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.

2022-23 Directors and Officers Elected at Annual Meeting

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2022-23 Directors and Officers Elected at Annual Meeting

St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (EDC) held its Annual Meeting at Northwood Technical College in New Richmond, Wisconsin on Tuesday, May 10th.  A slate of officers for 2022-2023 and two new board members were elected, along with the re-election of five directors. Three county supervisors also joined the board for the first time in accordance with EDC bylaws.

Aaron Sundeen, Director of Project Development at Derrick Building Solutions, (New Richmond, WI area) was elected Board President. He has served on the board since 2019 and replaces Angela Popenhagen who completed her term as President. She will continue to serve on the board and the executive committee as Past President. 

Krista Paulus, Relationship Manager, Commercial Banking, Security Financial Bank (River Falls, WI branch), was elected First Vice President.

Susan Yohnk Lockwood, Vice President, Institutional Effectiveness and New Richmond Campus Administrator, Northwood Technical College (New Richmond, WI), was elected Second Vice President. 

Marina Onken was elected Corporate Secretary-Treasurer. She retired as Dean of the College of Business and Economics (CBE) at UW-River Falls in late 2021 and is now Professor Emeritus of Strategy and Innovation at CBE.

Aaron Sundeen, Steve Gossel, Susan Yohnk Lockwood, Marina Onken, and Kim Rock were re-elected to the board. Each will serve a final three-year term, ending in May 2025.

Tom Aaby and Tom Loonan were elected to three-year terms on the board. Aaby is Vice President of Business Development with OEM Fabricators (Woodville, WI) and Loonan is an attorney with Eckberg Lammers. He practices civil municipal law and business law. Eckberg Lammers has offices in Hudson, Wisconsin and Stillwater, Minnesota.

Carah Koch, Paul Berning, and Mark Carlson from the county board of supervisors were appointed to the EDC board earlier in the month. 

The board of directors accepted the 2021 financial review from Jason Zahradka, CPA of Guinn, Vinopal & Zahradka, LLP. 

The board honored Popenhagen, Jones, and Kelly at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting.

May 2021 Unemployment

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St. Croix County’s May Unemployment Rate is 3.3%

On June 23rd, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced the preliminary May 2021 unemployment rates for Wisconsin’s 72 counties and the 34 cities with populations greater than 25,000 residents. St. Croix County’s May rate was estimated at 3.3%, which is lower than the final rate of 3.9% for April and the final rate of 4.5% for March. One year ago, the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 12.7%.

DWD said preliminary unemployment rates from April to May declined in all 72 counties and also declined in all 72 counties year-over-year. The rates ranged from 2.6% in Lafayette to 8.4% in Menominee.

Preliminary unemployment rates declined in all of Wisconsin’s 34 largest municipalities from April to May and declined or stayed the same in all of the largest municipalities, year-over-year. Rates ranged from 2.8% in Muskego to 7.0% in Milwaukee.

The five counties with the lowest unemployment rates in May include Lafayette (2.6%), Kewaunee (2.7%), Pepin (2.8%), Taylor (also at 2.8%), and Calumet (2.9%). Menominee County had the highest rate in May at 8.4%, followed by Forest (7.2%), Iron (6.3%), Adams (6.1%), and Milwaukee (5.8%).

St. Croix, Pierce, Polk, and Dunn counties comprise Wisconsin’s Greater St. Croix Valley. In addition to St. Croix’s rate of 3.3%, May’s preliminary rate in Pierce was also 3.3%, followed by Dunn is at 3.6%, while Polk came in at 3.8%.

St. Croix and Pierce counties are included in the 15-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metro area. The May 2021 unemployment rate for the Twin Cities was estimated at 3.8%, which is lower than the final rate of 4.1% for April and March’s final rate of 4.3%. The unemployment rate in the Twin Cities was 10.1% in May 2020.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate for Wisconsin in May was estimated at 3.9%, which is the same as April’s final rate, but higher than higher than the final rate of 3.8% for March. One year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 10.4%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in Minnesota in May was estimated at 4.0%, which is lower than April’s final rate of 4.1% and March’s final rate of 4.2%. Minnesota’s seasonally-adjusted rate one year ago was 11.3%.

The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate in the U.S. for May was estimated at 5.8%, which is lower than April’s final rate of 6.1% and March’s final rate of 6.0%. One year ago, the U.S. rate (seasonally adjusted) was estimated at 13.3%.

Wisconsin’s preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for May was estimated at 66.1%, which is higher than April’s final rate of 65.9% and March’s final rate of 65.7%. One year ago, Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate was 65.6%. The preliminary (seasonally adjusted) labor force participation rate for the U.S. in May was estimated at 61.6%, which is lower than April’s final rate of 61.7% but higher than March’s final rate of 61.5%. One year ago, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. was 60.8%.

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

Directors and Officers Elected at 2021 EDC Annual Meeting

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Directors and Officers Elected at 2021 Annual Meeting

St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (EDC) held its Annual Meeting remotely on Tuesday, May 11th.  A slate of officers for 2021-2022 and one new board member were elected, along with the re-election of three directors. 

Angela Popenhagen, the principal of Stevens Engineers (greater Hudson, WI), was elected Board President. She has served on the board since 2017 and replaces Rob Kreibich who completed his term as President. Kreibich will continue to serve on the board and the executive committee as Past President.

Aaron Sundeen, Director of Project Development at Derrick Building Solutions, (New Richmond, WI area), was elected First Vice President. 

Krista Paulus, Relationship Manager, Commercial Banking, Security Financial Bank (River Falls, WI branch, was elected Second Vice President.

Cameron Kelly, was re-elected Corporate Secretary-Treasurer. He is an attorney with Lommen Abdo, P.A. (Hudson office).

April Nelson, Tom Borowski, and Rob Kreibich were re-elected to the board. Nelson is a Vice President and Loan Officer with WBD; Borowski is President of Hudson Hospital & Clinic; and Kreibich is the Executive Director of the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau.

Scott Morrissette of River Falls was elected to a three-year term on the board. He is a Vice President, Business Banking, with Bremer Bank and serves on the River Falls City Council.

The board of directors accepted the 2020 financial review from Guinn, Vinopal & Zahradka, LLP.

At the conclusion of the Annual Meeting, a plaque was presented to Rob Kreibich for his service as President and departing director Rob O’Keefe received a memento for completing his final term on the board.

About St. Croix EDC: Organized in 1993, St. Croix EDC is the independent economic development of St. Croix County. Reflective activities include marketing and communications, business retention, business expansion, business recruitment, new business start-ups, workforce development, and small business and legislative advocacy.

St. Croix EDC Names Top Businesses/Individual for 2020

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St. Croix EDC Names Top
Businesses/Individual for 2020

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

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

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

About the 2020 Honorees

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

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

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

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

Event Details

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

About St. Croix EDC

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

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

Craft Brewery Day 2020

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EDC Proclaims September 24 as Craft Brewery Day in St. Croix County

At its September meeting, the St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (EDC) board of directors unanimously proclaimed Thursday, September 24, 2020 as Craft Brewery Day in St. Croix County, Wisconsin.

The EDC will recognize six micro-breweries in the county with proclamations signed by the board president and executive director. The breweries are Rush River Brewery (River Falls), Pitchfork Brewery (Town of Hudson), Oliphant Brewery (Somerset), Bobtown Brewhouse & Grill (Roberts), and Hop & Barrel (Hudson). The proclamations will be mailed to the breweries. A special, in-person delivery to one of the breweries has not been ruled out.

The proclamation points out craft breweries provide significant opportunities for community and economic development. In many cases, breweries renovate and occupy underutilized or vacant commercial space, sometimes providing additional sparks for other businesses to invest in nearby properties. Breweries are tourist destinations and become a community gathering spot or a place to enjoy local music and food.

Statewide, craft breweries make a big impact. They contribute around $9 billion to Wisconsin’s economy each year, along with 62,000+ jobs and $2.5 billion in wages and benefits.

Like many businesses, breweries have felt the impact of the economic downturn. Owners used creativity and offered curb pick-up service for cans and growlers to go. Brewers and owners continue to help one another by answering questions and offering assistance.

The EDC asks residents to consider a pick-up order or in-person stop at taprooms on September 24th, recognizing the importance of social distancing and commonsense health practices.

Whether enjoying a lager, pilsner, pale ale, IPA or stout, please do so responsibly.

For questions or comments, please call St. Croix EDC at 715.381.4383.

2020 Census – Size Matters


2020 Census – Size Matters


With little fanfare, the 2020 census got underway on January 21st in a tiny community along the Bering Sea called Toksook Bay, Alaska. It is so remote that the census bureau director from Washington, D.C. was late to his own ceremonial kick-off event. Lizzie Chimiugak Nenguryarr, a 90-year old elder in Toksook Bay, was the first person counted, leading up to the estimated 334 million people across America participating in the census.

The decennial census is coming to a town, village, city, urban, or rural area near you, too. Mark a calendar – April 1st is National Census Day. No word on school and government closings, however.

The data collected from the census helps the federal government determine financial resources distributed to communities for roads, highways, schools, and hospitals. Can you say $675 billion in federal dollars annually? Developers can use the census information to make investment decisions. Local governments will use the data for planning and public safety. An average citizen will use it for quality of life initiatives or research leading to new or amended ordinances.

The origin of a national census is found in the U.S. Constitution. Our nation’s founders devised a creative plan to empower people over their new government (Wait. What?). The plan was to count every person in the U.S. and use the information to determine representation in the fledgling Congress. The goal was first accomplished in 1790 and has continued every 10 years.

Today, there are 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. From the 2020 census, some states will gain representation and others will lose. Take California for example (it’s yours, take it). Even with its large population base, a congressional seat may be lost in California. Minnesota is in jeopardy of losing a seat, too. West Virginia may lose two seats and Texas could gain two. As many as seventeen state dominos could fall – some tipping forward; some falling behind.

The Census Bureau has a December 31st deadline to deliver findings to the sitting president. This marks the beginning of congressional reapportionment, which goes into effect for the 2022 mid-term elections. The data used for state and local redistricting will be available on March 31, 2021.

An undercount of people is always a reality. The Census Bureau will spend $500 million on a public education and outreach campaign with more than 1,000 ads to reach 99 percent of U.S. households. A tagline, “Shape your Future. Start here” was created to bolster awareness and participation. Videos in 59 non-English languages are available to explain how to fill out the forms. Languages range from Thai to Tamil and from Italian to Hindi. In short, the Census Bureau wants everyone counted.

Back to Toksook Bay and Lizzie the elder. The census from ten years ago estimated Toksook Bay’s population at 590 people. By 2017 the estimate was 661. Toksook Bay is not only holding its own, it is growing. To encourage participation from Alaska’s indigenous groups, the 2020 questionnaires were translated into the Yup’ik language. Elder Lizzie appreciated that. The 2030 census is just around the corner for Lizzie.

Here’s to being counted in the weeks ahead. Shape your Future. Start here.

American Pie


American Pie


Whether it’s East L.A. or East Overshoe, there may be occasional coffee shop chatter that your community is on the brink. First, don’t believe it. And second, find inspiration in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In early 2011, Newsweek magazine published a list of America’s dying cities. Grand Rapids, sometimes referred to as Bland Rapids, made the unenviable list. Seven years later, Rand McNally and even satellite intel suggest Grand Rapids is alive, well, and thriving.

Newsweek’s dire prediction for Grand Rapids led to outcry among its residents and civic leaders, starting at the top with the mayor’s office. He challenged his constituents to prove Newsweek wrong. Along came a barely 20-year old community college student named Rob Bliss. Through corporate sponsorships and fundraising, Bliss produced a ten-minute lip dub video set to Don McLean’s classic ballad, American Pie. For McLean, the untimely deaths of young rock and rollers Buddy Holly, Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in 1959 was the day ‘the music’ died. Good enough for McLean; good enough for Bliss.

By mid-2011 the Grand Rapids lip dub was released and immediately became a viral sensation on YouTube. Video scenes wove through downtown Grand Rapids and Bliss used 5,000 participants, including firefighters, police officers, city officials, hankie-waving co-eds, pillow fighters, a wedding party, gymnasts, nerf gun battlers, kayakers in the river, news vans, a marching band, fireworks and sparklers, and a local football team. Each took a turn lip-dubbing the lines of American Pie. The video ends with an aerial scene from a helicopter. The hillside of an urban park reads, ‘Experience Grand Rapids’ which was the subtle message all along. The late Roger Ebert had a long career as a film critic. He called the lip dub “The Greatest Music Video Ever Made.” It has 5.7+ million views.

Grand Rapids enjoyed its moment in the media spotlight as feel good stories were published or aired. By 2013, it made several new lists – ‘Most Livable’ and ‘Happiest City’. The story of Grand Rapids, Michigan is still being written. Let’s hope your hometown can say the same.

As a post script, watch the video here. If compelled, sing along or at the very least, lip dub it. As for the video’s creator, Rob Bliss grew up and runs Rob Bliss Creative in New York City, specializing in viral messaging.