Celebrating Downtown revitalization efforts, Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown coming to Wisconsin Rapids and volunteers and sponsors needed for innovative STEM Scouts program



Celebrating Downtown revitalization efforts, Wisconsin Rapids to host Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown and New, Innovative STEM Scouts program launches here

Celebrating Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for State downtown redevelopment program

I continue to be inspired and energized with our progress. To celebrate the latest phase in our Downtown redevelopment process, citizens and local public officials gathered this past Wednesday at Wood County Courthouse for a formal announcement and information-sharing session on Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Connect Communities program.

IMG_2157Naleeta Burr, our community account manager for Economic and Community Development for the State of Wisconsin, discussed how Connect Communities will help us to leverage the unique assets of our Downtown district, by providing access to resources and networking opportunities to assist and enhance our revitalization efforts. Program services include: on-site assistance to identify needs and offer assistance; multiple online and face-to-face training and networking opportunities; and access to resources and materials developed for Wisconsin Main Street communities.

Following the brief presentation, Burr joined us for a walking tour that highlighted recent private investments in our Downtown, featuring stops at Whiskey Rapids, the Flat Iron Building, 340 West Grand’s new residential lofts and Karen’s Wine & Stein.IMG_2197

During her presentation, Burr pointed out that while the State can assist communities in their revitalization efforts, the local communities themselves must take the lead. She listed eight guiding principles for successful downtown redevelopment:
• Comprehensive – an ongoing series of initiatives is vital;
• Incremental – small projects make a big difference;
IMG_2191• Self-Help – only local leadership can breed long-term success;
• Public-Private Partnership;
• Identify and Capitalize on Existing Assets;
• Quality – from storefront design, to promotion, to special events;
• Change – in community attitudes and habits; and
• Action Oriented – frequent, visible changes in the downtown’s “look” and “feel.”

Recognizing that a vibrant Downtown area is key to reigniting the Wisconsin Rapids community, local residents, government leaders, business people and nonprofit organizations have all helped to drive a strategic plan of action that acknowledges decades of past business and residential planning and redevelopment efforts, while incorporating current private investments and City property sales transactions in the waterfront district. I am pleased and proud that our community’s collaborative efforts have been recognized by the State of Wisconsin.

By acknowledging how downtown’s and historic commercial districts play an important role in community prosperity, the Connect Communities program reinforces our own local vision of how the Downtown waterfront district can serve as a commercial-residential-recreational-historical centerpiece.

Wisconsin Rapids to host State summit on downtown revitalization

Our community’s progress toward achieving our vision of a vibrant and prosperous Downtown district will be on full display, Wednesday-Thursday, October 21-22. That’s when Wisconsin Rapids has the honor of hosting the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s Destination Downtown, the 2015 Summit on Downtown Revitalization, at Hotel Mead.

“Destination Downtown” celebrates innovative ways to strengthen and grow downtown areas – many of which we have incorporated right here in Wisconsin Rapids, including: quality-of-life initiatives (Supermass Redesign), collaborative action (Tribune Building)  and entrepreneurship / private investment.

150701_WRB_Public_Meeting_1_Boards_Page_8The summit will feature inspiring speakers; enlightening panel and public engagement on topics such as master planning, public arts, tourism and market expansion; and best practices and resources from Wisconsin and beyond. Economic development professionals; local and state elected officials; small business owners; and arts, business and civic leaders will be on hand.

The Summit kicks off on Wednesday night with a special tour of Glacial Lake Cranberries, one of central Wisconsin’s oldest cranberry marshes; and a reception at Karen’s Wine and Stein in downtown Wisconsin Rapids.

I encourage everyone who is interested in the health and well being of our Downtown district to attend. Not often do we get to play host and this opportunity is sure not be missed! For more information and to register, go to www.wisconsindowntown.org.

Volunteers and sponsors needed for innovative STEM Scouts program

I am thrilled to share exciting news about an innovative program from the Boy Scouts of America that will be available to youth in our community, beginning now.

STEM Scouts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is a new coed pilot program designed to focus on the exciting opportunities for youth in science, technology, engineering and math. Through weekly meetings and four-to six-week modules covering a variety of disciplines, STEM Scouts will show youth how to apply STEM in their everyday lives and encourage them to develop these experiences into future careers.

After a resounding response to the original pilot program by Scouts, leaders, parents and school officials in Knoxville, Tennessee, STEM Scouts selected the Samoset Council, our local Council as one of just 12 more councils in the nation to participate in the expanded program.

I strongly urge adults who have a STEM background to sign up as volunteers to help mentor STEM Scouts, lead special labs and host field trips. Plenty of volunteer positions are available for adults without STEM experience, as well. To make your mark, please email stemscouts@samoset.org, or give Amanda Flannery a call at 715-409-6690.

Sponsorship opportunities also are available for local clubs, parent organizations, businesses and other organizations. Some of the Wisconsin Rapids organizations already involved include Verso Corporation, Renaissance Learning, Mead Charter School, Lincoln High School and Woodside Elementary School. For more information, check out the STEM Scouts website at www.stemscouts.org/Weston.

Let us, as a community, give our utmost support to this unique program and help our area’s youth expand their interests and career potential!

Have a great day and thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Kick-off Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for Wisconsin Connect Communities program; Wood County Clean Sweep this Saturday; Mayor’s Youth and Beautification Councils collaborate on planting

Community Update

Save the Date: Celebrate Wisconsin Rapids’ selection for Wisconsin economic development program

In July I shared Wisconsin Rapids had been selected to participate in the Connect Communities program. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp’s (WEDC) selection is a result of the collaborative contributions of local residents, business people, government leaders, and nonprofit organizations to our Downtown revitalization effort.

wedcConnect Communities helps local stakeholders leverage the unique assets of their downtown and commercial districts, providing access to resources and networking opportunities to assist and enhance downtown district revitalization efforts.

To celebrate this latest phase in our Downtown redevelopment process, I invite you to join us for a formal announcement and participation session on Wednesday, October 14, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., at Wood County Courthouse, 400 Market Street. More details to follow

Wood County Clean Sweep this Saturday

This weekend, local households, businesses and farms can dispose of hazardous wastes in a safe, convenient and legal manner – at the annual Wood County Agricultural and Household Clean Sweep, Saturday, October 3, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, at the Saratoga Town Hall, 1116 State Highway 73.Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 8.28.03 PM

Each household and farm may bring up to a combination of five gallons of liquid or 50 pounds of solid waste at no charge; or make special arrangements for larger quantities with the Wood County Health Department. Businesses and schools can get no-obligation estimates on low-cost chemical disposal by calling 715-295-2623.

You’ll also have the opportunity to exchange your mercury thermometer for a mercury-free digital thermometer.

Take time to rid your residence or business of potentially hazardous wastes. For more information, call the Wood County Health Department at 715-421-8911 or 715-387-8646

Mayor’s Youth & Beautification Councils collaborate on planting

This past February, I announced during my State of the City address the formation of the Mayor’s Youth Council. This council gives area youth an opportunity to be engaged and participate in IMG_6743meaningful, change-making efforts such as policy development, service and recreation.

This past week, members of the Youth Council along with the Mayor’s Council on Beautification planted new shrubbery near the Hwy. 54 Wisconsin Rapids/Biron boundary. Their active participation gives real hope for what we can accomplish when our younger citizens are involved. This project will greet our many visitors upon their entrance from the east. Please join me in thanking these young and dedicated citizens for doing their share to help ensure a healthier, more attractive community, both now and for future generations.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update Footer

Community Update – WR Fire Department and Riverview partner for Community Care Paramedicine program

Community Update

WR Fire Department and Riverview partner for Community Care Paramedicine program

From left: Joel Fetterer – Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department; Lisa Rowe-Peplinski – VP of Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, Aspirus; Zach Vruwink – Mayor, Wisconsin Rapids; Quinn Pixler – Case Manager Coordinator, Riverview Medical Center; Scott Young – Deputy Chief, WRFD; Peggy Ose – Interim Chief Operations Officer, RMC; Justin Pluess – Fire Fighter/Paramedic, WRFD; and Aaron Mancl – EMT, WRFD. Not pictured: Dave Kerkman– Chief, WRFD, Andy Metcalf – President/CEO, Riverview Health Foundation.

Earlier this year, I emphasized the importance of building a healthier community and the many forms that can take. I’m proud to acknowledge an effort between two of our city’s important institutions teaming up on a dynamic and creative approach to improve the health and wellness of our residents.

After a year of researching the successful results of community-based health care, the city of Wisconsin Rapids’ Fire Department (WRFD), in partnership with Riverview Hospital Association, launched on May 11 Community Care Paramedicine (CCP). This pilot program delivers an organized system of health care follow-up and preventive care services, to meet the specific needs of two patient groups:

  • Patients identified in the Riverview Hospital or Family Clinic as high risk for re-admittance or ongoing medical care; and
  • Patients who frequently use emergency medical services, 911 and/or the emergency room as a form of primary care.

Through CCP, WRFD and Riverview Hospital will identify eligible patients, who will be assigned a case manager to explain the benefits of the program. If a patient agrees to enroll, a WFRD community health care paramedic will schedule a home visit to review medications, activities, equipment, home safety and additional local services that may be required. CCP is strictly voluntary and is provided at no cost to the patient.

CCP provides a WIN-WIN-WIN for a healthier community, by:

  1. Strengthening our ability to recognize and target early on chronic diseases such as obstructive lung disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes and cancer;
  2. Directing patients to appropriate services to alleviate and prevent long-term diseases; and
  3. Decreasing the cost of, and burden on, community emergency care services.

CCP delivers new and improved preventive health care benefits, thus building upon the WRFD’s decades-long capabilities in preventive safety.

Having been adopted by a handful of cities across the nation, CCP represents the wave of the future in community-based care. Wisconsin Rapids is among the first in Wisconsin to launch the program; after the pilot is evaluated on its metrics and with hopeful success, we will consider continuing the program on a permanent basis. Ultimately, our vision, a healthier Wisconsin Rapids, will be achieved in part through a targeted approach with our most frequent EMS services users. I look forward to sharing an update on this program in the future.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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State of the City Address – Wednesday, February 4, 2015


This Wednesday, February 4, 2015, I will be holding my third-annual State of the City address at McMillan Memorial Library. The event will begin with a pre-address reception taking place at 6:30PM, and remarks beginning at 7:00PM.  A video highlighting details can be viewed here.

I look forward to highlighting the initiatives my office has been working on and introducing a vision that provides the basis for priorities during the upcoming year.  RSVP is recommended. You can RSVP online at this link, or contacting my office directly by calling 715-421-8216.

I look forward to seeing you there!

For those who can not attend, the address will also be broadcast live on RCCA’s website, or on Solarus channel 3/Charter channel 985.

A press release from my office can be found here.

The Andersons, Inc. expands facility

The Andersons, Inc. Ribbon Cutting (Left to Right):  Pete Griffin, Jan Finch, Mayor Vruwink, John Stefanelli, Tammy Brooks, Scott Steinke, Peter Petersen, and Jeff Masephol.

The Andersons, Inc. Ribbon Cutting (Left to Right): Pete Griffin, Jan Finch, Mayor Vruwink, John Stefanelli, Tammy Brooks, Scott Steinke, Peter Petersen, and Jeff Masephol.

The Andersons, Inc., a dry fertilizer plant located in Wisconsin Rapids’ East Commerce Park, recently celebrated their expansion. The new expanded location has 29,000 tons of wholesale dry fertilizer storage. The location also has the ability to receive product efficiently via rail and truck, and the ability to ship out to agriculture dealers and co-ops via truck. The Andersons, Inc. services the north and central areas of Wisconsin. With the expansion, The Andersons have added one full-time employee with the potential to add another one-to-two employees in the next five years, according to Scott Steinke, operations manager at The Andersons, Inc.

On location at The Andersons, Inc. dry storage building.

On location at The Andersons, Inc. dry storage building.

“The working partnership The Andersons, Inc. has established with the City of Wisconsin Rapids was one of the key contributors in making the project a success,” Steinke said. “The professionalism and dedication we received from the City was second to none, and we look forward to continuing our relationship to support and grow the community.”

I am pleased The Andersons chose to grow their Wisconsin Rapids facility having recognized the opportunity that the physical location and market presents. Having started this project shortly after being elected mayor, I am excited for their future growth. Undeveloped land is available adjacent to their facility, which will make future expansions convenient. This development and other activity illustrates the important role our business parks play in building a stronger local economy.


Rapids site is certified


Growing our local economy takes on many different faces. On Tuesday November 26, 2013 Wisconsin Rapids celebrated one of those faces when the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) announced the ‘Certified Sites’ designation of a 51-acre parcel in Rapids East Commerce Park. The WEDC certification of the site is an important marker of our economic growth efforts in the City. In this post I will explain the significance of the designation.

So what does this mean for Wisconsin Rapids residents?

1. The designation certifies that the site is ‘shovel-ready,’ and gives prospective developers the assurance that most, if not all, of the lengthy site studies have been completed. This means that we can start building and developing sooner, creating more jobs and opportunities for commerce in our community. Further, the timeline from concept to necessary approvals for breaking ground and beginning construction is drastically reduced.

2. The site’s certification grants the City of Wisconsin Rapids listing on all of WEDC’s marketing efforts alongside 12 other certified sites. This means WEDC will advertise the City of Wisconsin Rapids as an optimal location for development.

3. As Wisconsin’s official Economic Development organization, the designation will go national and international through WEDC’s business attraction efforts. This means national and international business developers will be advertised to about the City’s certified site, making Wisconsin Rapids a recognized location.

4. The designation demonstrates that our city has taken a proactive approach, is competitive, and has distinct advantages. This means developers and investors on shorter timelines are more likely to be interested in Wisconsin Rapids as a location for building and expanding business than other non-certified communities in the state.

The WEDC’s Certified Sites designation ensures that the standards are in place for industrial site certification. The Wisconsin Rapids East Commerce Center being named as a Certified Site communicates to prospective developers that the key approvals, documentations and assessments commonly required for industrial development uses are already completed. Thus, increasing the comfort level of developers and investors considering our region by removing unknowns about the site and accelerating the implementation timeline of projects.

I first spoke of Wisconsin Rapids’ intent to pursue the Certified Site designation for our Rapids East Commerce Center during my State of the City address in January 2013. I stated that getting ourselves on the map was essential for economic growth and development. Our city industrial parks, with available land, possess unique amenities compared to those in other parts of the state.

With the City’s available land, labor force, business-friendly attitude, and openness to partnerships, I believe we have a formula for competitiveness.

To support economic growth we must continuously support opportunities both for residents and businesses. As a city, we need to continue to diversify, build on our existing assets, be proactive in our investments and planning, and work collaboratively within our region.

Having a site in our Rapids East Commerce Center join the WEDC’s list of certified sites solidifies a direct partnership between the City of Wisconsin Rapids and the State of Wisconsin in marketing our available land on a national and international level to developers and investors looking for sites to expand or locate companies. This site alone creates the potential for hundreds of new jobs and millions in new tax base for the City. Now we must begin to leverage the site’s certification to secure a good tenant.

Our efforts show that the City of Wisconsin Rapids is taking a proactive approach to supporting the collective economic well-being right here in central Wisconsin. The past decade has been a time of economic turbulence. However, renewing Wisconsin Rapids economic well-being takes on many faces, and the recent announcement of WEDC’s certification of the site is proof of our positive economic progress. Growing our local economy is a journey that will never be complete and we must never allow ourselves to grow tired, lose hope, or possess any attitude other than a positive one.

Visit WEDC’s annoucement here: http://inwisconsin.com/press_releases/wisconsin-rapids-certified/

Watch the announcement here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMuIMv08D2s


Photo: Good News: Today we celebrated the announcement of a 'shovel-ready', Certified Site in our Rapids East Commerce Park. Joining us were Lieutenant Governor, WEDC CEO Reed Hall, Rep Scott Krug, city council members, a full room of business leaders and residents! I am excited about the promise this brings to get our city 'on the map' to site selectors across the globe. Economic Growth has and will continue to be my top priority. Armed with this designation, the work continues for us to secure a significant tenant!