Business. Life. Balance.
City of Eau Claire Economic Development Division

Eau Claire Success Stories

Eau Claire has a thriving economy, thanks in part to the success of our individuals and businesses. Entrepreneurs, small businesses, and large corporations alike are able to flourish in the array of industries that the area has to offer.

But don't just take our word for it.

These are the stories of companies that either began in Eau Claire, are headquartered here, or chose to move to this area due to the outstanding workforce, community and economy. Each one of these businesses is an essential part of our local economy not only because they provide local jobs but also because of their investments in our community. For these reasons and many others we would like to thank these businesses for their involvement in Eau Claire.

Applied Interfaces - Toni Hudzina

Toni Hudzina is not your typical Eau Claire resident. For starters, Toni was not born and raised in the open fields of the Midwest region. Instead, Toni spent most of her life in the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. However, due to a transfer in her husband's company in 2004, Toni and her husband made the decision to leave the capital city and relocate to Eau Claire. While they loved D.C. area, Eau Claire seemed like the perfect place to get away from the traffic, pollution and high living costs of Washington. Says Toni in regards to why she feels Eau Claire is a place that allows her to relax and breathe, "the low crime rate is fabulous, it's nice to not have to always make sure there's not some sort of protest in town to avoid, you don't get stuck behind a diplomatic motorcade that is blocking traffic, or have to go through yet another metal detector or security check when you are entering a building."

Another factor that distinguishes Toni from the rest is that she is an Internet consultant who owns her own business, Applied Interfaces. Her business provides a range of services, from developing custom web sites for small and medium businesses, to more specialized services that improve certain aspects of the web site that the average person sees. Toni is a firm believer in making web sites that are logical for the intended target audience. That is to say, she makes her sites simple enough for those businesses not needing the cutting edge technology, which saves them on costs and allows them to maintain the site themselves. Along with all of this, Toni is an evangelist for web site accessibility to the handicapped and advocates the use of the Internet as a tool that every person should be able to use. When it comes to Toni, Eau Claire benefits not only from her expertise in web site development but from the fresh, outside perspective she brings.

Ayres Associates Inc

Ayres Associates has been a part of the Chippewa Valley for nearly 50 years. The company has grown from humble beginnings to a staff of more than 400 people working out of 17 offices in eight states, but there's never been any discussion of moving the company's corporate headquarters out of Eau Claire.

Ayres Associates traces its beginnings to 1959, when the five-person engineering firm of Garnock, Ayres, and Loken Engineering and Surveying was officially established in Eau Claire. The company worked out of the Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Eau Claire. In 1962 the company was renamed Owen Ayres & Associates, Inc. The corporation's legal name changed to Ayres Associates Inc in 2004.

The company grew as the City of Eau Claire grew, expanding services and capabilities to meet the needs of the region. At first, services included architecture, surveying, and municipal services. Work for the transportation and water resources markets began in 1964 and the environmental market in 1965. In 1978 photogrammetry was added to the list of services, and in 1987, waste management services began.

As Ayres Associates has enjoyed the benefits of the Chippewa Valley, the firm has contributed to the quality of life in the region. The company was involved in the design of the Eau Claire County Airport runways, improvements to L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, the city's wastewater treatment plant, Seven Mile Landfill, Eau Claire County Courthouse and jail, and many more projects. Ayres Associates has been a part of many of the region's commercial developments, including the Oakwood Mall.

Although retired, founder Owen Ayres maintains an office at corporate headquarters and dedicates his time and talents to community projects. The company has remained in Eau Claire, he says, because "It's the best place in the country." He cites the quality of health care, excellent educational opportunities, and the friendliness of area residents as reasons any business would want to settle and remain in the Chippewa Valley.

 

Erberts & Gerberts

Founded by Kevin Schippers in Eau Claire, WI in 1988, Erbert & Gerbert's Subs & Clubs began as a sandwich shop concept based on childhood stories told by the founder's father. The stories centered on two imaginary boys, Erbert and Gerbert Herbert, who experienced adventures throughout space and time, meeting interesting characters along the way. Those 14 characters, including Halleys Comet, Comet Morehouse, and Jacob Bluefinger, are now the names of their signature sandwiches.  "In addition to our great food and friendly service, I believe people keep coming back to Erbert & Gerbert's because of our unique and quirky personality," said Eric Wolfe, CEO and president of E & G Franchise Systems, Inc. "Our history is based on storytelling, inventiveness, and discovery, and we are committed to being a sub shop worth discovering for generations to come." Offering tasty sub ingredients such as Capicola ham, Genoa salami, piping hot soups, and delicious sweet treats, along with both catering and delivery, Erbert & Gerbert's 45 restaurant locations span the Midwest in college towns, urban downtowns and rural centers from Wisconsin to Minnesota to North Dakota. In 2007, Erbert & Gerbert's expanded into Greenwood Village, Colo. .

Eau Claire is a great fit for Erberts & Gerberts truly Midwestern concept and it is this friendly and neighborly mentality that is well reflected in their brand. Their main growth area has been the Twin Cities market and Eau Claire is well positioned to give the company access to a major interstate route. It allows for them to travel efficiently to many of their store locations, such as the Fox valley, Duluth, and the Twin Cities. Finally, Eau Claire offers a great labor pool to choose from especially with the University in town and the proximity to Stout University in Menomonie.

 

Harmon Solutions Group

HSG Innovating Claims Management is one of the largest and most unique Third Party Administrators (TPAs) in the insurance industry - providing auto glass and property claims solutions for insurance and fleet customers. At HSG, they operate 24/7/365 to provide the solutions that their customers demand.

A little over a year ago, Harmon Solutions Group added CodeBlue as an added feature to their already growing atmosphere in Downtown Eau Claire. HSG | Code Blue was built to manage and help faster and most efficient proceeding of insurance claims. HSG | CodeBlue is an unprecedented innovation in insurance claims processing as it is the industry's largest databases of vendors, an advanced online system of researching billions of products, a strategic relationship with the major manufacturers, a proprietary E-commerce tools, and proactive in utilizing the industry's newest service strategies and technologies.

This innovative insurance company was originally headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota but after conducting market surveys on the best environment for a business of their nature, they moved their headquarters to the better-suited Eau Claire. Not only did they find a location with relatively little natural disasters, they found a workforce that would help them achieve and maintain high level of customer service. They discovered that the employees they hired from Eau Claire were genuine, hardworking, and committed to their customers, rather than their paychecks. The company also became easily engaged in the community, finding it to be a highly involved place where both public and private partnerships were readily made. HSG has seen positive results from the move to Eau Claire.

 

Hutchinson Technology

Founded in 1965, Hutchinson Technology has grown from a start-up operation housed in a chicken coop to a global company with over 4,700 employees. Headquartered in Hutchinson, Minnesota, the company is regarded as a technology leader in the industry and as a premier precision manufacturer.

The company's Disk Drive Components Division is the world's leading supplier of suspension assemblies for disk drives. Suspension assemblies are precise electro-mechanical components that hold a disk drive's recording head at microscopic distances above the disk.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin was selected as the location for the company's third manufacturing site in 1995. A 156,000 square foot building was constructed and production began in December 1995. Since then, the Eau Claire plant has expanded to over 850,000 square feet, making it the company's largest manufacturing facility. Over 1,400 employees, including production operators, engineers, technicians, toolmakers/machinists and other support staff are part of the Eau Claire team. The location was selected in part for the larger labor market with well-skilled workers for the company's industry. The proximity to their headquarters in Hutchinson was also a key selling point for the company, along with the post-secondary education facilities. Favorable tax environment, water and sewer capacity, competitive utility rate structure, and good transportation made Eau Claire the perfect location.

 

Gerald Bauer

JB Systems was founded in 2001 by Gerald Bauer, a young entrepreneur who at the time was still working on graduating high school. Upon graduating valedictorian in 2002 from Eau Claire Memorial High School, Gerald traveled to Austin, Texas where he attended NexTech - The National Summit of Young Technology Leaders. It was there that he met the high-profile technology gurus such as Nicholas Donofrio, Senior VP of IBM, and Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of HTML, who inspired him to return to the Chippewa Valley with aspirations of creating a world-class website development firm and hub for web-based technologies.

Since then, JB Systems has added several staff members and has a client base of over 100. In 2007, JB Systems was highlighted for their services in Practical Web Design - a noted industry trade magazine based out of the UK. In 2008 more awards followed with JB Systems being recognized by Goldline Research as one of the "Top 10 Most Dependable"® Web Developers in the Central United States - a recognition that was featured in "Entrepreneur Magazine." All the recognition and awards have come from JB Systems, LLC working hard to "Set The Standard" in the Chippewa Valley and beyond for creative website design, graphic design, and programming services.

Despite Gerald's travels and opportunities to locate JB Systems elsewhere, he felt a strong connection to his hometown of Eau Claire. To him, Eau Claire is a growing city with ever-increasing potential for technology services, web-based and beyond. The small business economy in Eau Claire seems to be well sheltered compared to the economy as a whole because even though Eau Claire doesn't always necessarily see the highs of every economic cycle, it more importantly doesn't get dragged into the lows. What makes the city even more appealing to him is that the cost of doing business is far less than other parts of the country - and as JB Systems continues to acquire customers in other target markets outside of the area, their prices are incredibly competitive, thus helping them win a majority of bids.

Even though Eau Claire makes a great place for Gerald to run JB Systems, the business environment is not the only reason for headquartering here. He enjoys the highly rated school district along with the abundance of natural parks, trails, and entertainment venues such as Phoenix Park and Carson Park. Furthermore, Gerald enjoys the opportunities for community-related activities that Eau Claire provides through organizations such as the Chamber, The Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association, Business Networks International (BNI), DECI, and more. To Gerald, the business environment coupled with the community and entertainment aspects makes Eau Claire the perfect place to balance work and life.

Realityworks

Realityworks, Inc.is an example of how one innovative idea can catch on around the world. This invention-turned-successful-business-venture began in California in 1993. Rick and Mary Jurmain created a computerized "doll" to simulate the time and effort needed to care for a baby. The world's first infant simulator replaced rudimentary life skills classroom tools, such as eggs and sacks of flour, used to teach responsibility. Baby Think It Over ® was intended to provide a realistic experience that would deter teen pregnancy.

Jurmain Prototyping quickly turned into Baby Think It Over (and later BTIO Educational Products). Today, Realityworks, Inc. is a more fitting name for a company that provides realistic educational experiences to help people make healthy choices. The latest infant simulator -RealCare® Baby has wireless features that provide a more realistic infant care experience, skill-building and a detailed measurement of the caregiver's performance, including exact times. This, along with simulators depicting the consequences of child abuse, has expanded the market for Realityworks products beyond schools, into educational programs for social services, corrections and public health settings. An addiction education program uses similar technology to encourage healthy behavior among youth at risk for using tobacco products.

The Jurmains relocated to Eau Claire in 1996 for a better quality of life and an opportunity to grow the company in the area where Mary had spent most of her childhood. From this centralized U.S. location, Realityworks ships products to more than 35 countries of the world. The Midwestern work ethic, local talent pool, and a peaceful setting near metropolitan resources make Eau Claire an ideal location to grow a progressive business and offer an exceptional quality of life for employees.

 

Send us your reason for choosing Eau Claire to: ray.french@eauclairewi.gov