College Student Overcomes Donut Barrier

SCEDC BLOG

College Student Overcomes Donut Barrier

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Entrepreneurship is a tangled road filled with barriers as college student Jayson Gonzalez recently discovered. In a classic Little Guy versus Big Corporation, Gonzalez found himself crossways with the donut-maker, Krispy Kreme.

Jayson is a 21-year college student at Metro State University in St. Paul, Minnesota. College and financial struggles seem to go hand in hand. His goal is to graduate from Metro State debt free. But how?

If necessity is the mother of all inventions, then it’s a sweet tooth in Jayson’s case. Gonzalez developed a loyal customer base for Krispy Kreme donuts, which had closed its retail outlets in Minnesota 10+ years ago. The masses were willing to pay a premium for the donuts, so Jayson made weekly road trips to a suburban Ankey, Iowa Krispy Kreme shop and bought them in bulk. He did not receive a discount on his purchases and his 2008 Ford Focus carried as many as 100 boxes of the sweet delights. At a dozen donuts per box, Jayson the Entrepreneur crossed the Iowa-Minnesota state line in the name of commerce surrounded by 1,200 donuts.

Just like Business Planning 101, Jayson had expenses that included gas and food. They were offset by donut sales, said to range from $17 to $20 a box. Several news outlets reported a few customers paid almost $100 or over eight dollars per donut. They liked the donuts but loved helping a college student even more. To finish the Business Plan, Income less Expenses Equals Gross Profit. Debt free college appeared to be in reach. Go Jayson Go.

Oh, Oh. News coverage about Enterprising Jayson resulted in a fateful call from a Krispy Kreme regional office. He was told the bulk sale and transport of the donuts created a liability for the company. The terms ‘cease’ and ‘desist’ likely came up in the conversation. Rather than fight it, Gonzalez was said to be looking into new ways to pay for college. In short, the entrepreneurial spirit is an enduring one.

But wait, this story has a happy ending. The corporate-types at Krispy Kreme and Mr. Gonzalez recently announced a partnership to allow for the weekly trips to the Iowa store. Jayson will be become an independent contractor for Krispy Kreme. The corporate-types wanted to ensure their donuts maintained so-called high product quality standards as well as consistent delivery to Jayson’s customers in Minnesota. Sweeter yet, Krispy Kreme will donate 500 dozen donuts to Jayson as he jumps back in to the road trips. That’s 6,000 donuts!

The Little Guy and Big Corporation both come out as winners. Jayson keeps his debt-free college dream alive while Krispy Kreme gained an independent contractor and did not have to fight a public relations battle.

Maybe there’s a St. Croix Valley donut outlet in Jayson’s future? Let’s hope so. Here’s to a rising entrepreneur named Jayson Gonzalez.

Farming’s New Anthem: She-I-O

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Farming’s New Anthem: She-I-O

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

As nursery rhymes go, Old MacDonald Had a Farm is one of the newer ones, going back to around 1917. The opening lines put agriculture in perspective back in the day, “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O; And on his farm he had a cow, E-I-E-I-O . . . .” Fast forward to today and the numbers show the average farmer in the U.S. is white, male, and nearly 60-years old, according to 2017’s Census of Agriculture, released every five years. They say farming gets in one’s blood and there’s no leaving. A farmer in his mid- to late 70s may ask, “What does that 58-year old kid up the road know about farming?”

The Ag Census had a big surprise. While women have been a big part of agriculture and farming for centuries, it was mostly behind-the-scenes. The census shows the number of female farmers in the U.S. has tripled in the last 30-years. Female ranchers and farmers increased almost 27% from 2012 to 2017, to around 1.23 million. Women now represent 36% of all farmers. Many are directly involved in making day-to-day decisions, as well as record-keeping and financial management.

Agriculture runs deep in the St. Croix Valley, from dairies to beef cattle, corn, beans, and maybe the latest cash crop, hemp. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at UW-River Falls (River Falls, WI) consistently ranks as one of the top undergraduate ag programs in the nation. The previous state ag secretary was from the valley and is female. Her brother also served as ag secretary.

All of this brings us to Land O’ Lakes (LOL), a farmer-owned cooperative based in Arden Hills, Minnesota. It is led by a trailblazing CEO, Beth Ford. Just over a year ago, LOL’s dairy foods sector rolled out a new branding campaign, called All Together Better. The company teamed up with country singer Maggie Rose and songwriter Liz Rose to create a rework of Old MacDonald. Called She-I-O, the song and video help illustrate the changing face of agriculture. LOL donated $1 to project partner Feeding America for every She-I-O share, tag, or comment on its social media channels. The $100,000 goal was reached a month early.

The She-I-O video is still available for viewing, using key search words Maggie Rose, She-I-O and women farmers. Enjoy the lyrics. Ladies, sing it loud. Sing it proud:

Sun comes up, she’s out of bed
Whole world swimmin’ in her head
Now you can’t tell her she can’t do it all
She’s five-foot-two and ten feet tall
She had a dream
It made her strong
Works as hard as her days are long
And Old MacDonald had a daughter, She-I-E-I-O

Look what she does with what he taught her, She-I-E-I-O
She’s got the future in her hands
Proud her roots are where she stands
Working on a greater plan
Showing us all if she can do it
WE can
She makes the most of her strong arms
She feeds the babies and runs the farm
She’s moving mountains and catching stars
She’s every woman and every heart
SHE (SHE) I (I) SHE I SHE I SHE-I-E-I-OH

Can’t hold her back
With what she’s not
She uses everything she’s got
And on her farm her family grows
She shows her kids everything she knows
So when she’s older herself someday
They’ll make her proud and know the way
She’s the future of the world (SHE-I-E-I-O)
Don’t ever say she’s just a girl (SHE-I-E-I-O)
We’ve come along and we’re taking it farther (SHE-I-E-I-O)
With today’s new old MacDonald farmer
SHE-I-E-I-OH!

Young Trio Provide Inspiration, Hope

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Young Trio Provide Inspiration, Hope

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

A bold claim suggests America’s youth has never had so many opportunities. An expanded claim says the same for the youth around the globe. Opportunities run the gamut, from technology to education, and from mobility to part- and full-time jobs. Our youth may be living in the best of times.

There’s a suspicion that opportunities are squandered; youth is wasted on the young. The term entitlement comes to mind. A $1.60 minimum wage job tackling a mountain of dirty dishes long ago has transitioned to very similar jobs at $10 or $12 an hour that go unfilled. Party-line telephone service yielded to the latest and greatest cell phones. Who walks or rides a bike when a gently-used commuter SUV sits in the driveway? Maybe it’s generational; moms and dads proclaim their very own children enjoy a softer life than they had.

Just when hope appears lost, three inspiring stories involving our youth and young adults emerge. Yes, there’s a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a beacon from an oncoming freight train.

Meet Kade Lovell, a nine-year old runner. He entered a recent five kilometer (5K) race and somewhere on the course made a wrong turn. Perhaps leading the pack, young Kade had no one to follow. He did not stop. He did not turn around. He did not search for a map on Google. He kept going. Kade won the 10K race even though he signed up for the shorter distance. His pace was a very respectable 7:45 over 6.2 miles. Here’s to Kade.

Meet Casey O’Brien, a typical college student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Oh, Casey is a non-scholarship member of the (Fighting) Golden Gophers football squad. He says he’s third on the depth chart as a holder for extra-point kicks. Oh, Casey is a four-time cancer survivor. For those having six spare minutes, ESPN recently profiled a courageous Casey O’Brien. Keep a hankie handy. More recently, he was nominated for the 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Casey jokes about getting on the field for just one extra point attempt. The current holder said they may be working on a secret plan to pull this off. It involves the first two holders suddenly misplacing their helmets, opening the door for Casey. Here’s to Casey. Please, please execute that not-so-secret plan.

Meet Carson King, another typical (or atypical) college student. Before the Iowa-Iowa State football game a few weeks ago, Carson held up a placard to a national audience. The nearly broke college student asked for a little beer money. He figured someone would bite. They did. A few hundred dollars became a few thousand. Corporate sponsors jumped in. As the monetary snowball rolled down the hill, Carson found himself at the center of a national spotlight. He announced he’d keep the first two thousand dollars and donate the rest to charity. At last count the fund was at $1.1 million and still climbing. Oh, Carson got a year’s supply of his favorite beer from a national brewer, too. Here’s to Carson.

Those dang kids and young adults. There is hope. There is inspiration. Go forward Kade, Casey, and Carson. Do bigger and better things. And, upon further reflection, there are plenty of good, normal kids who are not doing remarkable things, but are fine young people just the same. Keep going.

A New Tapestry

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A New Tapestry

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

According to Wiki, the word tapestry is Old French used as a noun to refer to textile fabrics formed by weaving colored threads to create pictures or designs. Sometimes tapestries were used to portray a series of events or stories. A more modern use of the term links it to cultures, races, and customs, along the lines of ‘the world is a tapestry of individual uniqueness all woven together’.

That descriptor gets us to a mapping and data analytics company called Esri. The company’s tagline is the science of where. Software is a powerful tool. Esri uses geographic information system (GIS) mapping to help their subscribers see what others can’t. This includes spatial analysis, mapping and visualization, 3D GIS, real time GIS, imagery and remote sensing and data management.

Where’s this going? Esri launched its own version of woven threads to tell stories, called Tapestry Segmentation, to better understand customers’ lifestyle choices, what they buy, and how they spend their free time. Esri’s Tapestry service gives its users the insights to help identify the best customers, optimal sites, and underserved markets, leading to higher response rates, avoiding less profitable areas, and investing resources more wisely. As Esri proclaims, Tapestry Segmentation is the Fabric of America’s Neighborhoods.

And now the fun part. Esri uses 14 LifeModes to describe America’s Neighborhoods. They range from Affluent Estates to Cozy Country Living, and from Middle Ground to MidTown Singles. Each LifeModes has numerous subsets. The Family Landscapes LifeMode includes a subset called Soccer Moms and the Rustic Outposts LifeMode includes Diners & Miners.

And now for the really fun and intriguing part. Esri gives online browsers the ability to search communities and neighborhoods free of charge to learn a tapestry’s local story. The zip code 54016 for Hudson, Wisconsin shows 26.4% are Soccer Moms, 22.4% are Bright Young Professionals, and 15.2% are Savvy Suburbanites, all with detailed summaries. New Richmond’s 54017 zip yields Middleburg, Rustbelt Traditions, and Old and Newcomers as the subsets. Results for Baldwin are Middleburg, Rustbelt Traditions, and Green Acres. Are these communities, all within close proximity, close reflections of the descriptors? If there’s a zip code, Esri has it covered with a Tapestry Segmentation. Even the Goliath-like Twin Cities directly west of St. Croix County, Wisconsin is carved up into market segments.

Use this link for a test drive of favorite neighborhoods and zips, www.esri.com/en-us/arcgis/products/tapestry-segmentation/zip-lookup. Enter a zip code and select a couple of fields like population density, median age, or graduate and professional degrees to get started. Half the fun is reading the subsets. At another link, Esri has all the communities and neighbors in America mapped, and as they download, it’s easy to see why their program includes the Tapestry name. Give the two-page download a look here https://www.esri.com/library/brochures/tapestry-segmentation.pdf.

Ersi’s GIS tool is compelling technology. The consumer spending of Soccer Moms is far different than, say, Green Acres. For prospective investors contemplating new market areas, the results help predict the best locations and a better bottom line. It’s proof once again there’s an exacting science behind most capital investment decisions.

 

The New Buzz: Livability

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The New Buzz: Livability

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

St. Croix’s economic development guy remains a fast talker but feels slightly older with another birthday on the calendar. Many changes have been witnessed in a long career that predates laptops, personal computers, fax machines, cell phones, but not electricity. A denial was made about knowing Abraham Lincoln, even though Abe was rumored to have a nasty jump hook on the basketball court.

In the field of economic development there have been numerous changes, too. Back in the day, every community promoted a high quality of life (QOL) including the best fire department, school system, and main street entertainment district.

Alas, QOL yielded to a more modern term, Livability. And Livability spawned the Livability Index (LI), as launched by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The wealth and buying power of retirees continues to increase, causing AARP to be right in the middle of a new trend. LI may prove to be a useful resource for ‘seasoned citizens’ buying a second or third home in new areas, ideally where modern conveniences are abundant.

AARP launched its online and user friendly tool for individuals seeking a LI score by address, zip code, or community. The output is an overall livability score for a desired area. AARP says its LI is the first tool of its kind to measure livability broadly at the neighborhood level for the entire country, and it is intended to inform and encourage people to take action to make their communities more livable. AARP uses seven livability categories, including housing (affordability and access), neighborhood (access to life, work, and play), transportation (safe and convenient options), environment (clean air and water), health (prevention, access, and quality), engagement (civic and social engagement), and opportunity (inclusion and possibilities).

OK, OK. How did St. Croix Valley communities score? Have some fun and search favorite communities or zip codes at https://livabilityindex.aarp.org/ as the economic development guy wishes to remain somewhat neutral. In broader areas however, St. Croix County, Wisconsin scored a 55 out of 100, but directly across the river, Washington County, Minnesota earned a 60. Madison, Wisconsin had a nice round 66, but coveted Edina in Minnesota got a 60. Austin, Minnesota (home of Hormel) is scored at 54 and Austin, Texas (home of Hippies, Pickers, Slackers, and Geeks) is at 57. Web users could have fun with this tool.

Upon further thought, the economic development guy likes the science behind AARP’s system. Subjective quality of life promotions may have fallen by the wayside now that young families, working adults, and retirees can analyze communities and neighborhoods themselves. So can Hormel’ers and Hippies.

R-E-A-D Ethel Johnson’s Legacy

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R-E-A-D Ethel Johnson’s Legacy

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Ethel is not a common name, even though St. Croix’s fast-talking economic development guy claims it was his maternal grandmother’s name and the middle name of one of his sisters. Internet sources say Ethel is Old English, meaning noble and strength, or noble maiden, old counsel, or sage.

Armed with that bit of information, the e.d. guy was surprised to hear from a business associate after a few years of radio silence. Through retirement, the colleague settled into a variety of new interests, including treasurer of the UW-River Falls branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). AAUW has the admirable mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. Now that’s noble and strong.

The colleague did not expect the fast-talker to know Mrs. Ethel Louise Johnson, who passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 96. The story of Ethel unfolded. Raised in rural Wisconsin, she was committed to education throughout her entire life. By train, Ethel came to the River Falls Normal School, now UW-River Falls, with a reported ten cents in her possession. Ethel located housing where she could work in exchange for room and board. She earned a paid tuition as class Salutatorian and received her Associate Teaching Degree in 1942. Her first teaching job was at a one room school in Woodville, Wisconsin. Ethel continued her education and received her Bachelor of Science in Education, followed by a Masters in Reading Education – both from UW-River Falls. After marriage and three children, Ethel retired from a 43-year teaching career at the end of the 1991-92 school year. She was in her early 70s.

The last 33-years of Ethel’s teaching tenure were spent in the Hudson, Wisconsin school district. She developed many parts of the reading program in Hudson. It was a love of reading that the River Falls AAUW branch and friends of Ethel established a fund to honor her memory. Called the Ethel Johnson Literacy Grant, funding is available for projects to enhance the reading skills of St. Croix and Pierce County residents.

There is some urgency with the 2019 grant cycle. Applications are accepted September 15-October 25. A panel of AAUW members will review them, and awards are made by November 10th, based on merit of objectives and population served. Grants are capped at maximum of $400 and prospective applicants can learn more at https://riverfalls-wi.aauw.net .

Daughter-in-law Jean Johnson oversees the fund. She said, “Helping others was a priority for Ethel. Offering this grant through AAUW-River Falls is a fitting way to honor her memory.”

Forward-thinking employers in the St. Croix Valley continue to seek top level talent. This includes hiring associates with good reading, math, and soft (people) skills. Ethel Louise Johnson likely did not envision a connection between her love of education and reading with the technical aspects of advanced manufacturing. Thanks to her wisdom and friends at AAUW, Ethel Johnson and her namesake literacy program make big impacts to St. Croix’s economic future. Ethel Johnson was one strong, noble lady.

The Talk

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The Talk

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Dads and sons usually have matter-of-fact relationships. If the kid gets tackled too hard, a dad may suggest shaking it off before the lad returns to the huddle. It’s matter-of-fact, and sometimes it’s just the facts.

Moms take a different approach in dealing with their sons, perhaps a combo platter of caring, sweetness, and then the tough love.

The conversation below, between a young father and his young son, could have occurred along a main street, or at an ice cream shop, or backyard as a ball was being tossed back and forth. It’s entitled, The Talk, and went something like this:

“So you see son, good manners are important. Should I go through it again?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, please.”

“Yes, please.”

“Exactly.”

Rapid fire from Dad, “Always say please, thank-you, you’re welcome, excuse me, sit-up straight, hold doors open for ladies, if a door is closed, knock first, don’t burp, don’t swear, don’t stare, don’t use bad language, don’t talk with your mouth full, keep your elbows off the table, don’t interrupt, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, on the bus give up your seat to anybody who has trouble standing, . . . bottom line, treat others the way you want to be treated.”

“Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Good.”

“Good talk, son.”

Of course during The Talk on manners, the kiddo has a nose issue that’s resolved the old fashioned way using an index finger.

As a footnote, the conversation was borrowed from the Ad Council’s public service message on children’s oral health. Their message: good parenting is hard to do in two minutes, but brushing twice a day is easier.

If there’s an occasion to have The Talk with a son, the script is written. Add ‘brush your teeth twice a day’ for a more comprehensive list.

In hopes the St. Croix Valley is ranked among the Most Polite in the World, here’s to young men with exceptional manners because of The Talk.

It’s School Supply Time

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It’s School Supply Time

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest retail trade association. NRF’s 2019 survey of back-to-school shopping was released on July 15th and includes some eye-opening figures. A billion dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to, but NRF forecasts total spending on school supplies at $80.7 billion. That’s enough to put a serious dent in mom’s handbag or dad’s money clip.

NRF knows a thing or two about the retail sector. Their 30-second elevator pitch says retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, which contributes $2.6 trillion to the annual gross domestic product and supports one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. All big numbers. Just remember to keep the M’s, B’s, and T’s straight (millions, billions, and trillions).

NRF breaks its back-to-school shopping into two segments – K-12 and college-bound. Families with kiddos in elementary school through high school will spend a forecasted $696.70 on school supplies. Let’s round it up to $700 to include the bottle of ibuprofen or antacids. Total K-12 spending is estimated at $26.2 billion and that’s down from 2018’s $27.5 billion because fewer surveyed families say they have children in elementary or high schools.

At $239.82, clothing and accessories are the top expense for K-12 shoppers, followed by electronics ($203.44), shoes ($135.96) and supplies ($117.49). The basics like notebooks, pencils, and backpacks, etc., are included in the supplies category. This means some K-12 families are in for a little over $100 if clothing, shoes, and electronics are carryover items from the previous school year. Oh what a dreamer!

Families with college students will likely spend an average of $976.78, a bit higher than 2018’s spending of $942.17, and higher than the previous record spending of $969.88 in 2017. Total spending for college supplies in 2019 is estimated at $54.5 billion and that’s down from 2018’s record $55.3 billion. The theme of fewer young adults in college continues with the surveyed families.

College-bound shopping includes $234.69 for electronics, $148.54 for clothing and accessories, $120.19 for dorm or apartment furnishings, and $98.72 for food. A couple of observations – what’s wrong with last year’s wall posters for the furnishings, and, students should plan on slipping an apple from the campus dining services into a backpack if they need food for their dorm room. Repeat: Oh what a dreamer!

There is a silver lining in mom’s handbag or dad’s money clip. NRF says teens expect to spend an average $36.71 of their money on back-to-school shopping and pre-teens will part with $26.40. This means the younger generation is involved in making buying decisions instead of leaving it up to moms, dads or grandparents.

NRF’s survey from mid-July indicated almost 90 percent of K-12 and college-bound shoppers still had half or more of their purchases left to complete. Forty-nine percent were waiting for the best deals. This may be akin to the lonely shopper in a mall on Christmas Eve as the stores are going dark. Don’t wait too long, consumers.

Whether this year’s shopping is done online or at a big box retailer, keep some of the shopping local, including on main street. Back-to-school spending is huge, almost like another holiday but without a tree or the wrapping paper. Handbag, money clip, or credit card . . . let’s get out there.

The Home Run Trot

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The Home Run Trot

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

For a kid growing up in southern Minnesota hoping he had the right stuff to become a fast-talking economic development guy, baseball’s all-star game signaled the beginning of the end to summer. Farewell summer, we hardly knew ye, meaning a rural school with grades K-12 all under one roof would soon spring back to life.

The all-star game represents the approximate mid-point of baseball’s 162-game season. Players not selected to represent the National or American League welcome the three or four days away from the game. In the olden days, i.e. the 1950s, 60s and 70s, some of the players may have picked up some extra cash at part-time jobs. Things have changed, including, but not limited to, the use of private aircraft to jet away over the break.

The all-star game got the fast-talker thinking about how players circled the bases after hitting a homer, referred to as the home run trot. Black-and-white highlight reels depict George Herman “Babe” Ruth with a choppy stride around the bases. Choppy? Ruth trotted more than 48.5 miles after hitting 714 career home runs. A three home run game for Babe was two-tenths of a mile maintaining that steady but choppy trot.

Other ball players had different approaches to circling the bases. Harmon Killebrew and Henry Aaron were business-like with their trots, reflecting a bygone area.

Pete Rose sprinted around the bases as if the umpire had a starter’s pistol used at track meets.

Kirk Gibson, a former Michigan State football player who found greater success with baseball, had a memorable home run for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series. Two bad knees meant Gibson had one at-bat in the series and it was as a pinch hitter. In dramatic style he made the most of it with a walk-off home run to win the game. Gibson agonizingly circled those bases on painful knees and added a couple of colorful fist pumps around second base for emphasis.

Rickey Henderson put style in his trots, including the bat flip and extra wide turns as he approached each base. Usually talking to himself during his trot, Henderson had a way of showing up the opposing pitcher, the opposing infield players, outfielders, and maybe even the bat boy if his homer was at a visiting stadium.

Those Major League trots are far different than what is witnessed at local playgrounds and high school fields. The home run is less common. The young batter may be between first and second base before realizing the accomplishment. Hands are slapped. There’s pure glee. The sprint may be slowed to include a bouncing stride. And of course there’s a glance to the dugout to gauge the level of approval from teammates. They’ll be waiting at home plate for their congratulations for sure.

In baseball, in life, in business, industry, or classroom there may be the need to break into a mythical home run trot. Have some fun with it. Respect the game.

Lemonade Stand

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Sweet! It’s the Lemonade Stand

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Even in a dairy rich state like Wisconsin, and in the Dairy Month of June, there’s still room for neighborhood lemonade stands in the St. Croix Valley. Running a lemonade stand represents Free Enterprise 101 and the Basics of Entrepreneurship all rolled into one, whether the youthful operators realize it or not. More than one successful business person has said the lowly lemonade stand was their start in the business world.

Of course some stands are subject to over-regulation, i.e. the wrong zoning, lack of a permit, hours of operation, and spontaneous laughter and fun. Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed a law that legalizes lemonade stands. Legalizes? He called it a common sense law, and cited a 2015 incident in which the police shut down a lemonade stand run by a couple of girls who were raising money for a Father’s Day gift. Hooray, common sense prevails.

Profit, loss, cash flow? Who cares? These are little kids with big hearts. Many times the money from lemonade sales goes to worthy causes – the parent’s out-of-pocket share to send a son or daughter to Washington, D.C., or the Ronald McDonald House, or a local food pantry. Don’t forget to tip. A dollar in the tip jar has huge impacts. Better yet, decline the lemony drink and just leave a tip.

Market saturation is occasionally observed. One stand may lead to another, directly across the street. A price war ensues, followed by kids with placards up the street to alert oncoming traffic of the preferred stand. And this is how fast food restaurants end up on three of four corners of an intersection. The fourth corner is perhaps a national chain coffee shop.

Product diversification may be required. Lemonade is morphed into flavored lemonade, or cookies offered for an extra quarter, followed by a candy dish with a note requesting donations. A favorite internet lemonade stand story involves the use of Skittles® to create strawberry lemonade. It seems the stand’s operators found a shortcut with the Skittles® flavoring and boiled them in a mom’s heated foot massage tub.

We live in a great country. Capitalism is alive and well. For some, it starts at an early age along a street with a cardboard stand. Lessons are learned. Weather can be fickle. Competition can be fierce. The strong and determined survive.

Here’s to lemonade stands. Hopefully common sense helps overcome the obstacles.

The Greatest Generation

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The Greatest Generation

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Many recall Tom Brokaw as a news anchor at NBC.

He’s also the author of several books, including The Greatest Generation. Brokaw was among the first to use ‘greatest generation’ to frame Americans who were born in tough times, survived The Great Depression (not to be confused with The Great Recession), got tougher during a World War, returned home, started families, and above all, worked hard to keep America great, long before a similar phrase gained popularity.

The Internet says members of The Greatest Generation were born between 1910 and 1924, making the youngest around 95 years old and the oldest 109. Alas, there are fewer and fewer. For the record, a tough-as-nails WW II veteran rests in peace in a cemetery in southern Minnesota. A certain economic development official in the St. Croix Valley has a connection to him.

A turning point in world history is celebrated each June 6th. It’s called D-Day. Allied Forces converged on the beaches of Normandy France to beat back the German military. This June 6th marks the 75th anniversary of a truly historic event.

On that note, here are a few quotes from Brokaw’s Greatest Generation:

“There has never been a military operation remotely approaching the scale and the complexity of D-Day. It involved 176,000 troops, more than 12,000 airplanes, almost 10,000 ships, boats, landing craft, frigates, sloops, and other special combat vessels–all involved in a surprise attack on the heavily fortified north coast of France, to secure a beachhead in the heart of enemy-held territory so that the march to Germany and victory could begin. It was daring, risky, confusing, bloody, and ultimately glorious.”

“When the war ended, more than twelve million men and women put their uniforms aside and returned to civilian life. They went back to work at their old jobs or started small businesses; they became big-city cops and firemen; they finished their degrees or enrolled in college for the first time; they became schoolteachers.”

“They married in record numbers and gave birth to another distinctive generation, the Baby Boomers. They stayed true to their values of personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith.”

The old guy from southern Minnesota embodied Brokaw’s description. He returned home from service a partially disabled vet, started a family, had a rural mail delivery route (more of Uncle Sam), pounded a fair share of nails as a carpenter, marched in countless parades, and was active in his community.

Once in a while you’ll read about someone in their 90s, male and female, still working. They love work, but there’s less and less of them, too. Wagering a cup of coffee, a sure bet says most employers would hire a member of The Greatest Generation in a heartbeat. Young workers could learn many lessons, starting with work ethic, continuing with loyalty, and ending in pride.

Here’s to The Greatest Generation.

Congratulations Grads; Employers Need You

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Congratulations Grads; Employers Need You

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The time honored tradition of commencements is here.

Graduates will be reminded by more than one speaker that commencement is not an ending, but a beginning. And yes, there will be opportunities to hit the re-set button, whether the button pertains to getting one’s act together or following one’s heart to paths less traveled.

For high schoolers transitioning to college or universities, including technical colleges, the only way to determine if those pegs fit into holes is to give it a try. Hopefully it is not an expensive lesson. Some may be ready; others, not so much. The following was overheard from a clerk at a convenience store, “I went to fill-in-the-blank college (identity withheld) for a year, but didn’t like it (or pick the reason).” And so it goes.

College and high school grads are entering a hot-hot-hot job market. Starting a few years ago, more people were retiring than entering the labor market. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate for April is at the historic low rate of 2.8 percent. The U.S. rate is at an unheard rate of 3.6 percent. If you believe news from the Department of Labor, a recent report suggested there were 7.8 million jobs openings in the U.S. The harsh reality: the gap between this estimate and number of unemployed people was 1.3 million. Yep, more jobs than people. In Wisconsin alone, the jobs bank has 90,000+ openings.

Don’t overlook the military. See the world. Earn life-long benefits, extending to education and even home ownership.

Don’t overlook the trades and labor. A two-year degree these days translates into solid jobs in construction, welding, metal fabrication, electrical. Hospitals and clinics seek new associates that form the foundation of their organizations – Registered Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, technicians, and dietary specialists.

To the grads of 2019, Congratulations! It’s time to take it to the next level. The St. Croix Valley is a special place. Many grads will discover this along the way. Employers here have plenty of openings, too.

Small Businesses Make BIG Impact

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Small Businesses Make BIG Impact

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Long before Mr. Sam Walton became a dominate player in retail and distribution, he boldly opened Walton’s 5/10 (Five and Dime) in Bentonville, Arkansas in 1950. His decision to take a chance in Bentonville was less than scientific – wife Helen liked small town living and the city’s location in northwest Arkansas enabled Sam to take advantage of numerous hunting seasons in neighboring states. Success in Bentonville led to the first Walmart store in nearby Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. The rest is not history. History is still being made by Walmart.

Boyhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen talked frequently about starting a business that could build on their computer programming skills. Before there was Microsoft, Gates and Allen teamed up on little-known Traf-O-Data, a computer that was used to track and analyze automobile traffic data, back in 1972. Finding early success, the duo established Microsoft in April 1975. The original name was Micro-Soft, a shortened version of microcomputer software. History at Microsoft continues to be written.

Earl Bakken and a brother in-law launched Medtronic in Minneapolis-Fridley, Minnesota back in 1949. It served as a medical equipment repair business out of one of the partner’s garages. Bakken was later introduced to Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, a heart surgeon at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Lillehei suggested that Bakken develop a battery powered pacing device for the heart. Today, Medtronic is a global giant in medical technology.

Walton, Gates, Allen, and Bakken all started small. Success led to growth, which led to stock offerings and publicly-traded companies. Thousands and thousands are employed in companies started by them. Each of these companies has spawned other businesses from former employees with bigger and brighter ideas.

2019’s U.S. Small Business Week is May 5-11. The week celebrates and recognizes the importance of small businesses. There are 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S., according to the Small Business Administration’s office of advocacy. In fact, a small, independent business can be quite large – having less than 500 employees, and not dominant in its market. They comprise 99.9 percent of all firms, including 97.6 percent of exporting firms. An estimated 47.5 percent of all private sector employees earn their paychecks from small businesses, which amounts to 40.8 percent of the private sector’s payroll. Best of all, 66 percent of all net new jobs come from small businesses.

From Main Streets to business and industrial parks, communities are full of small businesses. Like Walton, Gates, Allen, and Bakken, small business founders are risk takers, innovators, and generally independent. Here’s to small businesses. Happy Small Business Week 2019.

Employers Face Workforce Challenges Head-on

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Employers Face Workforce Challenges Head-On

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

It seems ‘Help Wanted’ signs have replaced ‘Garage Sale’ signs as the least popular among community beautification advocates. Street right-of-ways are littered with ‘Apply Today’ and ‘Top Pay for Second Shift’ messages. Compare those to a real attention-getter and perhaps best garage sale sign from a couple years back, ‘Huge Baby Sale This Weekend.’ The curiosity factor alone was enough to stop for that sale.

The facts are clear. More people are working today than ever. Meanwhile, job openings continue to grow and usually go unfilled. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a number person’s favorite bureau, reported in mid-March on 7.6 million job vacancies for January. For comparison, December’s vacancies came in at 7.34 million, at the time, a record number. The difference in those two estimates yields a big city. A previous estimate from Labor said 6.5 million Americans qualified as unemployed. A big city just morphed into a major metro area.

The Bureau of Labor also measures something called workforce participation. It is expressed as a percentage of people, say, 16-years old through retirement age, who are working, or at least actively seeking employment, compared to the entire pool of 16- to mid-60 year olds. Wisconsin is considered among the top states in workforce participation, yet the measure is around 68-67 percent. The U.S. rate lags behind at around 63 percent. Imagine the impact if the needle ticked up one- to two-tenths of a percent!

Are there solutions? A foundation operated by Wisconsin’s largest business organization, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, recently released a report on the state’s workforce challenges. Several recommendations were offered, including: attract and retain talent; upskill existing workers; improve career pathways; promote apprenticeships and other work-based learning for students; promote career awareness; and reach disconnected groups.

For go-getters coming out of high schools, technical colleges and universities, and even military service, opportunities are abundant. These may be the best of times. For certain, employers from business and industry are happy to connect. A bonus may come with a job offer. Higher wages, salaries and benefits have counteracted the tight labor market.

In the match-making game of employment, here’s to happy endings among jobseekers and employers.

Girl Scout Cookies and the Five P’s

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Girl Scout Cookies and the Five P’s

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Thin Mint. Peanut Butter Do-si-Dos. Shortbread Trefoils. Samoas.

Just like the first backyard robin, Girl Scout cookie sales are another sign that Old Man Winter is on his way out and Spring is near. Hopefully. St. Croix County’s economic development spin-master has proclaimed his disdain for the Winter of 2018-19 on numerous occasions. The bottom of the driveway is a prime location for his muttering. He has been waiting for a long-overdue robin as well as the first sleeve of shortbread treats.

From humble beginnings, Girl Scout cookie sales officially go back to 1917. They were launched in home kitchens of troop members. Moms served as advisers for the experimenting girls. Five years earlier, a troop in Oklahoma made cookies and sold them at the high school as a service project. This success led to sanctioned cookie sales across the county and globe. Shortages of sugar, flour and butter in World War II interrupted cookie sales. Non-edible calendars replaced cookies as the fund raiser for a while.

The economic development guy thought he’d been shut out of cookies for 2019. Door-to-door sales yielded to tables in convenience stores or big box retailers. For the trained observer, the free market system was definitely in play as make-shift booths were set-up in key parking lots. If a community could be over-saturated with coffee shops, would the same community or neighborhood support 4-5-6 cookie booths? Welcome to the free market, ladies.

On a recent Saturday, the fast-talking economic developer walked into a retail shop. A young Girl Scout and her mom had staked their claim. It was not an ideal location. It looked like they could use some business. A promise was made. If the Girl Scout could recite the Five P’s of a marketing plan, she’d get a sale. Hmm. The Five P’s? The fast-talker helped her out: Product, Price, People, Place, and Promotion. Her mom jumped in, noting her daughter had cookies as the product; the price was $5 a box, the people consisted of a mother-daughter team, they were selling in the lobby, and a double-sided sign served as their promotion.

After the $10 transaction, the mom said, “I think we learned something about those Five P’s today.” Indeed, Girl Scout cookie sales build life skills and sales help fund troop activities. The fast-talker got his shortbread and peanut butter treats. And he got more out of the conversation than the Girl Scout and her mom.

Here’s to a life lesson.

The Right Stuff

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The Right Stuff

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Tom Wolfe penned a book in the late 1970’s entitled, ‘The Right Stuff’ about American test pilots who were part of the early research efforts leading to NASA’s space program. The pilots flew experimental rocket-powered aircraft. Some returned to Mother Earth safely; others did not. Those who did were said to have the right stuff, meaning they possessed certain character traits, excluding luck, to succeed and thrive. Even with the right stuff, perhaps the best of all test pilots, Chuck Yeager, was not selected as an astronaut. The right stuff proved elusive for him.

The U.S. was well behind the Soviets in the 1960s space race. NASA went on to develop its first manned space program called Project Mercury. The first seven test pilots with the right stuff were called the Mercury Seven, namely Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton.

In business, the right stuff is measured every day, every week, every month, every quarter, and every year. Launching a business and running it successfully is not for meek or timid. Neither is defying gravity. Gotta have the right stuff. And maybe a little luck, just like the 60s test pilots who could sense the upper limits of engineering and propulsion as the envelope was pushed.

Attendees at the recent St. Croix EDC’s Business of the Year awards dinner were treated to the business version of the right stuff. Three companies were honored and each award recipient spoke in frank terms of obstacles and achievements and just shoulder-to-the-wheel hard work that brought them into the spotlight for the evening. All three confessed they were not public speakers. That comment did not fool the audience. Their comments came straight from their hearts and included motivational take-aways.

State Senator Patty Schachtner summed it up best with three terms to describe each of the honorees – resiliency, community building, and vision. Add those descriptors to the character traits of test pilots and the resolve of business owners.

It’s still the right stuff.

March Brings Madness

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March Brings Madness

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

St. Croix Valley residents will be relieved to put a wintery February in their rear view mirrors and may be thrilled to say, “Bring on March.”

Or maybe not.

With March comes the so-called Madness, defined any way residents wish.

More than one hermit living alone in the woods suffered from cabin fever – a term for listlessness and general irritability stemming from long periods of indoor confinement. The snowy weather of February will certainly yield to better days in March, moving the St. Croix Valley closer to a cure for cabin fever, right? Big Oops. March is still regarded as the snowiest month in the Midwest. Keep those shovels handy. Snowplow operators are deserving of an occasional Thumbs Up – with or without mittens. Confined in a cab and dealing with White Gold can bring on its own form of Madness.

And then there are year-end tournaments to determine champions in a variety of sports for girls, boys, women, and men. Notre Dame’s women basketball team is the defending national champs. Much of the credit goes to Arike Ogunbowale who came to ND by way of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee. In a 48-hour span, she hit back-to-back game-winning baskets to knock off number one ranked UConn and then Mississippi State in the finale. Both shots are worthy of a Google search. In short, the Madness of March stuck again (and again). Arike didn’t need ND’s shamrocks on her jersey for good luck. She put forth the one-two combo of hard work and skill in making those game winners. UConn and Mississippi State may claim otherwise, alleging ND’s trademarked shamrocks as the culprit.

The Madness also appears on March 17th. St. Patrick’s Day makes everyone Irish for a day, whether it’s the bona fide O’Keefe clan or McRubin wannabees. Our friends in New Richmond, Wisconsin put on a pretty good show for the day, thanks to the enclave of early Irish settlers. 2012 will be remembered in New Richmond as the Wearing o’ the Flip-Flops as revelers enjoyed the almost 80-degree day. Other years are better-suited for after-dinner coffee drinks and long underwear. The Madness strikes again.

Income tax filings are well underway and many have appointments in March. A refund from Madison or the U.S. Treasury, or both, is an unexpected surprise. Holiday bills, Florida getaways, or Colorado skiing trips can be paid off. For others, filings mean The Tax Man Cometh and he or she may want more money. For those filers, it can only be attributable to the Madness and the pain is extended all the way up to the April 15th deadline.

March can be packed with odd occurrences. Madness or not, the St. Croix Valley’s hearty citizens will survive. Spring is near.

Miracles Happen

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Miracles Happen

 

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

We are creeping up on the anniversary involving a triumph of Goliath proportions. On February 22, 1980, the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet team in Lake Placid, N.Y. An upset does not begin to describe the outcome. Hard to believe it’s been 39 years.

With broad brush strokes, a 1980s picture in the U.S. and globally could be painted this way: inflation was rampant, unemployment was high and climbing, an energy crisis had a strangle hold on businesses and consumers, the dial for the Cold War was turned to ‘bitter’ and, the Soviets were in Afghanistan on military business.

A fast-talking economic development guy was residing in central Minnesota at the time. He claims to have learned of the hockey victory by way of a car radio tuned to A.M. while on Broadway Avenue. February 22nd was a Friday and a saloon may have been calling. Spontaneity ensued, including shouts of joy from a rolled-down car window and a horn that wouldn’t stop honking.

For the younger generation, cell phones, laptops, tablets, Internet, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter did not exist in 1980. Repeat, did not exist. Why is this important? The game was not broadcast live in the U.S. and options to follow it were very limited. It started at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time (1:00 a.m. Moscow time), and later, was brought into homes across America as part of the network’s prime time coverage. When the game did air, the hosts explained it had been contested but promised not to leak the outcome. The capacity of the Lake Placid arena is said to be 8,500 seats. Days and weeks after the victory, many thousands more claimed to have been there in person. The fast-talker never made that claim, at least not publicly.

In the locker room before the game, Coach Herb Brooks, a St. Paul, Minnesota East Sider, addressed his team from personal notes, along the lines of, “Great moments are born from great opportunity. You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.” Those 19- and 20-year old men (kids) from Roseau, Eveleth, Flint, Charlestown, and Madison heeded the coach’s prophetic words, winning 4-3.

USA! USA! America needed a winner and got one. USA! USA! At every opportunity, crowds across America waved the stars and stripes and even sang patriotic songs. The fast-talker remembers singing a little bit, too.

Two days later the U.S. team beat Finland to win the gold medal in a match that really was broadcast live and may have competed with other morning activities on the Sabbath. As an aside, a loss to the Fins would have meant gold medals for the Soviets.

Upon reflection, the fast-talker says the U.S. of A. could use a 2019 version of a miracle. The fast-talker says if you look close, there’s “us” in “USA”. In any shape or size, a uniting miracle would be so retro-1980.

Repeating a line from Lake Placid, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

A Down-and-Back Madison Road Trip

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A Down-and-Back Madison Road Trip

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Madison, Wisconsin is said to be 77 square miles surrounded by reality. It is also Wisconsin’s capital city, where new laws are introduced and either sent to a dark hole or are debated and signed into law. Skeptics may say the faint hearted should avoid watching the bill-making process.

Each year, ‘citizen lobbyists’ descend on Madison to advance regional priorities with legislators. Given the poor reputation of lobbyists, most volunteers refer to themselves as advocates. The La Crosse area conducts Oktoberfest at the Capitol; Superior area has its Superior Days (plural), and the Chippewa Valley promotes its causes under the Chippewa Valley Rally theme. The Valley Rally includes a wrap-up reception featuring a Chippewa Falls-based brewery whose name rhymes with Leinenkugel.

As for St. Croix, its advocates team up with Polk, Pierce, and Dunn counties for the Greater St. Croix Valley Legislative Day and the 2019 event is set for February 6th. For those wishing to conduct business with cabinet secretaries, policy advisors, legislators or staff, it means a long day on the road before the Madison skyline comes into view. There’s a worn-out anecdote along these lines, The good news, Madison is four hours away; the bad news, Madison is four hours away.

Departure from Hudson is at 6:00 a.m. and following a pit stop at the Mauston exit, the somewhat weary volunteers arrive at the capitol around 10:30. There’s a group photo at 10:45 followed by orientation and box lunches before appointments in teams of two or three begin at 12:30 p.m. The timid or nervous have no place during the appointments. In rapid fire order, a legislator or staffer learns details on the St. Croix Valley, then successes and thank-you’s, and finally, the issues. Each team member is expected to present an issue or two. By the fifth or sixth appointment the routine is down pat.

In the early years of the legislative treks, a cabinet secretary put the work of the citizen-led activities into perspective. He said, “Your region could hire a lobbyist to deliver the message. It’s more effective coming from citizen volunteers.”

By 4:30 p.m., it’s time to load up the high occupancy vans and negotiate an exit from the capitol square. One of the founding volunteers continues to promise three full verses to a country western song entitled, Madison in My Rear View Mirror. Four and half hours later the travelers are in the St. Croix Valley. Mission Accomplished or Mission Impossible? They’ll track the current year’s issues and plan on doing it again in 12 months.

The St. Croix Valley is well represented in Madison. We’re proud of our legislators and the same is true from their perspective. This region continues to grow, which leads to a long list of wants and needs as well as the potential for stronger, if not additional representation. Even legislators from the most rural or most urbanized parts of the state have interest in places four hours from Madison. They should. A rising tide lifts all boats. The St. Croix Valley is a rising tide.

Fables of a Passbook and Financial Literacy

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Fables of a Passbook and Financial Literacy

BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Somewhere in a storage box marked ‘Personal Stuff” sits a palm-sized leather book containing handwritten entries from a savings account closed decades ago. For the younger generation, the non-cell phone object is referred to as a passbook savings book. Doubters can look it up, or they can ask an old person (grandparent) or a really old person (great grandparent). It seems the younger generation cannot imagine bank transactions without the assistance of a cell phone or iPad.

According to this fable, there was a time when bank transactions were done in person with a teller counting the coins and currency before making an entry in the passbook. For good measure the teller may have initialed the transaction in the book. The same teller may have greeted the account holder by name, “Hello Mike, or Robbie, or Chip (footnote: see the 1960s sitcom, ‘My Three Sons’) or Theodore” (footnote: see the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ sitcom). The times were a bit slower back then.

As the world moved toward automation, passbooks gave way to monthly statements delivered by U.S. Mail. Alas, the paper statements yielded to electronic, online summaries. However, with passbooks, the nuisance involving an overdraft fee was avoided. If you didn’t have the funds, you couldn’t make a purchase. Or, as was overheard in a check-out line at a big box retailer this past December, “How come my debit card quit working?” Slow down there, young consumer, your account is running a little H-O-T.

Fables are supposed to have a moral. The moral here involves financial literacy in Wisconsin. In late November 2017, Assembly Bill 280 was signed into law as Act 94. It directed Wisconsin school districts to develop academic standards toward financial literacy including the classroom instruction of financial literacy in grades K-12. The end game is greater financial literacy for the younger generation.

The morals keep getting better. For 75+ years a nonprofit organization called Junior Achievement of Wisconsin (J.A.) has been in classrooms teaching financial literacy and fundamentals of entrepreneurship. J.A. is led by volunteers – moms, dads, retirees, bankers, and business people. School districts in the St. Croix Valley may be aligned with Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, based in St. Paul, MN. Regardless of J.A.’s organizational venue, that younger generation eventually grows up to manage their own finances. We hope.

Another moral. Thanks to a great member-partner, St. Croix EDC was able to grant $1,000 to each of the public school districts in St. Croix County last year, earmarked for financial literacy curriculum. Another grant went to J.A. Upper Midwest to jumpstart their instructional lessons in the St. Croix Central district. Modest as those grants were, the EDC envisions long-term benefits for the next set of entrepreneurs and resident consumers in the county.

Here’s to a long-forgotten passbook and Financial Literacy 101.