As if we needed another reason to be proud of our community…

A recent study by financial technology company SmartAsset set out to find where people are donating the most money. The study measured how much people donate as a percentage of their net income, and the proportion of people in a given county who made charitable donations.

Pierce County ranked 6th among those donating the most in Wisconsin!

Thank you for having such big and kind hearts! You’re what makes our community a great place to live, work, and raise a family. With your help, we’re moving our community forward!

You can learn more about the study, including the methodology, here.

Since the kick off of Design Ellsworth, doors have been opening and opportunities have been presenting themselves for our community!

Recently, the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce was approached by Reba Krueger, Director of Red Letter Grant. Red Letter Grant is expanding their programs into Western Wisconsin with the hope of inspiring local women to start (or expand) businesses in Ellsworth.

Just 31% of businesses in Wisconsin are owned by women, leaving a gap rural communities like ours feel not only in ownership, but leadership and mentorship. We all know that there are many women making things happen within a household, within an organization, and within the community–but we don’t always see those women at the helm. Red Letter Grant was created to encourage more women to take risks to build a stronger more innovative region.

The main way they do this is through their $2,000 Red Letter Grant program. They also partner with local organizations to host small business workshops and networking events locally for women. The knowledge and connections gained through these events can give women the confidence to make their business dreams come true!

After Design Ellsworth, we’ve been hearing more and more women come forward with business ideas, or the desire to start one. But taking the risk can be hard for a variety of reasons. Reba shared that this is exactly what they hope to overcome through their programs.

To take advantage of what Red Letter Grant offers we could use some help and we are hoping we can count on you…

  1. We’re looking for 20-30 local women who have even the tiniest desire to start (or expand) their business in the area. The Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce is working to compile a list so they can gauge interest and will have a group of women to invite to local trainings and networking events. The hope is that eventually these women will be ready to apply for a Red Letter Grant and start their business. There’s no obligation or pressure–women who are curious and interested in exploring the possibility for themselves are the ideal candidates for this initiative. Who do you know? Is it you? Email the Ellsworth Chamber at eteam@ellsworthchamber.com for more information or to have your name added to the “Curious” list.
  2. Red Letter Grant and the Ellsworth Chamber will need some space locally for the networking and training events mentioned above. Red Letter Grant likes to patronize women-owned businesses. In Ellsworth, this poses a challenge. Typically networking events are held at a women-owned bar or restaurant. We may need to get creative. Do you have an off the wall idea or suggestion for training space or a social function for 20 enthusiastic women?
  3. Once things get rolling, we invite area business women to consider taking part. Your career experiences can do a lot to support other women. There might be a training opportunity you are interested in. Perhaps you could be a trainer or speaker at a workshop? Or maybe you’ve got a secret business (or expansion) idea you want to explore? For now, just be thinking on it!

This is an exciting opportunity that has the potential to change our community. Imagine what would happen if just 1-2 additional women-owned businesses were generated in our community–what a huge win! However, it’s not just about adding new businesses, it’s about creating new leaders in our community, too. That’s going to make the biggest impact on our community over time.

You can learn more about Red Letter Grant, and what they’ve achieved so far in the Chippewa Valley, on their website: https://www.redlettergrant.org/

If you’re to the point where $2,000 of start-up money would help get your business going, the deadline for their first round of grants for the year is Monday, May 6! If you’re not quite ready yet, there will be another opportunity in the fall. The Ellsworth Chamber has more information. And watch the Ellsworth Chamber’s Facebook page for opportunities for women to take part in Red Letter Grant trainings and networking events, or better yet, send an email to eteam@ellsworthchamber.com and ask to have your name added to the “Curious” list!

Consider it the Oscars of economic development for Pierce County! While there wasn’t a red carpet, the nominations and awards were just as exciting!

Our community was well-represented among the attendees AND the award winners. Our local Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce was the recipient of the 2018 Pierce County Cornerstone Award. The award recognizes extraordinary contributions to furthering economic development in Pierce County.

The Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival and the Design Ellsworth initiatives caught the eye of the nominating committee. The Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival made a $2.55 million economic impact to our region in 2018, and the 2019 event looks to be just as impactful! The event will remain in Ellsworth’s East End Park, with the overall footprint expanding into the East Ellsworth Business District. Why would we continue to hold the event in the downtown when we have such a beautiful county fairgrounds?

There are 3 main reasons and they also support Design Ellsworth’s goals. As the festival continues to grow, the Ellsworth Chamber and the Festival Committee remain steadfast in their goals for this event:

  1. Provide a proof of concept and exposure for our East Ellsworth Business District. If we provide unique and engaging experiences, businesses and customers will come.
  2. Provide economic impact for our downtown. More visitors equal more dollars spent in our town, leading to more successful businesses and economic growth and expansion.
  3. Be a catalyst for the revitalization of our business community. Thriving businesses increase our community’s tax base, allowing for quality of life improvements without increasing taxes for residents.

Considering that 57% of festival attendees come from the Twin Cities, bypassing our downtown would not support our downtown businesses or provide for economic development there. The Cheese Curd Festival is not only a fun festival, but it’s also an important economic development strategy!

Also, receiving an award at the Pierce County EDC Awards Banquet was YB Urban?. They were named Pierce County’s Small Entrepreneurial Star. How thrilling to see an Ellsworth business proving small businesses can not only survive, but actually thrive in our community!

And congratulations to the Ellsworth High School Fab Lab for receiving the Career Pathways Award. The innovation and training our students, and the community, are receiving through exposure to the Fab Lab’s equipment and technology is sure to lead to new inventions and innovative business concepts–our hope is that when that happens, Ellsworth is the community these students choose for their start-ups!

A big thank you to David Clarey, RiverTown Multimedia, for covering the Design Ellsworth Community Input Session on behalf of the Pierce County Herald. The event took place, Friday, October 19 at the Ellsworth Elementary School.

Design Ellsworth Input Session

Close to 275 community members attended the event. Attendees broke into groups and worked through thought-provoking questions such as, “Ten years from now, what’s one thing about Ellsworth you hope to brag about?” and “What should be Ellsworth’s next great community space?”

Design Ellsworth Answer Cards

Community members discussed many ideas. Some very specific such as a coffee shop with a drive-thru or a family restaurant, while others were more general in their wants, and curious to see how the event would unfold.

Design Ellsworth Input

Several participants mentioned the desire for a multi-functional property. This space would accommodate a new and larger library, senior center, teen hangout, and community center. Members of the Design Team commented on such a space being multi-purpose and a smart use of space. Since all groups would tend to use the space at different times (i.e. Seniors during the day, teens in the afternoons and evenings, the community on the weekends, etc.) the entire community would be served by the one location, making the space affordable for the community.

Design Ellsworth Community
Answers to the questions were all written on large pieces of paper and displayed on walls throughout the gym. Attendees then showed their support by voting with sticker dots. As a result, it was clear which items were the most popular.

For the full story from the Pierce County Herald, please click here.