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Top 10 2017: Following "Year of Wow," River Falls continues to develop

Chippewa Valley Technical College President Bruce Barker, River Falls City Council Member Scott Morrissette, University of River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen and River Falls Economic Development Corporation member Paul Schwebach dig in at the groundbreaking for the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center on May 10. The incubator is one of the new developments at the city’s Sterling Ponds Corporate Park. File photo

2016 was hailed as the "Year of Wow" in River Falls, in the State of the City video. That big wow factor was attributed to the city's economic development. River Falls had $47,595,221 of construction in 2016, far surpassing the $15,163,861 in new construction in 2015 (according to building permits issued in the city in those years.)

Of that 2016 construction, $35,844,796 was in commercial development.

While 2017 development didn't break the record set by 2016, it was another good year in River Falls. City Administrator Scot Simpson said there was about $9 million worth of new construction in 2017. That new construction includes significant single family housing development. The city is also seeing interest in multi-family residential projects.

Simpson said he hopes it's the start of a "trend up."

As for business construction, Simpson said a number of projects started in 2016 have continued into 2017.

One of the main fields for 2016's record year, Sterling Ponds Corporate Park. continued to see development in 2017 in the form of both groundbreakings and official openings.

Turnkey Corrections and Three Square Market opened its 115,000 square foot building. The company later brought more attention to the area with its "chip party" in August, when it implanted microchips into the hands of volunteering employees.

In May, the park was the site of the groundbreaking for the new St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center. The center, often referred to as a business incubator, will have office and manufacturing space to serve 10 businesses. With 30,000 square feet, the facility will support entrepreneurship with a goal of providing resources for the development of new businesses, jobs and growth.

The center is a partnership between the City of River Falls, the River Falls Economic Development Corporation, the Chippewa Valley Technical College and UW-River Falls.

Construction on the center was expected to cost about $4 million. A grand opening will be held at the end of February.

In October, the corporate park saw the grand opening of one the largest projects of 2016. The Winfield United Innovation Center opened in October with about 10 times more space than its previous site in River Falls.

The space will be used to continue the agricultural research done by Winfield United, a subsidiary of Land O'Lakes. The 55,000 square foot facility features two wind tunnels, a greenhouse, chemical labs and more. The overall investment of the facility was about $50 million, with $40 in construction costs and an additional $10 million for ongoing investment of the facility. It houses about 30 employees, with plans for more.

The new year will see several ongoing projects, including proposals for a 50-unit residential building next to City Hall.

The five-year average for commercial construction in River Falls is $6 million, Simpson said. The record for 2016 was $35 million, and 2017 is looking to be in the $9-10 million range, Simpson said. Still significantly ahead of average.

Editor's note: This story is part of a series recapping the top stories of 2017. Read the other top stories here
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