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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Economic Development Corporation has hired an interim director.
Stacy Wigfield, who retired as president and CEO of REACH, Inc. after 33 years on March 31, started his duties as interim director of Dunn County EDC April 1.
Eric Turner, the previous executive director of the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation, passed away in December.
As some Colfax Messenger readers may recall, Turner had ties to Colfax and used to spend time as a boy in Colfax visiting his grandparents, Emma and Leon Turner.
“It was a very difficult time … we needed someone to fill in, and I got permission to hire an interim,” said James Anderson, Dunn County Board supervisor from Menomonie and president of the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors.
Anderson became president of the Dunn County EDC board in January.
Anderson spoke about hiring Wigfield at the May meeting of the Dunn County Board’s Community Resources and Tourism Committee meeting.
The executive director of the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation is often included on the agenda for the community resources and tourism committee.
Anderson, who is chair of the community resources and tourism committee, said he has known Wigfield for many years and knew he was retiring from REACH at the end of March.
REACH, Inc. has provided disability and vocational related services in the area since 1963, with programs such as Adult Day and Work Services, child care at Hand in Hand at Banbury Place and Supported Employment Services.
When Wigfield started his position as interim director with the Dunn County EDC, there were 12,000 e-mail messages waiting for him, Anderson noted.
“I’m learning a little every day, and I’m hoping to be helpful until a permanent director can be hired,” Wigfield told the community resources and tourism committee.
According to news reports, Wigfield enrolled at UW-Stout in 1978 to earn his Master’s degree and said he “fell in love” with the area.
The Colfax Messenger e-mailed some questions to Wigfield, and here’s what he had to say:
“When I gave notice of my retirement in early January, I really believed that the proper time had come to call an end to a 36 year career as a leader of non-profit businesses that served people with disabilities,” Wigfield said.
“Until I was contacted by Jim Anderson, Chair of the Board of the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation, I thought my time might be taken up with long overdue projects around the house. Jim convinced me that I wasn’t ready to retire when he offered me this position,” he said.
“I am thrilled and flattered to take this job and run with it on an interim basis. I am passionate about the entire Chippewa Valley, and I think it’s the best area in the country to live and work. I will enjoy being a part of helping to enhance the quality of life for businesses, workers and all community members in this area,” Wigfield said.
Of course, Wigfield’s start as Dunn County EDC interim director has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state Department of Health Services “Safer at Home” order closed many non-essential businesses to help limit the spread of the highly-contagious COVID-19 coronavirus. The order was set to expire at the end of April and was then extended to May 26. The Badger Bounce Back Plan from Governor Tony Evers laid out plans for a gradual re-opening of businesses, but the state Supreme Court overturned the “Safer at Home” order May 13.
Instead of “turning the dial,” the Supreme Court decision “flipped a switch” to open businesses.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies and trade organizations have developed guidelines for assisting businesses to help keep their employees and their customers safe from catching and spreading COVID-19.
The large amount of information that is available to businesses can be overwhelming and confusing. Wigfield says the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation can help.
“At the Dunn County EDC, we receive and then disseminate a large volume of information to our stakeholders and the entire community. There are many partner agencies that do the same, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Universities, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, financial institutions, the city of Menomonie and the county, to name just a few,” he said.
“The amount of information can be overwhelming, so we can help businesses sort through some of that to get the info they need more directly. Part of that information includes a long list of trainings, seminars, classes and conferences on a wide variety of topics essential to those in or looking to start up a business,” Wigfield said.
The Dunn County Economic Development Corporation also is willing to help people who want to start a new business or to help those who want to move a business to this area.
“There are so many resources for businesses that wish to start up, expand and/or move to this area,” Wigfield said.
“We are able to provide information, and also direct people to great sources of advice such as the Small Business Development Center at UW Eau Claire, Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council, and the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, among many others,” he said.
“The Dunn County EDC would like to help you or anyone you know achieve success as a business owner, employer, or entrepreneur anywhere throughout Dunn County,” he said.