WEDA Announces 2022 Community and Economic Development Award Nominees

Nominees for the 2022 Community and Economic Development Awards (CEDA) were announced today by the Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA). The CEDA Awards were established by WEDA to recognize and celebrate businesses, projects, and organizations that are making significant contributions to Wisconsin’s economy.

“The WEDA Community and Economic Development Awards is Wisconsin’s premier awards program for the economic development community and was established to recognize outstanding and innovative projects that are driving economic growth and prosperity across the state,” said WEDA President and CEO Mary Perry. “This year, WEDA is excited to partner with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to present the CEDA Awards and celebrate the tremendous efforts of each nominated project.”

Three outstanding economic development projects were nominated in each of the four following CEDA categories: Business Retention and Expansion; Economic Development Initiative; Real Estate Redevelopment and Reuse; and Talent Attraction, Development, and Retention. The winners in each category will be announced at the live awards ceremony luncheon, which will be held on Thursday, September 29, 2022, as part of WEDA’s Fall Best Practices Conference in La Crosse, WI. Please find below an overview of the recently announced 2022 CEDA Award nominees:

  • Business Retention and Expansion– This award honors innovative economic development projects where communities have successfully mobilized to help retain and potentially expand the operations of an existing business critical to the economic vitality of the community.
    • Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery – The Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery has a long history in the heart of Wisconsin’s Dairyland. Today, the company has 250 dairy farmer members and three production facilities. Their success and growth led to the need for expansion, and their aging facility in Comstock needed to be replaced. With assistance from the Greater Menomonie Development Corporation, Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery found a site to construct a new $26 million, 60,000 square foot cheese making facility and retail store in the Menomonie Industrial Park. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation supported the project with $500,000 in tax credits, and the City of Menomonie provided Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funding and road expansion to aid the project.
    • Henry Repeating Arms Company – Henry Repeating Arms, a long-gun manufacturing company, produces over 300,000 firearms annually. The company employs over 550 people and operates two main manufacturing facilities, one in New Jersey and the other at their headquarters in Rice Lake, WI. To accommodate rising demand and product lineup growth, the company had to expand, but could not find a facility in Rice Lake that could meet their needs. However, in nearby in Ladysmith, Rusk County owned a vacant 81,000 square foot building on 13 acres formerly occupied by Owens Corning. With assistance from state and local economic development partners, the company now has a new manufacturing facility in Ladysmith with room for expansion. The project is expected to produce 100 new jobs and spark future economic development in Rusk County.
    • Mason Companies– The family-owned Mason Companies began making boots and shoes in the early 1900s in Chippewa Falls, WI. The company launched their first website in 1999 and since then the company has expanded beyond shoes into apparel, household goods, and beauty products, becoming one of the top 250 e-commerce companies in the United States, employing more than 500 people. To accommodate the growth and need for future expansion, Mason Companies worked with local governments and economic development partners to find a home in the Lake Wissota Business Park for a new $60 million, 425,000 square foot fulfillment center, with plans for the building to eventually grow to 975,000 square feet and include a new corporate office building.

  • Economic Development Initiative– This award honors innovative community and economic development efforts that successfully promote growth and prosperity in Wisconsin communities.
    • Jackson County Child Care Network – The lack of quality childcare in Jackson County was a growing concern, creating a significant barrier to employment and negatively impacting economic growth in the region. Families were struggling to find quality care, often being placed on multiple year waiting lists, and employers were faced with over $2.5 million in lost productivity. To address this problem, the Jackson County Childcare Network was formed in 2019 as a 501c3 business-led organization dedicated increasing the availability of quality childcare in the county. Using local American Recovery Plan Act funds, the Network offers childcare provider retention bonuses, and plans are being developed to create 500 additional childcare slots in the community.
    • New North Regional Broadband Access Study and Expansion Plan – As the COVID-19 pandemic magnified, equitable broadband access is critical, not only for commerce, but for access to health care, education, and government services. Realizing the need to move quickly to address gaps in quality broadband connectivity across Northeast Wisconsin, New North, Inc. applied for and received a $500,000 Economic Development Administration CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to conduct a broadband gap analysis for the New North’s 18-county footprint. This investment was utilized for broadband data analysis, mapping, and cost modeling for each county to identify broadband access gaps and provide a roadmap to close those gaps. The study was successful due to the actions of New North, which effectively engaged the public through outreach surveys and speed test participation requests.
    • WWBIC Southwest Women’s Business Center – For 35 years, the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) has provided direct lending and access to fair and responsible capital. In 2021, WWBIC extended its reach across the state with exceptional business assistance and entrepreneurial training offerings when they opened their Southwest Women’s Business Center in La Crosse. The new center serves a nine-county market in southwest Wisconsin, offering in-person and virtual training and counseling on issues ranging from financial management and technology to operations and marketing. Since opening its doors, the La Crosse office has provided over $828,000 in loan capital investments, which has created 113 jobs and retained 71 jobs. In addition, since beginning their work in the region, WBBIC has served 448 small business and entrepreneurs.

  • Real Estate Redevelopment and Reuse– This award honors innovative real estate redevelopment or reuse projects that have had a positive impact on a community’s economy, including job growth and increased tax base.
    • Tattersall Distilling – What was once an empty,75,000 square foot former Shopko building is now a bustling social destination in River Falls. When Minnesota liquor production laws prevented further growth in the Twin Cities, Tattersall Distilling, a Minnesota-based distiller, looked across the border to River Falls, WI for a larger production facility and event space. In 2020, Tattersall approached the City of River Falls with an exciting proposal for a $17 million redevelopment of the 7.59-acre parcel into a food and drink destination with a full-service restaurant, distillery, event space, retail store, and amphitheater. This Tattersall project, which was made possible by Tax Increment Finance incentives and other economic development incentives,  has demonstrated a clear commitment to community and today employs 21 full-time employees and 98 part-time employees. 
    • Trane Plant 6 and 5th Ward Residences – In 2010, the La Crosse Industrial Park Corporation began redevelopment of the 12-acre former Trane Company Plant Six site into an exciting market-rate housing development. After completing demolition, contaminated soils were removed, and infrastructure improvements were completed. This 360 Real Estate Solutions project includes 144 new market rate rental housing units with cutting-edge amenities. Fourteen market rate owner occupied town homes will also be developed in a later phase. It’s estimated the project will increase local tax base by $18 million. The project, which was supported by tax increment financing, the Wisconsin DNR, and other financial support from the state of Wisconsin, will provide new housing opportunities in a difficult to develop area on La Crosse’s northside. 
    • Waterfront Hotel – In 2004, the City of Prairie du Chien adopted its Downtown Development Master Plan and worked together with the Redevelopment Authority and Prairie du Chien Main Street to acquire and remediate a contaminated property that was identified as a prime a location for redevelopment. The site attracted local entrepreneurs who brought to life their vision for the Waterfront Hotel and Backwater Bar & Grill . The 57-room, three-story hotel of approximately 30,000 square feet is positioned as a community hotel, serving local businesses and residents, as well as visitors. The project has resulted in over $2.3 million of new assessed value as well as 8 full-time and 37 part-time jobs. This project was supported by a WEDC Community Development Investment Grant.

  • Talent Attraction, Development, and Retention – This award honors initiatives or programs that have driven successful talent development efforts to strengthen the Wisconsin workforce.
    • Chippewa Valley Technical College RESTORE Program – Recognizing the need to assist local employers struggling to hire qualified manufacturing workers, the Chippewa Valley Technical College, Chippewa Economic Development Corporation, and other local organizations collaborated to develop the Restoring Employment through Support, Training, Outreach, Recruitment, and Education project. The RETORE project uses a multi-pronged approach to address the continuing need for skilled workers across the Chippewa Valley’s manufacturing sector by focusing on outreach, short-term training, and contextualized and work-based learning opportunities. The program has secured financial support from over 20 manufacturing companies and was awarded a $10 million Workforce Innovation Grant. Site work has begun on a 20,000 square foot facility that will house the RESTORE program, with construction slated to be completed by February 2023.
    • New North More You in New Campaign – New North’s The More YOU in NEW talent attraction marketing campaign features video stories and digital assets to attract and retain talent in Northeast Wisconsin using social media and brand ambassadors. Attracting and retaining talent is critical to sustaining and growing the overall economy of the New North region, and The More YOU in NEW campaign leverages local partners, stakeholders, and community leaders to share that message. Since launching the campaign, the New North region has seen an increase in the number of people interested in moving to the area. Improved awareness of the New North region is illustrated by analytics showing an increase in traffic to the More YOU in NEW landing page, a boost in followers on social media channels, and growing requests for more information.
    • La Crosse Chamber of Commerce Thrive Campaign – In 2021, the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce launched Thrive in the Heart of the Driftless Region, an exciting digital talent attraction campaign that provides recruitment tools for area businesses and opportunities for job seekers to connect with employers. The campaign, spearheaded by the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce, aims to meet the region’s growing workforce demands, which is critical to continued economic growth in the La Crosse County area. The campaign includes a two-pronged approach to local talent attraction and includes resources for businesses seeking employees and individuals looking for new employment opportunities. Both efforts focus on promoting the Driftless Region as an incredible place to work, live, play, and connect. To date, the campaign has reached 10 million people.

2022 CEDA nominated projects were screened and selected by an impartial panel of judges comprised of WEDA members and partners. The independent panel reviewed many projects that were submitted for consideration, but the 12 finalists were ultimately selected based on the significant economic impact each project has on its respective community or region.