Community Update – National Small Business Week



National Small Business Week

The American success story has been fueled by pioneers who think big, take risks and work hard. From storefront shops to high-tech startups, small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of our nation’s promise. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 8.08.52 AMAcknowledging that fact, the President of the United States has, every year since 1963, issued a proclamation on behalf of National Small Business Week.  This year, the event takes place from May 1 to May 7. Its aim is to recognize the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners to our economy.

More than half of all U.S. citizens either own or work for a small business. Such businesses create about two out of every three new jobs in our nation each year. Every day, small businesses create 21st century jobs, drive innovation and increase prosperity in communities throughout the country.

IMG_0551In our hometown of Wisconsin Rapids, we directly benefit from the businesses that employ 20 or fewer employees. While many of these businesses are startups and young companies, others are long-established firms. Small businesses help to drive the economic growth of Wisconsin Rapids across a variety of industry sectors, playing an important role in diversifying our economy. 

That’s why the City of Wisconsin Rapids has been working since 2013 with Google to help local business owners – particularly our small-business owners – to increase their visibility and help to ensure business growth and competitiveness with resources such as online listings and website creation services – all, available at no cost. To get started, business owners just need to create an online listing and verify their business with Google – for free – by visiting

Grow Rapids logoWe also have invested time in helping existing or prospective business ventures with an economic portal called GROW Rapids. Grow Rapids is here to serve as an informational hub with business resources.   We have a clear mission: Grow businesses, grow jobs, and Grow Rapids. 

WisconsinRapidsAnd as a special local activity springing from National Small Business Week, I will be stopping by one small business every week during the month of May.  My intention is to bring attention to local business – new and established alike,  to acknowledge individual entrepreneurial excellence with mentions on our City website, and in my Community Update.

Also during National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration website will offer owners of small businesses a daily calendar of free webinars and other information aids.

National Small Business Week enables local businesses and customers to better support one another. When we support small business, jobs are created and our local community can build upon its unique culture. In short, it is virtually impossible to truly commit to creating jobs and spurring economic growth without addressing ways to embrace the vision and effort of our entrepreneurs.

Thank you for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – YPWeek- Celebrate Aspiration & Opportunity; Last Call for Tree Sale



Celebrate Aspiration, Opportunity and Partnership during Young Professionals Week

A major motivator of the City’s push forward with Downtown District redevelopment and Riverbank investments is the need to retain and attract the next generation of workers and families. Achieving this goal requires that we convince current and prospective students, employees, employers and entrepreneurs that they have the opportunity to help shape a vibrant and thriving community. Once people see that they can make an impact, and do make an impact, they are more apt to be ‘attached’ to the community and easier to make the choice to stay. Further, our employers consistently state that attracting and retaining talent and young professionals remains a top challenge- here and statewide!

In keeping with that philosophy, Current, the recently formed Young Professionals group in Wisconsin Rapids, invites the young in age, the young at heart and the young in spirit to celebrate a variety of local festivities as part of Young Professionals Week, April 23-30. YPWeek, as it is commonly known, is designed to engage and excite younger members of our community about the range of opportunities that are possible in our area and how they can play a role in making that potential a reality.

12419347_1147396831978140_4708070537292985098_oWisconsin Rapids is one of 15 Wisconsin communities that will participate in YPWeek. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has backed the initiative, and YPWeek is expected to involve more than 100 events statewide.

Current is urging Wisconsin Rapids residents to take part in a Kickoff Tour & Social on Monday, April 25, at Aspirus Riverview Hospital beginning at 5:15 p.m. with a tour.

Starting inside the main entrance of Aspirus Riverview Hospital, CEO Todd Birch will highlight facilities and future plans. The tour will wrap up on the third floor, where guests can enjoy appetizers, beverages and door prizes.

A panel discussion, Why Do You Believe in Wisconsin Rapids? will take place on Wednesday, April 27, at Great Expectations beginning at 5:30 p.m.

I am honored to moderate this discussion among five distinguished area residents. They will focus on why they believe in and stayed in the community; offer advice for young professionals; and identify the obstacles and opportunities our community faces. The panel consists of: Phil Brown, president of South Wood County Historical Society, vice president of Glacial Lake Cranberry; and chairperson of the Town of Cranmoor; Dr. Sue Budjac, President of Mid-State Technical College; Wayne Christie, MD, FAAOS, of Wisconsin Rapids Orthopedics Center; Robin Koeshall, owner of Paul Gross Jewelers; and Gus Mancuso of Incourage Community Foundation, and former principal at Lincoln and John Edwards high schools. Appetizers, a cash bar, and social networking are on tap from 5:30 to 6:00 p.m.

A Toast to Great Futures  will take place Friday, April 29, at Nekoosa Community Center beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 7.54.26 AMCurrent urges fellow professionals to support the annual Wisconsin Rapids Area Boys & Girls Club beer and wine tasting gala. This affair benefits some 1,600 youth in our community who attend the Club each year. Attendees can sample from among more than 40 premium wines and over 35 craft beers – many from the state of Wisconsin – along with appetizers from Great Expectations. Current is also seeking individuals to “give back” by serving as set-up and/or cleanup volunteers.

Of course, ambitious undertakings such as these are mightily helped through the contributions and good graces of local sponsors. Current has received an outpouring of support from these generous community partners: Affordable Maytag, Aspirus Riverview Hospital and Clinics, DNL Recreation, Great Expectations, Incourage Community Foundation and Ruesch Companies.

As the adage goes, “It takes a village.” And with the ongoing inspiration and collaboration evidenced by events such as YPWeek, Wisconsin Rapids can look forward to a very bright tomorrow. Do your share, by stepping out next week and helping Current lay a foundation for sustained civic engagement.

Community Tree Sale

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FINAL Call- The Mayor’s Beautification Council is nearing the end of its Community Tree Sale. Flowering Crabapple trees are available to purchase for use on your own property or donated to the City for just $55 each, with pick-up in early May. You can also order a tree in remembrance of a special loved one – memorial plaques are available for an additional $35. For more information and to order, please contact Sue Winch at 715-213-1747, or email

Thank you for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Public Pool/Recreation Options Update, Candidates Wanted for Mayoral Appointments



Public Pool Survey/Recreation Options Update, Candidates Wanted for Mayoral Appointments

Public Pool/Recreation Options Update

For nearly a century, recreational aquatics has been woven into the fabric of Wisconsin Rapids life. From the East Side Pool, built in the early 1900s, to Mead Pool, constructed during the 1970s, the City has provided residents and visitors with a form of safe and healthy fun.

snorkel daze searchDuring the first three months of this year, the City conducted a survey about potential aquatic options in Wisconsin Rapids. The survey consisted of questions developed as a result of focus groups discussions with citizens throughout the community regarding a variety of aquatics options, along with the costs residents would be willing to undertake. We have been gratified by your willingness to provide feedback, because such collaboration is vital to making quality aquatics a reality.

The City and its consultants will soon share the results of the aquatics survey during a public forum, where we encourage resident participation in providing additional input.

In the meantime, we’ve also considered other recreational alternatives as a short-term option and those long-range options, including:

  • For 2016- Utilizing already-budgeted resources to fund an Urban day-camp for youngsters ages 6 to 12, in collaboration with South Wood County YMCA and Mead Charter Elementary School. Without a pool this summer, some youth are left with few or no alternatives for the time that would be spent at the pool.
  • Beyond 2016- Considering potential sites, features and amenities of an outdoor aquatics facility and/or Partnering with the YMCA on a project that would allow public access to a proposed indoor facility.

Finance and Property  4-6-16

In addition, at last week’s April 6 meeting, the Wisconsin Rapids City Council’s Finance & Property Committee granted the City approval to solicit proposals for conceptual design services related to an outdoor aquatics facility. This would allow us to put together budget figures & conceptual design on various alternatives, estimated at between $5,000 and $15,000. The time frame for receiving preliminary plans would be tight, in the hope of getting these concepts out for consideration within six to eight weeks.

Recognizing the importance of community input, we would also want to have these alternatives available for residents to review and express their preferences, most likely at a community forum to be held in early May.  The Mayor’s Youth Council will also be surveying middle and high-school students regarding their opinions on aquatics.

Our community is at a crossroads in terms of deciding how much we wish to invest in a solution that is economically feasible; makes our community an attractive and welcoming environment for new residents and businesses; and contributes to the health and well being of our citizens, both now and in the future. Coming together to invest in our quality of life is an integral part of our economic development.

Armed with public support, the Wisconsin Rapids City Council and I continue our commitment to pursue a sustainable solution to our aquatics needs.

 Candidates Wanted for Mayoral Appointments

I extend a warm and personal “Thank You” to all the Wisconsin Rapids-area citizens who turned out in such large numbers on April 5 to exercise their right to vote. This precious privilege is a hallmark of citizen participation in local government.

Serving as part of a governmental board or commission offers another avenue for displaying your active role in helping to shape a better community.

As your mayor, I truly appreciate residents who apply for and accept appointment to boards, commissions and committees. The deliberations and decisions of these bodies impact the City to a significant extent. By serving in such a capacity, you can make a mark, both now and for generations to come.Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 9.37.41 AMAt our City website, you can find a complete list of boards and commissions that offer opportunities for you to have an influence.

Take a look, send me a note with a resume or information about yourself with your interests … and get involved!

Thank you for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Update on Downtown revitalization, MC Sports project moves ahead



Community Update – MC Sports project moves ahead, Update on Downtown revitalization

IMG_2567Tangible progress to revitalize the Wisconsin Rapids Downtown District manifested itself on Monday, February 29. That’s when City crews started demolished the former Spath and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) office buildings.

Spath Demolition

Along with other City and Wood County representatives. I took a ceremonial sledgehammer swing to signify the beginning of the end for these buildings, which were dilapidated and had outlived their useful life.


Watch a time lapse of the demolition.

The work will clear space on a triangle-shaped block near the corner of First Street North and Market Street, across from the Wood County Courthouse. Last year, the City bought the Spath and USDA buildings, along with land on the other side of the block, which includes the former Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar.

We don’t want to be landlords, or to own the site; we want to get it in the hands of developers who will commit to building a multi-story, multi-use structure that might possibly hold apartments, offices, retail space and restaurants. This summer, we will begin in earnest to recruit a potential developer, as well as identify potential tenants.

In the meantime, work will continue on several fronts to make Downtown redevelopment a reality:

  • City crews have completed cleaning up the Spath and USDA building.
  • Environmental issues posed by an underground storage tank will be identified.
  • Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, has submitted a Site Assessment Grant request in the amount of $160,000 to support the demolition and environmental assessment of the Good Time Charlie’s building. We expect to hear a response by mid-April.
  • Closing on Good Time Charlie’s should take place in May. After that will seek proposals from contractors to demolish the building. Once the building has been removed, full-service engineering consultant Robert E. Lee & Associates will perform an environmental assessment.
  • Continue negotiations with the County for the acquisition of the former County Annex property.
  • We will continue to pursue purchase of the 4 Stools and Geibert Building properties.
  • The Comprehensive Housing Study now under way will be completed over the next 30 days to identify the potential for housing downtown.

image1[1]This Downtown District revitalization project fits into the long-term plans that previous Wisconsin Rapids administrations had developed for the city. It’s up to us as current leaders to make those plans a reality. Without our stepping in, these buildings would have been on the market for years, maintaining a look of yesterday and decline. Taking over and tearing down these properties literally clears the way to foster development in the area. This helps the City, and current and potential employers, to attract the rowing number of people who desire more urban areas where they can walk to get the goods and services they need.

I would love to hear from anyone who has an interest in developing the Downtown District area, renting space for a business or renting an apartment. Reply to this email, call or visit my office.

MC Sports project moves ahead

As your mayor, I was pleased to share in the news that Wisconsin Rapids will soon welcome merchandiser MC Sports to the community.

Equally gratifying, is that the store will be located at 2211 Eighth Street S., in the former Staples building that had been vacant since May of 2014. This property covers Staplesapproximately 24,000 square feet.

MC Sports contractors have submitted permit applications for the building and electrical work, which were issued as of March 1. Combined cost of work to be performed under the two permits is estimated at around $400,000. The company has not provided a time frame for completing the work at this point, but will rely on local review and inspections to help facilitate the process.

MC Sports furnishes quality sports equipment, footwear and apparel, at 75 stores throughout Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois. As I noted at the time of the announcement, we are very pleased that a gap in our retail options will now be filled. MC Sports will be a welcome tenant and addition to our Eighth Street business corridor. We are also excited by the knowledge that MC Sports is a “good sport” when it come to supporting the communities where it does business, through team sponsorships, fund raising programs, team and group discounts, and a long-standing commitment to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Thank you for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Zoning Code Guides Growth and Development; Aquatics Update; Community Tree Sale



Community Update – Zoning Code Guides Growth and Development; Aquatics Update; Community Tree Sale

Zoning Code Guides Growth and Development

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Civi Tek Consulting reps lead Planning Commission members through early steps at a meeting on Feb. 15, 2016.

With a view to adopting best practices to make our community an attractive and welcoming partner for residents, newcomers and businesses, the City of Wisconsin Rapids over the past few months has begun the process of rewriting its zoning code to make it more modern and user friendly. To expedite building and landscaping decisions, the new zoning code will be readable and understandable, with no overlapping or contradictory provisions. Photos, graphics and drawings will be used as much as possible to increase user comprehension so residents and business people can be fully cued into provisions and standards.

Part of the rewrite process has involved gathering input from you, our citizens. During a two-hour workshop at City Hall on November 3, 2015, our consultant, Civi Tek Consulting, facilitated a dialogue among members of the Planning Commission, the Zoning Code Rewrite Task Force and invited residents to identify general and specific major policy issues the new zoning code should address. The ultimate goal was to develop consensus on what construction, landscaping and parking standards should be addressed in the rewrite, and to gain sufficient direction to begin drafting the updated zoning ordinance.


Video: Planning Commission Meeting 2-15-16

On February 16, 2016 Civi Tek Consulting representatives shared with the Planning Commission the results from the November 3, 2015 dialogue session. They actively engaged Commission members to determine their views on the degree of flexibility a new code should have; their confidence in how well the current code answers potential development questions; and how frequently they reference the current code.

The representatives also provided a blueprint for how they would prioritize issues in putting together a draft proposal, expected within 14 to 16 months. Considerations would include: identification of priority zoning districts (e.g., Downtown Riverfront, 8th Street, etc.); procedures and standards related to granting permits; and identifying how the Planning Commission and the Common Council share administrative and appeals authority.

This draft ordinance will be reviewed and refined by the Commission and City officials. Residents also will have opportunities to weigh in with comments, at public meetings and online before we go forward with the final updated ordinance.

Along the path to a zoning ordinance that meets the needs of a growing and progressive community, we continue to post updates at the City website. We also encourage you to call Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, at 715-421-8225, or email

Aquatics Survey Update


A telephone survey was conducted recently about Mead Pool and other potential aquatic facilities in Wisconsin Rapids.

A big “Thank You” goes out to residents who have responded to the “call” for feedback on our community’s recreational aquatics needs. To gauge your thoughts and desires on the best course of action, the City, through a partner researcher, conducted a telephone survey about Mead Pool and other potential aquatic facilities in Wisconsin Rapids.

The survey was designed to help provide insight into the community’s aquatics needs in terms of facilities and programs; the amount of money people would be willing to pay for a new aquatics center; and views on collaborating with partners.

Options under consideration include:

  • Build a outdoor new pool with features at a cost of $3.5 to $5 million, while considering installation splash pads in neighborhood parks; or
  • Partner with the South Wood County YMCA to construct a regional public aquatics center; or
  • A combination of both.

To further ensure public input, we will also conduct an email survey, focus groups and a community forum to report findings. I encourage you to continue making your voice heard-the City Council and I are relying on public feedback to make our decisions on the future of aquatics in our city.

Community Tree Sale


Video: Learn more about purchasing a tree for your property.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 12.04.34 PMThe Mayor’s Council on Beautification is offering another opportunity for citizens to spruce up and add color to their properties, as well as their neighborhoods. Starting right now, residents can select from three varieties of six-foot, bare-root flowering crab apple trees for just $55 apiece, with pick-up in early May. You can also order a tree in remembrance of a special loved one – memorial plaques are available for an additional $35. For more information and to order, please contact Sue Winch at 715-213-1747, or email

Thanks for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – City awarded DNR Stewardship grant; Aquatics offering study update; Housing Needs/Assessment Questionnaire deadline



Community Update – City awarded $545,974 DNR Stewardship grant; Aquatics offering survey update; Housing Needs/Assessment Questionnaire deadline

Wisconsin Rapids awarded DNR Stewardship grant

I am excited to announce that we were successful in our pursuit of a DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grant in the amount of $545,974! This grant makes a bold statement toward supporting our long-range East River Bank improvement project. We will strategically apply these grant funds to the first phase of the improvements, currently under consideration.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 10.21.02 AMThe Wisconsin Legislature created the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in 1989 to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protect water quality and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation.

As residents of this community, we should all be proud that the State of Wisconsin has chosen to award Wisconsin Rapids this grant. Our selection strongly indicates that our plans for growth, development and prosperity in the Downtown Waterfront District are recognized far beyond our borders.

Answer the call for Aquatics Survey

Due to the well-documented challenges of reopening Mead Pool for another season in 2016, your City leaders are looking to you, our citizens, to help guide us toward the best course of action to meet our community’s recreational aquatics needs.

To gauge your thoughts and desires, the City will conduct a telephone survey about Mead Pool and other potential aquatic facilities in Wisconsin Rapids.  Scheduled to begin the third week of January, the survey will call randomized households in Wisconsin Rapids as well as an online survey will be available.

We hope that this survey will inform and drive the decision-making process, by providing insight into the community’s aquatics needs in terms of facilities and programs; the amount of money people would be willing to pay for a new aquatics center; and views on collaborating with partners.

Options under consideration right now include:

  • Build a new pool at a cost of $3.5 to $5 million, while considering installation of splash pads in neighborhood parks; and/or
  • Partner with the South Wood County YMCA to construct a regional public aquatics center.
  • Options to consider both within a reasonable amount of capital expenditure.

To further ensure public input, we will also conduct focus groups and a community forum. In the meantime, I encourage residents to “answer the call” and give voice to their feelings when called by a survey representative. We plan to report Initial survey results in February.

Reminder: Residents invited to complete Housing Needs/Assessment Questionnaire

If you live, work, and play in the City of Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding communities have not yet had the opportunity to complete and submit the housing study and needs assessment, please take a few minutes to do so by the deadline January 22. We truly seek as much citizen input as possible in order to accurately identify how our existing housing stock meets current housing demand and what changes may be necessary to meet future needs.Housing Survey I strongly encourage residents to please take 10-15 minutes to fill out the survey, which you can access by clicking web link:

While electronic surveys are preferred, paper copies also are available at various locations in and around the Wisconsin Rapids area.

For more information, please call 715-421-8225.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Common Council appointment marks historic landmark, City Hall Holiday Open House, Citizens Needed to Serve


ImageCommon Council appointment marks historic landmark, City Hall Holiday Open House and citizens needed to serve.

Common Council appointment marks historic landmark

Lee Thao takes the oath of office at the Common Council meeting on Dec. 15, 2015.

Lee Thao takes the oath of office at the Common Council meeting on Dec. 15, 2015.

At its Dec. 15 meeting, the City of Wisconsin Rapids Common Council, Lee Thao took the oath office to fill the District 1 aldermanic seat vacated by Chad Wirl. He will represent District 1 until April 16, 2016, when a special election will be held for the office.

After council debate as to the options and process of filling the vacancy, a motion was made to appoint Lee, who expressed interest in the position, until a special election would be held. With the council split 4-4 on the motion, I am pleased and proud to have cast the tie-breaking, deciding vote in favor of Lee’s appointment. Along with the four Council members who supported him, I think Lee is a most worthy selection. He has long been active in the community and had previously expressed interest in getting more involved in city government. As someone who strongly believes in representative democracy, I feel this landmark appointment- our first Hmong representative on the council- symbolizes our recognition that the City’s interests are best served by embracing a diversity of cultures and perspectives.


Alderperson Chad Wirl shares his thoughts to the public and the Common Council on Nov. 17, 2015 following his resignation.


Video: Alderperson Chad Wirl

After much reflection and consideration, Chad decided to give up the seat, effective November 30. Since his election in 2009, Chad has served our City very well, elevating awareness of District 1 concerns such as neighborhood cleanup and community policing. We will miss his direct contributions to our government, and I personally wish him well in his ongoing endeavors. Chad will be formally recognized at the January City Council meeting.

 City Hall Holiday Open House

Holiday Open House Invite[1]We invite all City residents to join us on December 22, for our annual City Hall Holiday Open House. This festive event will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall Lobby. You’ll be able to visit with alderpersons, commissioners, committee members and City staff; while enjoying refreshments, and live music and decorations by area students. Bring a non-perishable food item to be distributed to a local food pantry. I look forward to seeing you there! For more information, call 715-421-8216.

Citizens needed to serve

During my State of the City address last February, I repeated my ongoing call to local residents to be more engaged in shaping our community’s future. Specifically, I highlighted how citizens can actively participate through their involvement as part of Mayor’s Councils on Beautification, Sustainability and Youth.

Of course, these three initiatives only hint at the many ways that dedicated individuals can play a role in their community. We are always looking for people to apply for and accept appointment to a number of boards, commissions and committees whose deliberations and decisions impact the City to a significant extent.

Just two examples are the Board of Zoning Appeals, which hears matters relating to property variances and appeals; and the Industrial Development Board, whose members review and take action on potential developments in our city business parks. Again, these are just a couple of examples of how you can make a mark, both now and perhaps, for generations to come.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.32.45 AMAt our City website, you can find a complete list of boards and commissions that offer opportunities for you to have an influence. Take a look … and get involved!

Learn more about running for an elected position in this video by RCCA Media.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink