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Back as Pierce County economic development chief, Warner reacquaints with Chamber

Some things change, others stay the same, as Bill Warner has discovered in coming back to the Pierce County Economic Development Corporation (PCEDC) executive director's position. He's recently been with Durand Builders Service.

Speaking to Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce members Thursday, Warner described his return to the PCEDC post as "a real nostalgia trip." He previously served in the job from 1989 to 1996.

"I have a two-word mission statement: 'help business'," he said about something that hasn't changed.

The director said his mission ranges from finding a location in an industrial park for an outside prospect to assisting an existing company with expansion to getting a new business started with financing or training employees. About training, he said he learned just last week of a session that's become popular at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) called "disorientation."

"It teaches students about the importance of dining etiquette or showing up for work," he said, citing examples from topics in a class taken upon leaving college, as opposed to orientation, which happens at registration time.

Pierce County's in the enviable position of being surrounded by training centers, Warner said. Besides CVTC, Southeast Minnesota Technical College is nearby in Red Wing, as is Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond.

"There are tons of resources for job training here," he said.

He also found recent appointments for area legislators to be promising. State Rep. Kitty Rhoades (R-Hudson) being named to Wisconsin's joint finance committee gives this vicinity a powerful lawmaker in Madison. Congressman Dave Obey (D-Wausau) joining the U.S. House of Representatives' appropriations committee and Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) likewise on the ways and means committee creates "a pipeline to Washington" for this region. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson's possible candidacy for President could mean more attention for the state, too.

Several developments he listed since he left PCEDC 10 years ago include: the addition of a county revolving loan fund, the formation of an area Small Business Development Center, the creation of the St. Croix Valley Angel Network (which funds new business proposals), plus a business park developed in Ellsworth and a foundation for Ellsworth schools.

The New York native is a former Seattle Area Small Business Administration (SBA) official. He earned an undergraduate degree from Oberlin College in Ohio, then became a legislative assistant and, later, an aide to an Ohio senator. He pursued graduate studies in public management, economics, strategy and organization at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and, upon graduation, was named a U.S. Presidential Intern.

Warner worked in the SBA's Chicago office as a small business development specialist before being assistant district director for business development with the agency in Seattle. He also served as economic and rural development specialist for a 19-county area of Western Washington in the Seattle-Tacoma area. He left to become an independent consultant and took a sabbatical prior to his first PCEDC director stint.

In other chamber business:

--Jackie Erlandson and Merlin Blaisdell were introduced as new board members.

--Representatives of Flat Pennies Ice Cream in Bay City, scheduled to open in March, and Turningpoint Domestic Abuse agency in River Falls discussed their projects.

--Coordinator Kim Johnson appealed to area churches and organizations to let her know about their activities for an events calendar she's compiling for the chamber. Donations of a paper cutter and brochure rack for the chamber office would also be appreciated, Johnson said.

--Tom Helmer previewed plans for Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival attractions, including the "Marshal Star Band" and other groups ranging from classic rock to blues to acoustic.

--President Raynee Farrell indicated last year's bridal expo has been changed to a "Spring Fling" business expo, displaying goods and services available in Ellsworth, and featuring a scavenger hunt for prizes of 150, 100 and 50 Ellsworth dollars. Also, Farrell appealed for donations toward new lighting for the annual "Tree of Spirit" in East End Park at the holidays.