Community Update

UWSP 8th Street Renewal Planning Session Yields Creative Solutions

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University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students shared imaginative visions of redevelopment in the Wisconsin Rapids community Friday, February 22. That’s when enrollees in natural resource planning and sustainable design programs presented initial proposals on the City’s 8th Street corridor. The three-hour session at the UWSP College of Professional Studies also brought together Wisconsin Rapids staff and elected officials and other local stakeholders to help clarify and resolve issues, and to map solutions.

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 4.42.57 PMThe genesis for this unique classroom/real-world development project began during autumn of last year, when the City began communicating with Wood County Community Development Extension Educator Nancy Turyk to learn more about ways to work with UWSP students.

Dr. Anna Haines, Director of the Center for Land Use Education at UWSP, subsequently enlisted five teams of students to concentrate on a “first impressions” assessment of Wisconsin Rapids, and to analyze challenges and revitalization opportunities along the City’s 8th Street corridor.

Led by Dr. Haines and Professor Aaron Kadoch, the meeting on Friday was highlighted by colorful graphics prepared by the students to illustrate their initial impressions; followed by the formation of working groups to brainstorm and sketch out concepts to emphasize urban planning, systems and infrastructure, and sustainable development.

The next step will be the further development of the concepts by the students from the natural resource planning class and will ultimately conclude with a formal presentation of final concepts by the students to City officials, possibly in early May.

We are proud to be engaged in this exciting opportunity to bring classroom concepts to life, right here in our very own community. And we thank UWSP faculty, staff and students for immersing themselves so fully into this project.

City Praised For An “Engaged And Responsive Local Government”Facebook Cover Image

Local government engagement and responsiveness was on the upswing in 2018, based upon analysis of citizen request data from our City of Wisconsin Rapids App. Based on the results, our technology partner included Wisconsin Rapids among its top 20 most engaged and most responsive local governments.

The City of Wisconsin Rapids App is a fast and easy way to report and track quality-of-life neighborhood issues through online and mobile devices. Residents can easily submit neighborhood concerns from their Smartphone, the Wisconsin Rapids website or over the phone. These concerns are then sent automatically to the right official, with the right information, to get the job done – while keeping citizens in the loop all the way with clear, understandable information.

The value of the City of Wisconsin App is validated by another finding from our tech partner: Wisconsin Rapids is Number Four in the country in responding to and fixing requests from citizens.

A recent MIT study showed that citizens who use tools such as the City of Wisconsin Rapids App to report community issues felt that they can make an impact, which resulted in their having greater trust in their local government. Thus, the relationship between local residents and their local government is a tie well worth strengthening.

I invite everyone to download the City of Wisconsin Rapids App via the Apple App Store, or Google Play.

We tip our hats to our residents who keep an eagle eye open for quality-of-life issues in their neighborhoods; and to workers and staff from multiple City departments, who quickly respond to help improve our community, one solution at a time.

Heart of Wisconsin Honors Our Community LeadersScreen Shot 2019-03-07 at 5.05.03 PM

Thursday February 27 provided an opportunity to pay tribute to the accomplishments of individuals and organizations who represent and contribute to our community in substantial ways, as the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce held its 71st Annual Meeting & Awards Night. These honorees demonstrate that our area continues to move forward toward becoming an ideal place in which to live, work and play:

Community Spirit – Central Wisconsin Gift of Life, for its passionate promotion of life-saving gift organ and tissue donation, and fundraising support for University of Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation, and Restoring Hope Transplant House in Middleton.

Chamber Champion – Dade “Big Pipes” Grode, for donating his musical and vocal talents to a wide variety of Heart of Wisconsin events throughout the year.

Ambassador of the Year – Carrie Nikolai, for going “above and beyond” in support of our local business community, by bringing her reliable presence and lively personality to ribbon-cutting ceremonies, Business After Hours and other Chamber events.

Shining Star Non-Profit of the Year – Wisconsin Rapids Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge #693for caring for, and sharing with, community members through innovative service programs, scholarship awards, fundraising events, and initiatives focusing on support for military veterans, youth drug awareness, infant care and patriotic pride.

Entrepreneur of the Year – Crockett Septic LLC, for its growth through strategic acquisitions, superior customer service and innovative adjustments to changing market conditions, and for its contributions to non-profits and charitable organizations.

Innovative Business of the Year – Verso Corporation-Wisconsin Rapids Mill, for a commitment to facility retooling, ongoing business investment, innovations inefficient energy use, and expansion of its market through new product and service development.

Regional Economic Impact of the Year – Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport, for significant regional growth and expansion in its business operations, community service and leadership, and innovative processes to accommodate increased traffic demand.

Business of the Year – Quality Foods Hometown Market, for positive economic impact on the community, business growth, dedication to customer service, community service and innovation to adapt to marketplace change.

In the midst of these acknowledgments, I was surprised and delighted to be honored at the Heart’s Citizen of the Year. While the City of Wisconsin Rapids advanced its profile at regional, state and national levels during the past year, I humbly accept this recognition with a nod to City staff, to elected officials, and to you, our residents. Without multi-faceted community support and engagement, civic progress is impossible.

As evidenced by this year’s impressive roster of Awards Night honorees, we can continue to be grateful for the leadership, innovation and pride that help to drive economic and social success in our community.

Thanks for ready,





Community Update

Share Your Artistic Creations For A Cultural Center Exhibit

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 11.51.14 AMAs part of an overall drive to encourage our area arts community to revitalize the “look” of our public spaces, an open call is being issued to artists, emerging artists and residents to contribute to an exhibit that celebrates our cranberry culture.

Selected pieces will be part of the Cranberry Art Exhibit, taking place March 15 through April 18 at the Central Wisconsin Cultural Center. The Cultural Center seeks original artwork inspired by our area’s cranberries, cranberry blossoms or cranberry farming in Central Wisconsin. Art forms from a range of artistic expression are welcomed, including 2D, 3D and mixed media.

One entry will be chosen and photographed as the official art poster for the 2019 Cranberry Blossom Festival.

Submit your entries (up to three per artist) from February 26 through March 5. More details and an entry form are right here.

This exciting Cranberry Art Exhibit reminds us that input from local artists is essential to our vision of adorning our city’s public spaces. Recognizing that reality, the Central Wisconsin Cultural Center has been working with the Mayor’s Beautification Council, City departments and District 3 Alderperson Scott Kellogg to advance ideas that would expand the platforms for area artists. These would include sculpture, murals and other art installations in our parks, which other municipalities have demonstrated can serve as visitor destinations with proper planning and nurturing.

Much work lies ahead in making these ideas a reality, but be aware that the City invites your creativity. We appreciate that an active arts community can significantly contribute to a quality of life that identifies us as an ideal location in which to live, work and play.

Mardi Gras Business Expo & Job Fair Promotes Local BusinessesScreen Shot 2019-02-19 at 1.49.52 PM

As Mayor of this great city, one of my favorite mantras is, “Buy local!” It’s our way of spotlighting the importance of area businesses and recognizing the financial benefit of keeping money circulating within the community.

One fun and festive way for both consumers and businesses to support this key to economic development is to participate in the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Mardi Gras Business Expo & Job Fair, on Tuesday, March 5, from 3 – 7 p.m., at Bull’s Eye Country Club, 2800 Ridgewood Trail in Wisconsin Rapids. Admission: $5 & includes raffle tickets.

The Business Expo & Job Fair provides the opportunity for local businesses to display their products and services, and promote themselves with decorative and creative booths. Residents can come discover the wealth of “home grown” products and services available right here in the community, and potential job opportunities, as well. With more than 40 business booths on display, participating businesses and visitors will enjoy networking with guests, friends and Heart of Wisconsin members, while sampling an array of local foods.

Come on out, and savor a taste of local fun!

Coffee with the Mayor at Dunkin Donuts

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids is the opportunity to meet face to face and talk with local citizens about topics and issues that mean the most to them. I look forward to continuing the tradition this Saturday, March 2, 2019 “Coffee with the Mayor” session at Dunkin Donuts located on 8th Street. This is the fourth session to take place this year! The event takes place from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m.

It is a privilege to converse with engaged citizens. I look forward to your sharing your thoughts and questions about the future of our city, and to provide me with valuable feedback. Hope to see you there!

Thank you for reading my blog.





Community Update

Matalco $80M investment in Wisconsin Rapids – Your Questions Answered

wisconsinrapids2.jpgThis past Wednesday at City Hall, I was honored to be joined by state and local officials when Matalco Inc. announced that it will invest $80 million to construct a 110,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Wisconsin Rapids’ Rapids East Commerce Center. Check out the video of the announcement.

Along with the excitement of this development in diversifying our economic base comes reasonable questions, which have been expressed to us both personally and through social media. In the interest of transparency, I will now address some of these questions.

Q: What does Matalco manufacture?

A: Matalco Inc. has built a reputation as a leading supplier for the aluminum extrusion and forging manufacturing industries. The Matalco plant in Wisconsin Rapids will produce aluminum billet, which are solid aluminum logs of various diameters and lengths. Matalco creates these billets for extrusion companies that then create other products from the material by cutting or pressing the aluminum. Matalco will take in scrap aluminum, melt it and cast out the aluminum billets. It will use mostly recycled material. Aluminum is a unique metal: strong, durable, flexible, impermeable, lightweight, corrosion-resistant and 100% recyclable.

Q: Exactly what will our community get out of this project?

A: Matalco will equip this new facility with the latest advanced technology to service existing and prospective customers, and to expand market share. At full production capacity, the Wisconsin Rapids facility will employ 80 permanent, full-time skilled and unskilled personnel, with annual production in excess of 230 million pounds of high-quality aluminum billet. The building process itself will offer opportunities for hundreds of construction workers, and for companies that offer power logistics services. Matalco also expects to establish ties with other local businesses, and with the skilled and well-trained resources at Mid-State Technical College for apprenticeships.

Q: How will this project affect our environment?

A: Matalco’s production process features filtering and recycling of water, avoiding contamination of the surrounding water table. Efficient furnaces produce virtually no waste; any excess furnace heat is captured and recycled. Technological controls ensure that air emissions are maintained below governmental reporting thresholds. The normal byproduct of a remelt process, the dross, is recycled in-house. What remains is salt cake, which is sold to other recyclers to be processed for reuse. Matalco also operates a modern and light-weight scrap hauling fleet and continuously updates its equipment to lighter weight aluminum – reducing road congestion and minimizing its carbon footprint.

Q: The City still needs to approve details of the real estate sales and development agreements. How long is this expected to take?

A:  City staff and City Council members will review the property and tax incentive package before giving final approval to this project. Both the City and Matalco consider this review standard procedure for an undertaking of this sort. While the review takes place, Matalco will continue going forward with its plans for breaking ground in April or May.

Q: Like the Foxconn deal, the Matalco project benefits from local and state incentives. How can we as taxpayers be assured that our “investment” will yield the economic and job-growth benefits promised?

A: This Wisconsin Rapids plant will be the fifth (fourth in the United States) that Matalco has opened in North America since the company was founded in 2005. As a leader in the aluminum manufacturing industry, Matalco has a laudable record as a conscientious and reliable corporate citizen, with a track record of treating employees fairly, and committing itself to employing advanced and sustainable manufacturing procedures.

Q: Aside from incentives, why did Matalco choose Wisconsin Rapids over other locations?

A: Matalco selected Wisconsin Rapids because our location is ideal for what it views as an underserved upper Midwest market – an opportunity for growing its customer base and expanding its market share. In addition, Tom Horter, president of Matalco Inc., has praised our city’s local investments in quality of life as among the reasons for making this business decision. He expressed his excitement at being part of what he described as, “this progressive community.” His statements underscore the value of continued City efforts to promote revitalization and a multi-pronged approach to economic development. These efforts are being noticed and eventually bear fruit.

Q: Where is this building site located?

A: The certified Rapids East Commerce Center site comprises 51 acres located south of State Highway 54 and east of 48th Street S., at 4800 Commerce Drive. The location was approved in 2014 for the State’s Certified In Wisconsin® program, which enables faster turnaround times, quick approvals and low risk for business developers.

Q: What is the construction timeline for this project?

A: Matalco hopes to break ground on the facility this April or May, with completion scheduled for mid-2020.

Q: Who will be constructing the facility?

A: The general contractor process has been completed and expect announcements after the City completes its approval process.

I am certain that you will have additional questions as we draw closer to groundbreaking this year, and continuing on through the facility’s opening in 2020. Please do not hesitate to address these questions to the Mayor’s office at, or by calling 715-421-8216. Be assured, you will receive a timely response.

All along, please know that securing investments of this magnitude for the City of Wisconsin Rapids required a focused, proactive approach involving state and local economic development partners. Many local and state officials and staff also share credit for this breakthrough.

As is evidenced by all the “helping hands,” successful economic development requires a vision, the ability to leverage strengths and assets, the determination to be proactive whenever possible, and the willingness to work collaboratively. Working together, we can continue our progress in making Wisconsin Rapids a vibrant and growing destination community.



Community Update

Significant Economic Development Announcementproject aluminum announcement_13




Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zachary Vruwink along with state and local officials set a special event on Wednesday, January 30, at 12:00 noon that involves economic growth and new job development in the City.

On Wednesday, January 30, at 12:00 noon, the City will be joined with a to be announced member of the industrial business community.



Reminder: Individual and business taxes are due on January 31screen shot 2019-01-24 at 4.27.18 pm

Next Thursday, January 31, marks the deadline for individual real estate owners and businesses to pay property taxes in the City of Wisconsin Rapids.

Individual taxpayers have the option to either make the payment in full by January 31, or make a first installment, followed by second and third installments, due by April 30 and July 31, respectively.

Personal property taxes for businesses in Wisconsin Rapids are due in full on January 31.

Taxes can be paid by check or money order in person or via drop box at City Hall, or by mail. Checks and/or money orders should be payable to the City of Wisconsin Rapids. Online payment by credit or debit card, or by ECheck, is also available.

For more information, visit tax payment information online, or call 715-421-8254.

City crews go into action during wintry weather; drive with carescreen shot 2019-01-24 at 4.34.31 pm

This current blast of wintry weather provides me with the welcome opportunity to praise the City of Wisconsin Rapids Public Works Streets Department. Alertly responding to forecasted cold weather and slippery conditions, City crews began early Monday morning to perform full-scale plowing operations, including the clearing of local streets. Although the temperatures are extremely low, sanding of our streets is underway to ensure the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

As snow, below-zero temperatures, dangerous winds and icy roads affect much of the State of Wisconsin, I urge all our local motorists to take extra precautions if travel is necessary. Buckle up and keep headlights on; pay attention and limit distractions; slow down as road conditions worsen; Increase distances between yourself and drivers ahead of you; and be cautious on bridges, overpasses, and entrance and exit ramps

Be sure to remember: Whether traveling near or far, leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows, and move over or slow down for stopped emergency vehicles

For the latest local snow removal or statewide traffic updates, call 715-421-8218, or visit the Wisconsin 511

Thank you for reading my blog.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Christmas Tree Pickup this week; 18 for ’18 – Highlights from a Year in the Life of Wisconsin Rapids; Join me for coffee next week!



City of Wisconsin Rapids Street Department workers will conduct a Christmas tree pick-up for City residents, Monday-Friday, January 21-25.

To allow City workers to operate as efficiently as possible, we ask that residents please:

  • Remove tree bags, stands, lights and all decorations.
  • Do not have trees buried by snow.
  • Place trees at the curb no later than Sunday, January 20.

Crews will make one pass through the City.

For more information, please contact the Street Department at 715-421-8218.

18 for ’18 – Highlights from a Year in the Life of Wisconsin Rapids

The City of Wisconsin Rapids experienced a wealth of continued change in 2018. New and existing business expansions, infrastructure and recreation investments, and changes in City departmental leadership all contributed to the overall sense of revitalization and growth.

Looking back over the year 2018, we are energized by seeing and feeling a sense of new and reinvestment at recent historic highs. Economic activity to and through our city as well as developments within the paper industry contribute to an overall positive outlook, civic renewal and economic prosperity. Building on the dynamic developments from 2018, we optimistically look forward to ongoing and upcoming progress in 2019 … and beyond.

Learn more about the achievements made in 2018, here.

  • New Developments and Jobs- with others on the horizon for 2019!
  • Sand Valley Golf Resort Expansion
  • State of Wisconsin Opportunity Zone Designation
  • Upgrade of Infrastructure – West Side Lift Station/Wastewater River Crossing
  • South Wood County Airport-Alexander Field Groundbreaking
    Biron/Rapids Recreational Trail Connection Completed
  • Demitz Park and East Riverbank Improvements
  • River Riders Bike Share App-based Relaunch
  • Zoo Master Plan Complete- a plan for the future
  • New Housing Projects- strengthening our housing stock
  • YMCA Groundbreaking
  • Mead Park Splash Pad – Successful First Season
  • City Welcomes New Fire Chief
  • July 4th Flyover – Salute to our heroes- First-Of-Its-Kind Celebration
  • Aspirus Riverview Invests in Behavioral Health w/Opening of Clinic
  • $2.5 Million Matching Gift for the Aquatic Center at Witter Field
  • Department of Energy Gold Designation Recognition for Solar Energy
  • Collaboration with the Leadership group to bring a renewed Welcome Sign presence!

Coffee with the Mayor at Cravings

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids is the opportunity to meet face to face and talk with local citizens. I look forward to continuing the tradition this Wednesday, January 30, during my second 2019 “Coffee with the Mayor” session at From The Ground Up Coffeehouse on West Grand Ave. The event takes place from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m.

It is a privilege to converse with engaged citizens. I look forward to your sharing your thoughts and questions about the future of our city, and to provide me with valuable feedback. Hope to see you there!

Thank you for reading my blog.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Looking ahead with Holiday Greetings to all; Parks and Recreation offers plenty of fun winter opportunities



Looking ahead with Holiday Greetings to all

As we celebrate everything that the holiday season affords us- reflection, peace and joy- as your Mayor, I am humbled and energized by those who made investments of time, resources and confidence in our City in 2018. Whether it be the new and existing business expansions, public investments in infrastructure and recreation, and redevelopment projects, all of which promise a revitalized, and a more welcoming and healthier city for residents and visitors alike.

I am looking forward to sharing a video I am currently working on with Wisconsin Rapids Community Media, that will recap the accomplishments our community has made together. Please keep watch for my next blog post that highlights 2018.

But the factor that truly sustains our community is our culture, which is reflected in the cherished ties we share with family, neighbors and friends, particularly at this festive time of the year. As we head into 2019, we do well to value and exemplify, every day, our heritage of generosity and fellowship.

On behalf of all City staff, Alderpersons, we wish to you and yours, health, happiness and peace during this holiday season.

Parks and Recreation offers plenty of fun winter opportunities

This winter season take advantage of our outdoor of facilities, amenities and programs offered by the City of Wisconsin Rapids Parks & Recreation Department.

For starters, choose from among ice skating at Witter Field Ice Skating Pond, low board hockey at Robinson Park or sledding at Poplar Springs Park. (weather permitting; a limited number of skates are available at no charge during regular hours)

Witter Field Ice Skating Pond Hours of operation are as follows:

  • School weekdays: 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Weekends (Sat & Sun): 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Christmas Break: 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Holidays: Closed (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)

I urge you to consult the Parks & Recreation Department’s 2019 Winter/Spring Recreation Activity Guide, you’ll find a complete list of colorful and fun-filled sporting and arts programs to see you and your family through the winter months.

Winter and spring program registration begins on Wednesday, January 2 at 8:00 a.m. Online registration available at  or call 715-421-8240.

Thank you for reading my blog.  Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Visit the South Wood County Historical Museum for good cheer and fun, Preparing for the winter season



Visit the South Wood County Historical Museum for good cheer and fun

You can get yourself into the Christmas spirit this season by visiting the South Wood County Historical Museum for the fourth annual Christmas Tree Walk beginning on Saturday Dec. 1 at noon.

The 2018 Mayor’s Beautification Council Christmas Tree.

The museum will come alive with a feeling of warmth and joy with 22 beautifully decorated themed Christmas trees and numerous decorated “spaces” throughout the museum provided by local organizations and individuals. Complimentary refreshments will also help to convey the holiday spirit.

  • Saturday, December 1: : noon – 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 2::  noon – 4 p.m.
  • Friday, December 7: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 8 : noon – 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 9:  noon – 4 p.m.

This year’s event is dedicated to the Kathleen Johnson and Bonnie Dhein who were the original designers of the gallery, solarium and entry displays.

 So, take just an hour of your time to visit with friends and family to take in “Christmas Tree Walk.” Thanks to the Museum and all the decorators and supporters for bringing this spectacular event to us!

Preparing for the winter season

The winter season is upon us and as Wisconsin Rapids property owners we need to do our due diligence by clearing clearing snow and ice from sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall.

The Public Works Department provides sand barrels at various locations around the city to help with ice and snow. Residents may use the sand on their sidewalks if the ice cannot be removed.  If the snow isn’t removed City crews will clear the walk when time allows and will charge the property owner a substantial amount for use of labor and equipment.  Also, please when removing snow and ice from your property please don’t push or blow the snow onto city streets

We also asks that property owners remove snow from fire-hydrants adjacent to their properties as a fire safety measure and that residents be good neighbors and assist the elderly and handicapped with removal of snow from their sidewalks.

The City of Wisconsin Rapids policy in regards to snow removal from local streets is when snow accumulation reaches four inches or more, lessor amounts may be removed upon decision of supervisory personnel.

For more information on snow removal please visit

Thank you for reading my blog.

Mayor Zach Vruwink