Lifetime Skills: Lemonade


Lifetime Skills: Lemonade


The fast talking economic development guy in Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley has some curious habits. He tracks the date, time and location of the first robin, usually sighted in mid-March. The same process is followed when the season’s first backyard fawn is spotted. He also keeps a keen eye on the first neighborhood lemonade stand of the year.

The stand was observed a couple weeks ago and coincided with the end of the school year. The fast talker is a lemonade critic. He rarely buys. With his business development background, an assessment scorecard is used and includes factors like location (mid-block or corner), catchy name, pre-stand and post-stand signage (Lemonade Just Ahead and/or Turn Around You Missed It), enthusiasm, hours, and competitive pricing.

The stand got high marks. It was named Lightning Lemonade. It appeared to be operated by three young ladies, or maybe two, and one of them may have been settling a customer’s dispute with a headlock and scissors hold. The lack of an umbrella was a minor deduction on the scorecard. At fifty cents for a very generous glass, the price point was attractive. What, no ice cubes? Another deduction.

The stand’s operators were ready for action as soon as the fast talker’s vehicle stopped. In fact, the pitcher and glass were being readied for what seemed was a sure-thing order. The fast talker urged the pourer to s-t-o-p!

Constructive comments were offered in lieu of an order. A tip jar was missing. The fast talker strongly suggested getting one and later parted with a dollar bill. He got the low-down on how business was going and where the profits would be used. He left with encouraging words, “Keep up the good work, ladies. We need more entrepreneurs.” He was not sure the sophisticated word – entrepreneur – was being processed. He clarified by saying, “We need more business people like you.”

All too soon those entrepreneurs – ahem – business people – will learn about rules and regulations, sometimes the hard way. Did they remember to apply for the necessary permits and inspections? What about the stand’s setbacks from the street? And both the county and state are expecting their own sweet taste of the action from sales tax collections.

Sometimes taxpayers wonder about commonsense action coming from Madison or Washington, D.C. But almost four years ago, Wisconsin’s governor signed a bill allowing children to legally operate lemonade stands. Anyone under the age of 18 is permitted to run them on private property without a permit and without fear of running afoul of the law. Apparently running afoul of regulations has happened in other states. No word if Lightning Lemonade was a test case. Sales in Wisconsin are limited to $2,000 per year. Oh, the law prevents kiddos from pedaling potentially hazardous foods like egg salad. Wisconsin’s bill enjoyed bipartisan support from both sides of the political aisle. Hurray!

From lemons to lifetime skills, here’s to the innocence of the neighborhood lemonade stand. Here’s to young entrepreneurs or business people if it’s more understandable. Here’s to $2,000 in summer sales. Here’s to a tip jar. Hold the egg salad.

May 2023 Unemployment Rate is 2.8%

Trending News

St. Croix County’s May 2023 Unemployment Rate at 2.8%

On June 21st, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced the preliminary May 2023 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 2.8%, which is lower than April’s final rate of 2.9% and the final rate of 3.4% for March. One year ago, the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 2.8%.

DWD said preliminary unemployment rates from April to May decreased or stayed the same in 28 of 72 counties. Year-over-year, rates in 64 counties decreased or stayed the same. Current rates range from 2.0% in Lafayette to 5.5% in Menominee and Iron.

Preliminary unemployment rates from April to May decreased in all of Wisconsin’s 35 largest cities. Year-over-year, the rates declined or stayed the same in 27 cities. Rates ranged from 2.1% in Madison, Muskego, and Sun Prairie to 4.4% in Beloit.

The five counties with the lowest unemployment rates in May include Lafayette (2.0%), Calumet (2.1%), Clark (also at 2.1%), Dane (also at 2.1%), and Green (also at 2.1%). Menomonee had the highest rate in May at 5.5%, followed by Iron (also at 5.5%), Forest (4.2%), Douglas (also at 4.2%), and Adams (4.1%).

St. Croix, Pierce, and Polk counties comprise Wisconsin’s Greater St. Croix Valley. In addition to St. Croix’s rate of 2.8%, May’s preliminary rate in Pierce was 2.6% and Polk’s rate was 3.1%.

St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the 15-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metro area. The May 2023 unemployment rate for the Twin Cities was estimated at 2.9%, which is higher than April’s final rate of 2.7% and the final rate of 2.8% for March. The unemployment rate for the Twin Cities was 2.1% in May 2022.

Nearby Washington County in Minnesota reported a preliminary rate of 2.7% in May, while Dakota County, MN also reported a rate of 2.7% and Chisago County, MN had a rate of 3.1%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Wisconsin in May was estimated at 2.4%, which is the same as the final rate for April and lower than the final rate of 2.5% for March. One year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 2.9%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Minnesota in May was estimated at 2.9%, which is higher than the final rate of 2.8% for April and March. Minnesota’s seasonally-adjusted rate one year ago was 2.4%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in the U.S. for May was estimated at 3.7%, which is higher than April’s final rate of 3.4% and March’s final rate of 3.5%. One year ago, the U.S. rate (seasonally adjusted) was estimated at 3.6%.

Wisconsin’s preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for May was estimated at 65.1%, which is higher than April’s final rate of 64.8% and March’s final rate of 64.6%. One year ago, Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate was 65.3%. The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for the U.S. in May was estimated at 62.6%, which is the same as the final rate for April and March. One year ago, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. was 62.3%.

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

Traveler Spending 2022

Trending News

Greater St. Croix Valley Has Strong Traveler Spending Increase in 2022

State’s 2022 Tourism Spending Rises +15.7% to $14.88 Billion

Traveler spending in St. Croix County increased from $113.3 million in 2021 to an estimated $127.8 million in 2022 (a +12.8% increase) according to a June 6th economic analysis released by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. The total economic impact from travelers in St. Croix was also up, rising from $188 million in 2021 to $208 million in 2022 (up +11.0%). Spending from travelers and tourists supported an estimated 1,862 jobs in the county (up +1.5% from 2021) and generated $13.5 million in state and local taxes (up +5.59% from 2021).

Statewide, travelers spent an estimated $14.88 billion in 2022, an increase of +15.7% from 2021. The total economic impact from tourists in Wisconsin during 2022 was estimated at $23.655 billion (an increase of +13% from 2021). 2022’s spending and total economic impact surpasses previous records set in 2019, considered the last pre-pandemic year ($13.67 billion of spending and $22.2 billion in economic impact). Tourism and traveler-supported employment in Wisconsin in 2022 increased +2.9% to 174,623 jobs. Tourism also provided the state and local units of government with tax revenues of $1.52 billion in 2022, up +9.2% from $1.39 billion in 2021.

St. Croix, Polk, Pierce counties comprise the Greater St. Croix Valley in Wisconsin. Visitor spending in 2022 for the region was estimated at $269.9 million compared to $241.0 million in 2021 (a +12.0% increase). 2022 spending in the Greater St. Croix Valley includes St. Croix’s estimated $127.8 million, $108.4 million in Polk, and $33.7 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. Just like Wisconsin, St. Croix County set a new traveler spending record previously achieved in 2019 (spending of $127.8 million in 2022 v. $119.6 million in 2019). The three-county St. Croix Valley also set a new spending record in 2022 compared to 2019 ($269.9 million in 2022 v. $245.8 million in 2019).

The total economic impact from travelers and visitors to the Greater St. Croix Valley in 2022 was estimated at $423 million, compared to $383 million in 2021 (a +10.44% increase). Total economic impact per county includes $208 million in St. Croix, $156 million in Polk, and $59 million in Pierce.

Tourism-related employment in the Greater St. Croix Valley for 2022 was estimated at 3,364 jobs (up +0.18% from 2021) and includes and includes 1,862 in St. Croix, 1,079 in Polk, and 423 in Pierce.

2022 state and local tax revenue attributable to visitors and travelers in the Greater St. Croix Valley was estimated at $26.1 million (up +4.4% from 2021) and includes $13.5 million from St. Croix, $9.2 million from Polk, and $3.4 million from Pierce.

Milwaukee is the state’s top county for visitor spending, estimated at $2.19 billion in 2022. Other counties in the Top 10 includes Sauk ($1.60 billion); Dane ($1.35 billion); Waukesha ($852.2 million); Walworth ($765.0 million); Brown ($764.5 million); Door ($466.5 million); Outagamie ($389.4 million); La Crosse ($304.6 million); and Vilas ($288.4 million).

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

Read the summary from the Department of Tourism at

Father’s Day 2023: Consumers Meet Atlas


Father’s Day 2023: Consumers Meet Atlas


U.S. consumers are a lot like Atlas, the character in Greek mythology. Atlas was a Titan and they ruled the universe until Zeus, a fellow Titan, joined the Olympians and defeated the Titans for control. Except for Atlas, all Titans were banished to a faraway placed called Tartarus which served as an eternal prison. Zeus enslaved Atlas and he was condemned to hold the Earth on his shoulders forever. No coffee breaks. No PTO days. No Google searches on the internet.

Consumers meanwhile are committed (condemned?) to propping up the U.S. economy. Economists say consumer spending comprises as much as 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Econ 101 scholars will recall GDP is defined as the measure of the monetary value of goods and services produced in a region, state, or country over a given period of time.

While the GDP information is valuable, it is neither a headache nor heartache. Even armchair economists expect the GDP to rise from quarter to quarter or year over year. Consumers will find a way to spend, even if it hurts. Meanwhile, for months, economists have forecast headwinds in the economy while searching for the iceberg named Recession. In mid-May, one news outlet reported consumer spending in March declined compared to one year earlier. This suggests consumers are more cautious, mostly due to inflation. Prices continue to rise or have not settled back to more normal numbers. Many products are must haves and consumers continue to purchase them. Translation: Tired old Atlas continues to carry the Earth with no rest in sight, but consumers may be seeking a rest area located miles away.

Headwinds aside, consumers will find a way for purchases. Case in point was holiday shopping in 2022, starting with Black Friday through December 24th. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reported a record $936.3 billion was spent. Along came the so-called Big Football Game on February 12th, and another record of $16.5 billion was spent on everything from appetizers to team apparel. Football yielded to Valentine’s Day, just two days later, and $25.9 billion was spent, making it still another record for Cupid and romantics. Mothers got their day back on May 14th. Guess what? Another record. This time $35.7 billion was spent on well-deserving moms.

Consumer spending alert! Father’s Day is near – June 18th to be precise. As always, it’s the thought that counts, and youngsters through young adults and beyond will come through. A record of $20+ billion will be spent this year honoring dad, a/k/a pops, big guy, papi, and commander in chief.

What does dad want? In Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley there are plenty of choices. Within easy driving distance there’s major league baseball plus a minor league affiliate, town ball, and rebel ball options. A four+ hour drive gets fans to Milwaukee and the Brewers. Try steak, seafood, and poultry on the deck at home, even if the big guy won’t yield the grilling utensils. Let him do the cooking, but agree the ala carte options fall to the younger generation. Golf. Driving range. Boating. Fishing. Breweries. Distilleries. Wineries. Ride a bike. Rent one. Try the loop trail from the Lift Bridge in Stillwater-Houlton to the St. Croix Crossing. Enjoy the views. First one to find the survey marker designating Wisconsin and Minnesota gets ice cream. The list goes on.

Regardless of the choices, know that resilient consumers as strong as Atlas will ensure a successful Father’s Day 2023.

Brown Eyed Girls – Dairy Month


Brown Eyed Girls – Dairy Month


At last count, Wisconsin was home to around 1.28 million dairy cows and 6,000 dairy farms, thus ensuring its place as America’s Dairyland, as noted on every ’sconnie license plate. The number of cows a/k/a brown eyed girls may surprise a few folks who reside in sustainable urban neighborhoods. Milk, cheese, and ice cream come from grocery stores and convenience stores, right?

Governor Tony Evers’ annual Dairy Month proclamation estimates dairy farmers in Wisconsin produced 32 billion (with a “b”) pounds of milk in 2022, representing 14 percent of all milk produced in the U.S.

Gov. Evers also estimates the dairy sector contributes $45.6 billion (“b”) to the state’s economy. That output is a full 22 percent of Wisconsin’s total gross domestic product (GDP) of $306.5 billion.

St. Croix County is home to an estimated 17,100 dairy cows, while Pierce has 15,000 and Polk has 14,000, all according to UW Extension. Add’em up. It equates to a major city.

The dairy stats keep getting better. With nearly 1,200 licensed cheesemakers, Wisconsin is also the nation’s top cheese producing state. Rhetorically, who doesn’t like a daily/weekly helping of Colby, Havarti, Asiago, or Muenster? Hold the Gouda, please! There’s a haunting fable about St. Croix’s fast-talking economic development guy having never sampled Wisconsin’s little-known sixth food group – cheese curds – until he made the move from Minnesota decades ago. He’s made up for lost opportunities, thanks in part to a certain statin prescription.

St. Croix and Pierce counties have been included in the federal definition of the 15-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area for a long time. It’s the nation’s 16th most populous region with 3.7 million residents. Nearby Polk County will likely be aligned with the Twin Cities in a few years, but the decision rests with metrics used by the federal Office of Management and Budget. Regardless, there’s plenty of rural in the valley to go along with the metro designation.

Rural means room for dairies, corn and soy fields, hogs and pigs, and poultry and eggs. There’s a prohibitive wagering chance that dairies existed long before adjacent residential subdivisions. The dairy farmer, however, is less likely to call a town hall or county department to complain about noise from generators and nail guns. Don’t mess with the milking schedule for fifteen hundred brown eyed girls. They much prefer the lyrics of Santa Lucia to the steady pop-pop-pop of roofers. One cow can produce six to seven gallons of milk per day and more than 2,200 gallons per year. Pop-pop-pop messes with production. Turn up Santa Lucia, Dean the dairy farmer!

Dairy operators are deeply involved with technology. Farmer Dean’s granddaughter operates the dairy, making her the fifth generation. A 60-stall rotary milking system was recently installed. Brown eyed girls are creatures of habit, so a merry-go-round parlor came with hesitation. The ladies are more comfortable after each rotary milking. Says who? Their cud chewing is a give-away. Up the road, dairy owners Kevin and Roxann installed a sand recovery system, making it the first of its kind in the U.S. for the Danish equipment maker. A comfortable cow is a productive one and sand is considered ideal bedding. The sand is washed and separated from manure for reuse, saving the farm 750+ truckloads of sand annually. Next on the horizon is technology turning manure into renewable natural gas and fertilizer through a process called anaerobic digestion. Hint: multi-million dollar systems use bacteria to break down organic matter like manure and food waste in the absence of oxygen. Second hint: an anaerobic digester is basically a mechanical stomach. Stay tuned.

Dairies are not your father’s Oldsmobile. They are at the intersection of nature and science, driving a huge network of equipment manufacturers, processing plants, veterinarians, cooperatives, milk haulers, and genetics and software companies.

Here’s to milk, cheese, and ice cream in Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley. Here’s to a sixth food group. Here’s to brown eyed girls on the carousel swaying to Santa Lucia.