Hump Day – Wednesday – meaning fewer people were able to celebrate the holiday’s full impact. Translation: Consumer spending was down on July 4, 2018. COVID has impacted celebrations, too.

Record spending over the Fourth is forecast this year, even with red hot inflation, weekly gas price adjustments, and supply chain woes. Main streets in Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley could use the boost. Most communities have special events, whether it’s a parade, baseball-softball tournament, carnival, or fireworks. Give them a visit. St. Croix Valley residents and tourists are sure to make cash registers ring. In a nod to modern vending, Bitcoin and Venmo® could be payment options, too.

The websites for National Retail Federation and WalletHub list several fun facts about July Fourth, including:

– 84 percent of Americans will celebrate Independence Day this year
– Food is a major expenditure on the Fourth; an estimated $84.12 per person will be spent on food and a total of $7.7 billion will be spent on food
– The shopping list is topped by beef ($727 million), chicken ($273 million), and pork ($195 million)
– Cookouts, BBQs, or picnics are the most popular ways to celebrate, followed by attending fireworks or a community celebration, attending a parade, or traveling/vacations
– Consumers will pay 30 percent more on fireworks this year; fireworks were up 35 percent in 2021; a pyrotechnics association reported an unprecedented demand for fireworks for backyard celebrations starting in 2020 due to COVID
– 150 million hot dogs are eaten on the Fourth; no word if hot dog eating champ Joey Chestnut will travel to the St. Croix Valley; his 10-minute eating record is 76 hot dogs
– $1.45+ billion is spent on beer and wine, with beer claiming $1 billion of the purchases (public service announcement: don’t drink and drink)
– 48 million people travel 50+ miles from home for the Fourth; in 2020 the number of travelers was estimated at 34 million
– 91 percent of travelers will drive to their destinations
– 100 places in the U.S. have independence, liberty, freedom or eagle in their names
– 95 percent of all U.S. fireworks are imported from China
– 14,000 public firework displays are held on the Fourth
– $1.5+ billion is spent on firework displays
– The cost of hosting a municipal fireworks display can approach $200,000
– $5 million is the recommended insurance coverage for fireworks shows

Here’s to three great days of weather in early July. Here’s to community celebrations in the St. Croix Valley. Here’s to local cafes, bars, grills, ice cream shops, food trucks, breweries, and distilleries. In 2022, make a new traditional in Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley.

May 2022 Unemployment

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St. Croix County’s May Unemployment Rate is 2.5%

On June 22nd, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced the preliminary May 2022 unemployment rates for Wisconsin’s 72 counties and the 35 cities with populations greater than 25,000 residents. St. Croix County’s May rate was estimated at 2.5%, which is lower than April’s final rate of 3.0% and the final rate of 3.5% for March. One year ago, the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 3.4%.

DWD said preliminary unemployment rates from April to May decreased or stayed the same in 66 of the 72 counties. Rates declined in all 72 counties year-over-year. The current rates range from 1.9% in Lafayette to 7.0% in Menominee.

Preliminary unemployment rates from April to May decreased or stayed the same in 13 of Wisconsin’s 35 largest cities. Year-over-year the rates declined in all 35 cities. Rates ranged from 1.9% in Fitchburg to 4.9% in Milwaukee.

The five counties with the lowest unemployment rates in May include Lafayette (1.9%), Clark (2.1%), Green (also at 2.1%), Calumet (2.2%), and Dane (also at 2.2%). Menominee had the highest rate in May at 7.0%, followed by Iron (5.6%), Forest (5.3%), Bayfield (4.9%), and Adams (4.6%).

St. Croix, Pierce, and Polk counties comprise Wisconsin’s Greater St. Croix Valley. In addition to St. Croix’s rate of 2.5%, May’s preliminary rate in Pierce was 2.7% and Polk’s rate was 3.2%.

St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the 15-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metro area. The May 2022 unemployment rate for the Twin Cities was estimated at 1.6%, which is higher than the final rates of 1.5% for April and 2.6% for March. The unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was 3.8% in May 2021.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Wisconsin in May was estimated at 2.9%, which is higher than the final rate of 2.8% for both April and March. One year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 4.1%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in Minnesota for May was estimated at 2.0%, which is lower than the final of 2.2% for April and the final rate of 2.5% in March. Minnesota’s seasonally-adjusted rate one year ago was 3.4%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in the U.S. for May was estimated at 3.6%, which is the same as the final rate for both April and March. One year ago, the U.S. rate (seasonally adjusted) was estimated at 5.8%.

Wisconsin’s preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for May was estimated at 66.5%, which is the same as the final rate for both April and March. One year ago, Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate was also 66.7%. The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for the U.S. in May was estimated at 62.3%, which is higher than the final rate of 62.2% for April but lower than the final rate of 62.4% for March. One year ago, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. was 61.6%.

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

Bird? Plane? Construction Crane!

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Bird? Plane? Construction Crane!

The line from an early 1950s black-and-white TV series the Adventures of Superman went something like, “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!

Fast forward to the spring of 2022 and the line in the St. Croix Valley can be changed to, “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a construction crane!” That’s right, a no longer sleepy county at the Wisconsin-Minnesota border has transformed into East Metro’s Construction Central. Numerous commercial and multi-family sites in St. Croix are hosts of what used to be rare sights – construction cranes.

Get used to it. Cranes could be commonplace. St. Croix County, Wisconsin has its rightful place among 14 other counties that comprise the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). For bragging rights, the Twin Cities MSA is the 16th largest in the U.S. with a population of 3.75 million people and third largest in the Midwest. More civics lesson backfill – the best counties – St. Croix and Pierce – are the only Wisconsin counties in the MSA designation. All others are to the west in Minnesota, including Big Brothers Hennepin and Ramsey and St. Croix’s nearby cousins, Washington and Dakota.

Pushing the civics envelope a little further, the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says there’s also a Combined Statistical Area (CSA) definition that gives the Twin Cities a total of 21 counties by picking up outlining metro and “micropolitan” areas like St. Cloud, Faribault-Northfield, Red Wing, Hutchinson, and Owatonna. The all-in population of the CSA is 4.1 million people. This still pales in comparison to the four-state New York-Newark CSA that boasts 23.5 million+ people. It’s all relative. Big is big. But a farmer in rural St. Croix or Pierce may not agree that he or she is remotely included in any sort of metro designation.

Back to construction cranes. Bridge building historians remind residents of the mega-cranes brought to the St. Croix River in April 2016. Construction on the St. Croix Crossing had fallen behind schedule so massive “ringer” cranes were dispatched. The river project enjoyed the notoriety having two of the four ringer cranes in North America at its construction site. Their 660-ton capacity made quick work of lifting 180-ton bridge segments into place. At the peak of river crossing project, as many as 14 cranes were operating along with 400 workers.

And how do contractors speed up work on large-scale construction projects? Bird, plane, or construction crane? The $50 million Hudson Medical Center north of I94 along Carmichael Road in Hudson has had a crane on site since October 2021. It was used to set concrete wall, floor, and roof panels into place. Just up the street at Vine and Carmichael are two cranes that complement each other at a large apartment project. Other cranes will pop up around the county, too.

The St. Croix Valley’s landscape is changing. It’s a sign of growth and progress, especially relating to commercial activities. The greater east metro area is vibrant. It’s a preferred locale and address. Here’s to construction cranes. They are now common sights.

Double Digit Traveler Spending Increase in 2021

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Greater St. Croix Valley Has Double Digit Traveler Spending Increase in 2021
State’s 2021 Tourism Spending Rises +31 Percent to $12.85 Billion

Traveler spending in St. Croix County increased from $90.3 million in 2020 to an estimated $113.3 million in 2021 (a +25.4% increase) according to an annual analysis released June 8th by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. The total economic impact from travelers in St. Croix was also up, rising from $158.1 million in 2020 to $188 million in 2021 (up +18.7%). Spending from travelers and tourists supported an estimated 1,836 jobs in the county (up +5.1% from 2020) and generated $12.8 million in state and local taxes (up +12.4% from 2020).

Statewide, travelers spent an estimated $12.85 billion in 2021, an increase of +31.1% from 2020. The total economic impact from tourists in Wisconsin during 2021 was estimated at $20.9 billion (an increase of +21% percent from 2020). Tourism and traveler-supported employment in Wisconsin in 2021 increased +7.9% to 169,707 jobs. Tourism also provided the state and local units of government with tax revenues of $1.39 billion in 2021, up from $1.16 billion in 2020 (an increase of +19.1%).

Despite the increases in 2021, traveler and tourism spending is below pre-COVID levels of 2019.

St. Croix, Polk, Pierce counties comprise the Greater St. Croix Valley in Wisconsin. Visitor spending in 2021 for the region was estimated at $241.0 million compared to $197.5 million in 2020 (a +21.5% increase). 2021 spending in the Greater St. Croix Valley includes St. Croix’s estimated $113.3 million, $96.3 million in Polk, and $31.4 million in Pierce. Because of the Greater St. Croix Valley’s close proximity to the Twin Cities metro area, many visitors from Minnesota enjoy day trips to the three counties and return to their homes without incurring lodging expenses. Local overnight stays would greatly increase traveler spending in the Greater St. Croix Valley.

The total economic impact from travelers and visitors to the Greater St. Croix Valley in 2021 was estimated at $383 million, compared to $330 million in 2020 (a +16.1% increase). Impact per county includes $188 million in St. Croix, $125 million in Polk, and $47 million in Pierce.

Tourism-related employment in the Greater St. Croix Valley for 2021 was estimated at 3,359 jobs (up +7.38% from 2020) and includes 1,836 in St. Croix, 1,097 in Polk, and 426 in Pierce.

2021 state and local tax revenue attributable to visitors and travelers in the Greater St. Croix Valley was estimated at $25.0 million (up +12.6% from 2020) and includes $12.8 million from St. Croix, $8.9 million from Polk, and $3.3 million from Pierce.

Milwaukee is the state’s top county for visitor spending, estimated at $1.77 billion in 2021. Other counties in the Top 10 includes Sauk ($1.48 billion); Dane ($1.05 billion); Waukesha ($740.1 million); Brown ($632.7 million); Walworth ($594.5 million); Door ($423.0 million); Outagamie ($312.2 million); Vilas ($268.7 million); and La Crosse ($262.6 million).

Tourism is one of Wisconsin’s top three industries along with manufacturing and agriculture.

Read the interactive summary from Tourism at https://www.industry.travelwisconsin.com/research/economic-impact/.

Total Reward Strategies Zoom recording

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Total Reward Strategies

On Wednesday, June 8, 2022, Linda Skoglund, Managing Partner and Alicia Schwartz, Benefits Consultant at JA Counter, an Alera Group Company held a conversation on total rewards strategies.

You can watch the recording here until July 8, 2022. You can download the presentation slides here and the 2022 Benchmarking Overview here.

In this one hour conversation, Linda & Alicia discussed trends regarding benefits, compensation and company culture and how enlightened employers are differentiating themselves from their competitors.

Dads, Naps, and ATMs


Dads, Naps, and ATMs


2022 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Father’s Day as an official national observance in the U.S., thanks President Richard Nixon’s 1972 proclamation. “Ladies first” as they say, meaning the recognition of Mother’s Day came 58 years earlier from President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

A Hall of Fame for Dads likely does not exist, but it should, covering all the bases, including compassion (“kid, you’re not hurt, get back in the game”), understanding (“kid, when I was your age . . .”), protection (“kid, let me know who’s bullying you”), leadership (“kid, follow me, I’ll go first”), industrious (“kid, it can be fixed with duct tape”), provider (“kid, let’s order a pizza”), and adventurous (“kid, don’t tell your mom”).

In reality, it’s Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Offspring Day 24/7/365. Dads and moms lack manuals entitled, How To. It gets figured out. Mistakes are made. Kids grow up. And the cycle repeats itself, at which time dads and moms become proud grandparents.

Here’s to dads, fathers, father figures, and grandpas in Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley and around the globe. On June 19th, here’s to burgers, brats, weenies, and steaks on the grill. A thirst-quenching pint. Maybe two. A baseball game, amateur or pro. Eighteen holes of golf (a good walk spoiled). A boat or dock, and fishing poles. And here are some light-hearted reflections for Father’s Day 2022:

“I’m a Dad, Grandpa, and a Veteran. Nothing Scares Me” -Unknown

“Because I said so.” -Universal Dad

“I don’t need Google® – my kids know everything.” -Unnamed North Hudson, WI resident

“My daughter got me a ‘World’s Best Dad’ mug. So we know she’s sarcastic.” -Bob Odenkirk.

“Dad taught me everything I know. Unfortunately, he didn’t teach me everything he knows.” -Al Unser

“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.” -Charles Wadsworth

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” -Mark Twain

“I just taught my kids about taxes by eating 38 percent of their ice cream.” -Conan O’Brien

“How do you spell Dad? Answer: ATM.” -Universal Dad

“Remember: What Dad really wants is a nap. Really.” -Dave Barry

Cheers to all Dads, past, present, and future!