Western Wisconsin poised for growth as Minnesota companies cross border

Posted November 2, 2016

Three counties in western Wisconsin are among the fastest growing in the state, and they are attracting interest from businesses based in Minnesota.

“These are our fastest-growing counties based on percent growth,” said Coleman Peiffer, the business and investment attraction director of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The population of St. Croix County, for example, is expected to grow by as much as 41 percent through 2040, according to the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

“Businesses are looking to expand and consider multiple states before making their decision,” Peiffer said. “We have had recent success in winning these competitive projects against Minnesota and Illinois.”

The WEDC has been receiving more inquiries from developers and consultants representing companies that are interested. However, availability of workers remains a concern for companies looking to expand or relocate business to those areas, according to Peiffer.

“Business owners see all these great things that the state is putting in place to become a more positive business environment in addition to the county growth,” he said. “So while there has not been a huge increase in businesses jumping the border, I think it is something we will see in the near future.”

Danielle Campeau, director of the Center for Innovation and Business Development at UW-River Falls, has already noticed a change.

“Some businesses are already beginning to move across the border,” she said.

WinField Solutions, a subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, broke ground in September and is building what will be one of the largest businesses in River Falls, according to Campeau. Its 50,000 square foot facility is under construction in the Sterling Ponds Corporate Park on the north side of the city.

Other Wisconsin counties near the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area, like Polk and Pierce, also ranked high for predicted growth.

Kage Innovation, a manufacturer of maintenance equipment like snowplows, is located in Stillwater, Minnesota, but is in the process of moving to Polk County.

“Kage is a good American success story,” said General Manager Chris Halback. The company started in a garage 10 years ago and has been growing ever since. Workers are hard to find and Wisconsin seems to be more of a working person’s community, said Halback. He is excited about the move.

“People seem to know how to work hard in Wisconsin and business are recognizing that,” said Campeau.

“It’s about the people and that Wisconsin sees that,” Halback added. There are many reasons for leaving Minnesota, but some of the most important were the location, tax advantages and that Wisconsin has great people, he said.

Minnesota doesn’t seem to want Kage’s style of manufacturing, Halback said. He doesn’t know if that idea is pushed by the state or the residents, but he feels the kind of manufacturing Kage does isn’t sought after in Minnesota.

Wisconsin incentive programs make it relatively easy for businesses to want to cross the border.

Communities such as Osceola in Polk County provide the near perfect home for Kage and its future. Halbeck estimates Kage will save $250,000 to $300,000 in taxes and incentives the first year. For a growing company, he said, that is a big deal.

Another opportunity will be the St. Croix Valley Business Incubator, a $2.8 million facility that also will be located in the Sterling Ponds Corporate Park in River Falls.

“It will be a multi-use facility that will attract new businesses or business that are looking to grow or need manufacturing space,” Campeau said. She said this is also great for people looking or find co-working space. It will all be under one roof, she added. She expects many business people from Minnesota will take advantage of the business incubator.