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Group hopes tax reform helps industrySubmitted: 09/06/2013
Group hopes tax reform helps industry
Story By Adam Fox

TOMAHAWK - A storied history of industry built the Northwoods.

But it was hit hard by a recession in 2008. Now manufacturing is starting to come back.

Factory floors are humming across the Northwoods. Loggers are cutting and managing the forests.Industry looks good.

That's because Wisconsin ranks fifth in manufacturing growth in the US since 2009, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. But Wisconsin Secretary of Revenue Rick Chandler thinks an improved tax system could help manufacturing break through.

"The feeling is that if manufacturing thrives, every other sector of the economy is going to thrive," Chandler said.

That's one reason why the state cut income tax by 650 million dollars over the next two years.

"That involves reducing individual income taxes, creating new business with tax incentives and other things that make our tax structure more competitive," Chandler said.

Chandler hopes that brings more jobs to the state. But he says people might not be qualified for the open positions. That's where Grow North Regional Economic Development Corporation comes in. Executive Director Sarah Kapellusch says they bring Northwoods economic groups, trade schools and employers together.

"This is where the employers can come to the table with the technical colleges up here and create programs," Kapellusch said. "It has been very successful in the past."

But manufacturing isn't the only concern here in the Northwoods. Access to broadband is a struggle. And the group knows connectivity could improve education and jobs opportunities.

"We are all working together to get to the resolution of how we get an internet service provider up here to actually get all of us connected," Kapellusch said.

A connection the Northwoods needs to catch up with the rest of the state economically.

"We're definitely heading in the right direction and we're doing everything possible to pick up the pace," Chandler said.

Everything possible is what Wisconsin might need.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander District Library recently added a program to make the library more inclusive. 

"[It's] designed specifically for kids on the autism spectrum and those with sensory processing needs, but any kids and families who feel like they just want a little more laid back, hands-on story time it would be appropriate," said children's librarian Katie Kubisiak.

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PHILLIPS - When students go to Phillips Elementary School, their classroom might be heated to only 60 degrees. It could also be 80 degrees.

The heating system is old enough that consistency is nearly impossible, and fixes are tough.

"We can't get parts [anymore] for a lot of the heating systems," said Principal Dave Scholz.

Underneath the school on Thursday, he pointed to the support structure.

"You can see all of the floor joists," he said. "Most of them are rotting right out. A lot of breaking off."

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WOODRUFF - A Northwoods fire department used some of its money gained through fundraising to help other first responders stay safe.

"For lack of a better term it works like a bomb," said Woodruff Assistant Fire Chief Victor Gee. 

The Woodruff Fire Department invested in five "X-tinguish" fire suppression tools.

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- On Friday, a Northwoods bank went above and beyond to celebrate National Popcorn Day. Minocqua's River Valley Bank had a kettle machine up and running from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The bank partnered with Minocqua popcorn for the fundraising event.

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PRICE COUNTY - For the first time in more than three decades the Price County Circuit Court welcomed a new judge to take the bench Friday.
Family, friends and judges from all over northern Wisconsin attended the investiture ceremony for Judge Kevin Klein.

Klein grew up in Price County and practiced law for more than 36 years.
Klein had his own law practice and was the local bar President for Price County before becoming a judge.
"When you start out and you're young and eager to practice law, you're not thinking about many years later taking the bench. But in retrospect you can see how call those years fit together," said Klein. 

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EAGLE RIVER - Some kindergarteners got a glimpse of the World Championship Snowmobile Derby Friday.

Snowmobile racer Jordan Grabowski stopped by the Eagle River Elementary School to talk to some kindergarteners about snowmobile safety.

"It's kind of a dying out sport and I want to keep it going. [I] try to get them to realize that it's not okay to ride without a helmet on and our safety gear on and that it is dangerous if you do ride it without because you could get hurt," said Grabowski.

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EAGLE RIVER - The World Championship Snowmobile Derby kicked off in Eagle River Friday morning. 

You might think of snowmobile racing as a sport for adults, but people of all ages are competing. Kids as young as four years old came out Friday to ride their tiny sleds through the finish line. 

On Sunday, all eyes will be on the riders lining up for the world snowmobile championship race. But before those riders came into the spotlight they started as kids. 

"My first race was when I was five," said Maverick Woyke. 

At just 12 years old, Woyke has been racing for seven years. 

"We went and watched a race and he had so much fun watching he decided he wanted to start racing," said Maverick's dad Jesse Woyke. 

Maverick traveled to with his dad from Buffalo, Minnesota to race this weekend in Eagle River. He's no stranger to traveling for the sport. 

"We've been Jackson, Wyoming, Winter Park, Colorado, Deadwood, Duluth, Shakopee in Minnesota, we kind of go all over," said Jesse. 

Maverick isn't the only veteran in the field, many of the young riders have been riding almost as soon as they could walk. 

"I've done this race as long as I can remember. Probably since I was four or five," said 11-year-old Tyler Poker. 

It's a tradition to come to Eagle River at this time of year, and for a lot of these kids, it's a family tradition.

"We were eating dinner and Dad asked me if I wanted to come race, and I said yeah, and then this happened," said 11-year-old Reece Bollmann. 

They travel from all over Wisconsin and the Midwest to have fun, but also to compete. 

"I've been to this race four times now and I've won it the last three times so I'm hoping for a fourth," said 14-year-old Kyle Thome. 

It's a unique sport, and it brings something different than football or baseball. 

"[My favorite part about racing is] the jumps because it's so much air and it's just a blast," said Bollmann.
 
But of course the best part?

"Well, getting off of school," said Poker. 

Many of the kids will spend the weekend watching other riders after they finish their races. And the ultimate goal is to be right there on that Sunday championship starting lineā€¦one day. 
 
"If we could get there that'd be awesome," said Thome. 

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