Commerce secretary delivers tax creditsWisconsin Department of Commerce Secretary Richard Leinenkugel came to Hudson last Friday to deliver a symbolic check to a rising technology company.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Wisconsin Department of Commerce Secretary Richard Leinenkugel came to Hudson last Friday to deliver a symbolic check to a rising technology company.
The oversized $250,000 check was presented to Patrick Welsch, president and CEO of Cities Digital Inc., in a brief ceremony in the company’s new building at 2000 O’Neil Road.
State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, Hudson Mayor Dean Knudson, members of the Hudson business community and Cities Digital associates attended the event.
The check represented the amount of state Technology Zone tax credit that Cities Digital will receive for creating an expected 15 new jobs and expanding its business.
“It’s always nice to present someone with tax credits because that means, hopefully, you’re going to have income to offset,” Leinekugel told Welsch before the ceremonial delivery of the check.
A week earlier, Cities Digital closed a deal to purchased the 18,000-square-foot Savadge Building in St. Croix Business Park.
The company and its current 11-member staff has already moved into the building. It plans to expand into half of the space in the near future.
AG Parts, another tech company, will continue to lease part of the facility. The Caminito Art Studio, currently in the space fronting O’Neil Road, will be moving out at the end of the month.
Cities Digital’s main business is converting paper documents to digital files for businesses and government.
The towns of Hudson and Warren, the city of River Falls and Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services are among its customers locally.
The company also develops software. It works with clients throughout the United States from its Hudson facility and a second office in California.
Welsch – a 30-year-old White Bear Lake, Minn., native – started the Cities Digital as home business in 2001.
The company eventually moved into rented office space in Woodbury, Minn., and then in 2005 relocated to the Resource Logistics building at 2010 O’Neil Road in St. Croix Business Park.
“Four years ago, when I picked up my small business and moved here to Hudson, I think it was one of my better moves as an entrepreneur,” Welsch told the gathering. “One year ago, I walked through this space and I imagined what it could be for my business.”
It was a dusty woodworking shop at the time.
Welsch had high praise for the support he got from city and state officials, and the business community, in helping to grow his company in Hudson.
“Hudson has afforded my company a great place to grow and a business-friendly environment,” he said.
Welsch also complimented the state universities and technical colleges in west central Wisconsin. He said that while tech companies in other regions of the country struggle to find qualified employees, Cities Digital hasn’t had a problem because of the graduates coming out of local colleges.
“We hire from a base that is created here in western Wisconsin through its system of universities,” he said.
Kevin Blinsmon of First American Bank was the first person Welsch thanked after having recognized Secretary Leinenkugal and St. Croix Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Bill Rubin, who gave the introductions.
Leinenkugel took notice.
“You’re a smart young man, because you always thank the banker, and you thanked the banker first. So keep that up and you’ll go far in the business community,” Leinenkugel told Welsch light-heartedly when he took the podium.
Welsch had also thanked the real estate broker on the deal, Kevin Adkins of Edina Realty.
Leinenkugel is a member of the well-known Chippewa Falls brewery family of the same name. He was in charge of sales and marketing for the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. prior to being appointed commerce secretary by Gov. Jim Doyle in September 2008.
Rubin, in his introduction of Leinekugal, called him “a very good friend to the St. Croix Valley.”
“The Leinenkugel name is one of those real strong success stories for the state of Wisconsin, and west central Wisconsin is to very lucky to have an advocate in Madison,” Rubin said.
Leinenkugel related that the nation had fallen into a financial crisis between the time he was appointed commerce secretary and when he stepped into the position.
He said it is entrepreneurs like Welsch who will lead the country back to prosperity.
“I’m sure it’s tough for you as well,” he told Welsch, “but you have that spirit of an entrepreneur. And it’s that spirit of an entrepreneur, it’s the spirit that I’m going to do something even in an economic downturn that is going to position our economy here in Wisconsin for growth.”
He said he spent his first nine months as commerce secretary “mainly fighting fires,” but now is working on a plan for economic development in the state.
“And part of that strategy, I can assure you, is to nurture the seeds of entrepreneurism,” he said.
Leinekugel toured the BOH Electronics Inc. facility in North Hudson following the presentation at Cities Digital.
BOH Owner and President Ben Hanke showed the secretary through the former railroad shop yard building that he purchased last year and is restoring.
BOH manufactures wire harnesses and provides custom cable and wire harness assemblies to a variety of companies in technology-based industries.
The company currently is located on the second floor of the old shop yard storehouse. The main level of the 17,000-square-foot building is being renovated following National Historic Preservation guidelines.
Hanke said the project should be completed in six or seven weeks. The company will move to the main floor when the work is done.
The St. Croix Economic Development Corp. gave BOH Electronics its Emerging Business of the Year Award for 2008.