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CHIPPEWA FALLS — John McBride said he’s dedicated his career to improving the health of cows, which in turn, leads to higher milk production.

McBride, VES principal owner, spoke about the importance of helping the dairy industry during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for his company’s new $9 million headquarters.

“There has been such a commitment of working together by the employees,” McBride said to a crowd of 100 that gathered outside in the blistering cold for the ceremonial event. “We are a family, we work as a family. And our family doesn’t stop here; our family is the dairy industry.”

VES designs ventilation systems for barns and agricultural buildings, improving the quality of life for the animals, the company’s website states.

“Our direct-drive fans pull fresh air into the structure, directs the air in waves to cow level, and then removes the dirty, heated air,” the website states. “Fresh air keeps your cows’ body temperatures down, keeps bedding dry, helps prevent diseases from pneumonia to mastitis, and deters pests without chemicals.”

The new 115,000-square-foot headquarters will include a research center dedicated to improve the health and quality of cows.

VES, located at 8296 Commerce Parkway, completed an agreement in November to purchase the 12.4-acre parcel in the Lake Wissota Business Park from Chippewa County for $1.

While the groundbreaking ceremony was Tuesday, actual construction is slated to begin in mid-February, with the goal of completion by Oct. 1, said Charlie Walker, Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation executive director.

VES has grown from 25 employees and will soon hit 40 workers, Walker said. The goal is to have 60 workers within five years, Walker said.

Walker added that it was a team effort by the city, county, and business leaders that brought this deal together.

Chippewa Falls mayor Greg Hoffman praised the company for its work.

“I’m really excited you are investing in the city of Chippewa Falls,” Hoffman said.

Chippewa County Administrator Randy Scholz also spoke highly of how the company has grown.

“I’m really impressed with what you’ve done,” Scholz said. “I love the stories of little companies that become big companies.”

The property is located in one of the city’s tax-increment financing districts.

As part of the developer’s agreement with the county, VES will pay for the expansion of a “regional retention pond” located in the business park. The pond could be expanded by up to three acres. That will mean the remaining available lots in the business park would likely have smaller or no retention ponds.

Because of the rapid growth in the park in the past few years, the county is now beginning to search for land to create another shovel-ready business park. The county allocated $90,000 in the 2018 budget to create a feasibility study, or strategic plan, on the possible location.

The 200-acre Lake Wissota Business Park was set up by the county board in March 2000, when they voted to borrow $1 million from the State Trust Fund to develop the park; the county paid off that debt in 2005. The city built a number of roads through the industrial area.

Some of the first companies to move into the park include Chippewa River Industries and General Beer Northwest distributing company.

In recent years, the business park has added the $69 million Mills Fleet Farm distribution center and Star Blends, an animal feed processing plant. In November 2018, construction began on a $6 million OakLeaf Clinics medical center, and Nordson Extrusion Dies Industries is building a new, 140,000-square-foot, $18 million facility.

In October, construction started on a $6.5 million warehouse for the DHL Supply Chain’s 124,000-square-foot warehouse. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which purchased Silicon Graphics International in 2016, will be leasing the building. It is expected to employ 30 to 40 workers, with possibly more added with an expansion.

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