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14th annual business awards honor a variety of Chippewa County businesses

The Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation honored a number of local businesses at its 14th annual business awards Friday, highlighting the area’s construction, entrepreneurship, business retention and more.


Charlie Walker, president of the CCEDC, said the annual business awards were part of an ongoing effort “to acknowledge those existing businesses that are here and have had an amazing impact.”

Walker noted that the majority of economic development is done through existing businesses.

The event included the group’s 25th annual meeting, plus a signing event Chippewa Valley Youth Apprenticeship students, and saw over 500 attendees.

Winners were nominated and chosen for a number of different reasons.

Chippewa County Entrepreneur of the Year was presented to ABEC Global in Stanley for their business growth and in acknowledgement of their “boot strap” approach, Walker said.

Employee-owned Kurth Sheet Metal Inc. in Lake Hallie won Chippewa County Construction Industry Partner of the Year.

The Chippewa Valley Youth Apprenticeship won the award for Economic Development Partnership for promoting opportunities in the skilled trades Walker said, and “bringing the recognition that there’s really great work ethic in the Chippewa Valley.”

Barron County Cheese received an award for the Chippewa Valley Exporter of the Year for the efforts, in part for bringing attention to the value exporting can play in the local economy.

A-1 Excavating in Bloomer, Kurt Manufacturing in Cornell and Mills Fleet Farm in Chippewa Falls all won business of the year for their quadrants.

The big award, Chippewa County Business of the Year, went to the Mills Fleet Farm Distribution Center in the Lake Wissota Business Park.

Walker said the project, an over 1-million-square-foot building, was chosen for a number of reasons. It was one of the largest projects in the state that year, it’s time frame for construction was very tight but completed on time, and it has already surpassed their promises for numbers of employees in less time than they had promised.

In all, Walker said, the event highlights the appealing business environment in the Chippewa Valley.

In addition to the central location relative to a number of metro areas, the area boasts a high quality of life and lots of opportunity for recreation, which helps businesses retain and attract employees.

Walker also said that compared to other areas in the state, the Chippewa Valley has many business assistance organizations, banks and other aspects that can lead a businesses to start, stay or grow in the area.

“We have that infrastructure,” Walker said. “And that’s kind of what you’re seeing all come together.”

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'Some people just have something they need to share': Chippewa Valley authors offer advice to aspiring writers

Two local writers live to author new works, but also enjoy taking the time to inspire others along their journey.

Chippewa Valley authors Julie Court and Diana Peterson spoke to a group of aspiring local writers Monday night at the Chippewa Falls Public Library, sharing their stories and books in addition to sharing some advice on how to progress and grow as a writer in the area.

A few pieces of the advice the two women shared were to write and chase what you’re passionate about, don’t be afraid to have others critique your work and do everything you can to make your work look professional both in the written works themselves and the marketing materials surrounding it.

Court’s book is entitled “The Incredible Life Makeover: Step-by-Step Transformation to Wholeness” and it echoes some lessons she has learned throughout her life. Court has been through many traumatic events during her life such as dealing with alcoholism in her family and navigating with a messy divorce, and she said her life experiences are what continue to inspire her to write and try to help those around her.

“My inspiration to write is to share the knowledge and wisdom from the lessons I’ve learned from my own life and being able to help as many people as possible,” Court said. “And some people just have something they need to share with the world, so don’t take it to the grave.”

Her book is a faith-based recovery system, but Court said you don’t need to be a Christian for the book to help you back onto the right life path.

“My book is not just for Christians that go to church and are very religious,” Court said. “My book ministers to people who just believe in God, have some issues and are open to him being a part of their journey. It can help a wide variety of people who are in different places in their lives.”

Peterson’s published works include diverse topics, with titles such as “The Adventures of Paul Bunyan,” “Logging in Wisconsin” and a series of original fictional works about a group of four sisters set in the 1950’s dubbed “The Montgomery Family Series.” With two of the four books in the series published so far, Peterson said she doesn’t see her literary output slowing down as new topics to cover and stories to tell are endless.

“I have always wanted to be a writer and I just keep finding new and fun things to write about,” Peterson said. “The more you read, the more you learn and the more you want to write about things. I love historical works, I love doing the research and writing about history. But I also love doing fiction. There is so much to write about out there and you can never hope to even cover half of it. There’s an endless supply of topics.”

Both authors echoed the sentiment that if you aren’t passionate about your work, you shouldn’t be writing at all; only do it if you love it. Peterson said she hopes her book and those from other area writers continue to inspire people to learn new things, and at the very least just enjoy their time with the printed word.

“I hope people enjoy my books and learn to like the people in them,” Peterson said. “I hope they see a little bit of themselves in there, learn new things and get spurred onto learning even more new things.”

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Filling a community need: Safety Patrol organization looking for a coordinator in Chippewa Falls

A long time safety institution in the Chippewa Falls area is looking for fresh faces.

The Chippewa Falls Safety Patrol, a 90-year-old organization, has been helping keep the areas around schools safe for generations of students and now coordinates the safety patrol of eight area schools.

After moving to completely volunteer and donation funding in 2005 due to budget cuts at the Chippewa Falls Police Department, the patrol has been led in one capacity or another by Ralph Coushman, who after 50 years of involvement in the organization will be stepping away from the group.

Coushman, a retired Chippewa Falls police officer and former Chippewa County sheriff, worked to form the current organization after it was cancelled by the police department, and has served in as president of the Safety Patrol Board and as the coordinator.

The coordinator role was taken over in 2016 by Bruce Stelzner, former Chippewa County highway commissioner, who will also be stepping back from that role and will help seek a new volunteer coordinator.

Both Coushman and Stelzner noted the important role the group has in teaching the kids involved, primarily fifth-grade students, to take responsibility and honor commitments, and both said the institution needs to continue.

“We’re going to be looking for someone from the community to fill that role,” Stelzner said. “We’d like to keep it together as a community function.”

Along with the around 100 students, the principals of the schools and a staff member who works as a safety patrol advisor are also involved.

The funding for the organization is totally through volunteer donations and business sponsors, the money funding several events for the students, including a Safety Patrol Mini-Camp and attending the Safety Patrol Congress in the Wisconsin Dells.

They’ve also funded radar speed signage for areas around schools with particularly hazardous roads.

Coushman said the continued success of the safety patrol — who’ve never had an incident on their roads while patrolling — is part of what has kept him involved for so long.

He said he’s particularly enjoyed seeing the students who have been involved go on to other success over the course of his long tenure with the organization.

“It just makes you feel good about the leadership and what you put into it,” Coushman said. “It’s just a good feeling.”

Stelzner said that additionally, the program builds good citizens.

The students involved sign a contract regarding being on time and doing their duties, and report to their work before normal school starts and after school is over.

“The kids who are involved in it, they are our future,” Stelzner said. “It’s an opportunity to develop the youth.”


Pence to visit Chippewa Valley

MADISON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence is coming to Altoona to promote the U.S.-Mexico trade agreement.

The visit announced Tuesday by the White House comes after President Donald Trump held a rally in Green Bay last month. It marks Pence’s first visit to Wisconsin since he attended a campaign rally in November in Hudson.

Pence plans to visit J&D Manufacturing in Altoona, where he will participate in a round table discussion with local business leaders and then deliver comments about the trade deal’s impact on Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the visit would take place on Thursday.

From there Pence is to travel to the Fort McCoy U.S. Army base to meet with soldiers and family members before returning to Washington that night.

Wisconsin is expected to be a toss-up state in the 2020 presidential race. Trump won the state by less than a point in 2016.

Pence made a visit to Eau Claire in October 2018 as part of Scott Walker’s re-election campaign for governor. Pence hyped up what he called the “largest new trade deal in American history,” one that “puts American workers and American farmers first and Wisconsin dairy first.”

Walker narrowly lost re-election to Tony Evers in November, but statewide Republicans got a bit of a boost in April when conservative-backed Judge Brian Hagedorn won a highly publicized Wisconsin State Supreme Court race against the liberal-backed candidate Lisa Neubauer.