Community Update: Wheelers Chevrolet Expansion Reaffirms Commitment to Wisconsin Rapids, Pitch In and Support Recycling Rangers



Wheelers Chevrolet Expansion Reaffirms Commitment to Wisconsin Rapids

img_2805.jpgAnother major business expansion signals that our vision of Wisconsin Rapids as a place for renewed investment and prosperity is becoming a reality.

This past Thursday, Wheelers Chevrolet of Wisconsin Rapids broke ground on a new facility, to be located on the northwest corner of West Grand Avenue and 25th Avenue North. This state-of-the-art site will be an expansion of its current business, at 2250 W. Grand Avenue, and will offer new-vehicle sales, service and parts.

The project covers just over 22,000 square feet, with an estimated budget of more than two million dollars. Even more exciting is that this is just the first of three building projects the Wheelers Family Auto group has planned for the West Grand Avenue corridor of Rapids. A new body shop is going up during the spring of 2018, and a new Buick GMC store will be constructed in 2019. This expansion will add jobs and increased tax base to our community.

The Wheelers Group worked to bring Chevrolet back to the Wisconsin Rapids market in June of 2015, after that auto brand had been absent from our new-car market for some seven years. This was a huge risk, but family matriarch Ann Wheeler truly believed in Wisconsin Rapids and its potential to successfully support an enterprise of this magnitude. In participating in the groundbreaking, I can confidently state her vision shined down on the occasion.

Speaking on behalf of our entire community, I welcome this latest expression of confidence and investment by the Wheeler family.

Welcome to Wisconsin Rapids!

Pitch In and Support Recycling Rangers

File photo

The Recycling Rangers need your help!

This dedicated group of residents volunteers to help clean up before, during and after civic events. This summer, the Recycling Rangers ask you to join in several opportunities to enhance our City’s eye appeal to visitors from far and wide. For your efforts, you’ll be rewarded with a t-shirt, plastic gloves and a lighten-the-load tool!

Special summer events we need you to volunteer for:

  • Cinema Under the Stars – Thursday, June 15
  • Friends of Rapids Musical Festival – Saturday, June 17
  • Wisconsin Rapids 4th of July Fireworks – Tuesday, July 4
  • Wisconsin State Waterski Show – Thursday-Sunday, July 20-23
  • Labor Day Celebration – Monday, September 4
  • Grand Affair – Sunday, September 10

For more information on how you can volunteer, contact Carol Davis at 715-459-6642, or Bill Clendenning at 715-423-2469. Or, you can sign up now, right here. Tell family, friends and associates about Recycling Rangers, too.

Our City thanks you for your help.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Crews to Begin Intersection Upgrade Monday, Help Us Celebrate Fourth of July 2017 – Contribute to City Fireworks



City Crews to Begin Intersection Upgrade Next Monday

Photo by Tom Loucks/WRCM – State of Wisconsin construction crews will begin work on Monday closing off the 8th Street and Grand intersection.

Responding to a history of motorist safety issues, construction crews will begin work next week to modernize infrastructure quality, and motorist and pedestrian safety, at one of our busier traffic sites in our community.

Beginning Monday, May 22, the intersection of 8th Street South and East Grand Avenue will be closed for a variety of modifications, including:

  • Dedicated left-turn lanes and improved traffic signals;
  • Upgraded water main and sanitary sewer; and
  • Enhanced pedestrian access and pavement markings

Assuming favorable weather conditions and scheduling factors, we anticipate that our crews will complete this project some time during September 2017.

The intersection of 8th Street South and East Grand Avenue will be closed for the duration of the project. Roadway closures will initially begin at Peach (northbound), 9th (westbound), Oak (southbound) and 7th (eastbound) streets.

A marked route will be provided for motorist traffic, which will be detoured away from 8th Street South onto Chestnut, Lincoln, Jackson, Market and Baker streets. Although pedestrians will be detoured away from crossing 8th Street South and East Grand Avenue, access to walkways adjacent to the construction site will be maintained.

This project will also slightly affect the route for the Cranberry Blossom Festival Parade, on Sunday, June 18. Instead of the parade coming down East Grand Avenue from 8th Street South to East Jackson Street, the route will proceed from Oak Street to 6th Street South, then back onto East Grand Avenue.

We are fortunate to have this project funded by the Highway Safety Improvement Program, a Federal-aid program designed to achieve significant reductions in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on public roads.

For more information regarding the status of this project, please contact Joe Eichsteadt, City Engineer, at 715-421-8251

Help Us Celebrate Fourth of July 2017 – Contribute to City Fireworks


Video by David Ballerstein/WRCM Volunteer – Watch the 4th of July, 2016 fireworks presentation.

We want you … to donate to Wisconsin Rapids Fourth of July fireworks.

If you have attended previous years’ fireworks celebrations in Downtown Wisconsin Rapids, you know this gala event brings together residents, as well as visitors from throughout the region, to celebrate our nation’s freedoms with an awesome pyrotechnic display.

But this dazzling spectacle costs $18,000. So, members of the Teen Fireworks Committee, a group of students from the four area high schools, have been contacting local groups and municipalities, and asking individuals to contribute to the fireworks – but our community needs your help, too.

To donate, visit or send your contribution to:

Wisconsin Rapids Finance Department                                                                                                   c/o The Fireworks Campaign                                                                                                                   444 W. Grand Avenue                                                                                                                   Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495

And, to sweeten the deal: One dollar will be donated to Fourth of July fireworks every time you purchase cotton candy at a Rafters baseball game.

Do your part to continue our City’s glorious tradition. Make your contribution today for Wisconsin Rapids Fourth of July fireworks!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update – Entrepreneurs: Hurry! Compete for Your Idea to “Hatch” Into a Business, Crowdfunding: Supporting Local Entrepreneurs



Entrepreneurs: Hurry! Compete for Your Idea to “Hatch” Into a Business

A unique opportunity is opening up for entrepreneurs, creatives, business professionals, organizers and investors to get their business ideas out in front of a supportive community, in an interactive and inspirational way.

Wisconsin Rapids has been chosen to host HATCH, a regional competition for entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas that launch new companies in central Wisconsin. With a deadline for submission of tomorrow, May 17th, don’t delay! The event takes place Wednesday, May 24, at Golden Eagle Log Homes, 4421 Plover Road.

During our HATCH competition, presenters will have five minutes to pitch in front of a panel of judges – one of whom will be City of Wisconsin Rapids Director of Community Development Adam Tegen – for the chance to win a $2,000 award. The winner will then be able to take her/his idea to the next step, for the chance to win another $10,000 in November at the finale, contending against winners of other HATCH programs being held in other north central communities. Even more fun and intriguing is that attendees who make up the live audience also will vote.

As someone who has created and grown a business myself, I am excited that Wisconsin Rapids could well be the home base for the next great business idea.

HATCH is free and open to the public, who will be treated to complimentary drinks, as well as appetizers from Great Expectations. I urge area residents to take part.

Crowdfunding: Supporting Local Entrepreneurs

This past November, I was proud to share the exciting news that Wood County had been selected as the only site in Wisconsin to put into operation a crowdfunding site through The Local CrowdTMThis fundraising model empowers entrepreneurs to raise capital for a business by accepting small dollar amounts online from friends, family, customers and/or individual investors. This approach also enables entrepreneurs to offer investors more ways to contribute, ranging from financial investments in exchange for equity, to small-scale donations in exchange for a first-run product or other reward.

The Local Crowd also offers practical, locally oriented tools such as software, consulting and instruction (in-person and online), for groups and individuals at the government, business and nonprofit organization levels to help nurture the dreams of our entrepreneurs. This taps into our ongoing commitment to broad-based community engagement.

Here’s a prime opportunity for our community to donate to a campaign that grows our economic vitality and helps a small business right here in Wisconsin Rapids to thrive.

I enthusiastically call on local residents to place your support – and dollars – behind the crowdfunding campaign of Higher Grounds Bakery & Coffee Shop , a full-service bakery and organic Fair Trade coffee house that provides specialty products to order for walk-in customers and businesses. To do your share, visit the Higher Grounds Local Crowd site, anytime through May 31.

Founded and operated by Jacalyn Bowman, Higher Grounds has attracted clients such as Sand Valley Golf Course, It’s the Pits BBQ and local paper mills. Higher Grounds also participates in community events such as the Community Picnic, and donates to community charities like The Family Center, and The Boys and Girls Club.

To better serve her base of local customers and meet increasing demand for Higher Grounds’ freshly produced bakery goods, Jacalyn needs to purchase a larger proofer to facilitate the fermentation of dough, a walk-in freezer and additional refrigeration. She also seeks to improve building signage to increase visibility and draw in new customers.

In recognition of its business success and community involvement, Higher Grounds was recently honored as a 2017 winner of SCORE’s American Small Business Championship competition.

As Jacalyn puts it, “Plant your money on your community main street, and watch it grow!”

Learn more about local businesses in this monthly segment Community Business Matters with Wisconsin Rapids Community Media Assistant Multimedia Specialist Jesse Austin and co-host Carla Lenk of North Central Community Action Program.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Splash Pad Groundbreaking Brings Us Closer to Summer Fun, Support Local Businesses – beyond small business week, Celebrate Creative Economy Week



Mead Splash Pad Groundbreaking Brings Us Closer to Summer Fun

A groundbreaking ceremony took place on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 for the new Splash Pad Park. Photos by Tom Loucks/WRCM

Wisconsin Rapids took another step toward restoring family-friendly aquatics opportunities to our citizens last Wednesday. That’s when student leaders from Mead Elementary Charter School gathered with City leaders, and design firm MSA and Legacy Foundation representatives to turn up the first spades-full of dirt to break ground on the Mead Field splash pad.

Mayor Zach Vruwink gives high-fives to students from Mead School at the groundbreaking ceremony.

I was honored to attend this occasion with Alderpersons Todd Ferkey, Scott Kellogg and Tom Rayome, Terry Dolan and city staff, each of whom has played a major role in the development of this initiative.

We were joined by Michael Bovee, executive director of Legacy Foundation, which has generously donated $575,000 to finance the project. Bovee expressed the foundation’s objective to promote the health and wellbeing of neighborhoods and local residents.

It was a special treat to have on hand the Mead School students, who supplied splash pad design company Vortex Aquatic Structures with their comments, suggestions and drawings to determine the features, colors & styles they wanted in a splash pad.Spider Splash Park

 We look forward to opening the Mead Field splash pad to the public this summer, possibly as soon as late July, and are pleased that residents and visitors will be able to enjoy this new summer recreational experience free of charge.



  • Video of the groundbreaking event, here.


Support Local Businesses – beyond Small Business Week

Last week’s annual observance of National Small Business Week again recognized the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. As the U.S. Small Business Administration points out, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the United States each year.

Keep jobs in the Heart of Wisconsin; Buy Local! Image courtesy of Mark’s MediaWorks.

Here in our hometown of Wisconsin Rapids, we directly benefit from the businesses that employ 20 or fewer employees. These businesses help to diversify our economy, across a range of industries. Every day, they’re working to grow our financial base, create jobs and increase our competitiveness.

So, while this year’s recognition of Small Business Week is past, the reasons to shop local and with small business remain. With the recent trend we have experienced in central Wisconsin of national and regional retailers shifting focus and priorities, local small businesses remain steadfast in supporting community causes and consumer preferences.

These local businesses deserve our support!

Celebrate Creative Economy Week

It is my pleasure to be among a number of mayors throughout the State of Wisconsin proclaiming May 13-20 as Creative Economy Week. This celebration of the arts and creativity, and their impact on economic, educational and civic success,

Is hosted by Arts Wisconsin and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities (LWM).

This is an opportunity for us to take an inventory of our local cultural resources, and make linkages and partnerships to engage all our citizens in magnifying the role that the arts play in our community. Research shows that a high concentration of the arts in a community leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, lower crime and poverty rates.

Just as important, arts and cultural experiences account for a significant number of small businesses that broaden the tax base and attract tourists, as well as create community assets that improve quality-of-life measures valued by businesses and their employees.

This free-standing mural commemorates the historic
Wisconsin Rapids municipal swimming pool and shows the hydroelectric dam and paper mill which still stand on the opposite shore of the Wisconsin River.

In line with this concept of citizen engagement, the theme for this year’s Creative Economy Week is murals. Event sponsors want to show off public art from as many Wisconsin municipalities as possible – including ours: Residents are invited to submit high-resolution photos of our city’s murals with a caption and photo credit. The LWM will publish as many photos as possible on the Municipalities Facebook photo album. Please send those photos to  Check out the The Municipality Magazine.  

Creative Economy Week is also highlighted by the statewide Downtown Open House.  Supported by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Main Street and Wisconsin Downtown Action Council, Downtown Open House offers community members throughout the state opportunities to see exhibits, performances and other activities, and to see what our state’s downtown areas have to offer.

Investment in the arts and creativity is our state’s – and our city’s – ticket to economic, educational and civic success. Let’s celebrate our creative economy during Creative Economy Week … and every week.  

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink