Construction crews donate more than $200K to small business relief

By Olivia Herken

La Crosse, WI (La Crosse Tribune) -- La Crosse area construction companies, deemed essential through the pandemic, have teamed up to help other local businesses stay afloat.

Nine different companies have collected more than $225,000 for the Building Community Grant Fund, and they are working with the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce and La Crosse County to get the funds to businesses that need it.

“The construction industry has been deemed an essential business, so we’ve been able to keep our team members working,” said Chris Walters of DBS Group, one of the teams that came up with the idea. “And other businesses haven’t been able to do that.”

“We felt like we needed to try and do something to help these businesses that were struggling in the pandemic,” Walters said.

“What has impressed me the most, throughout this whole process, has been the consistent message from the sponsors, all of them have expressed that they are just doing what is right,” said Chamber CEO Neal Zygarlicke.

Local businesses have faced a lot of challenges throughout the pandemic while juggling keeping customers and staff safe and operating enough to keep their doors open, and often having to shut down because of surges in the area.

This new grant will help businesses with operation costs, as well as new innovations that will help groups adapt better to the pandemic.

“Life in the time of COVID has been difficult for many of us, devastating for some of us, and tragic for far too many of us,” said Monica Kruse, chair of the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors.

“The effects on our small businesses have been devastating because they’ve been buffeted by both politics and by the virus itself, and have barely hung on from one week to the next,” she said.

“These businesses have been our partners in checking the spread and keeping our community safe while they themselves have been fighting for survival. It’s been frustrating to see so many of our neighbors who are the lifeblood of our community barely hanging on,” said Kruse.

The fund is one of the largest relief programs in the area since the pandemic started, officials said, and grant rewards will average on $7,500 per business.

Eligible local businesses do not need to be chamber members, and must have 50 or fewer full-time employees.

And while these new dollars will offer immediate aid, officials are hopeful that this grant will form a support system that will outlive the pandemic.

“I’m confident that strong alliances are being formed that are going to last way beyond this time of COVID,” Kruse said.

“Hopefully six months from now we can look back and say that there are a dozen businesses that are here today that maybe wouldn’t have been here today if it weren’t for this program,” Walters said.

The DBS Group was joined by Fowler & Hammer, Interstate Roofing & Waterproofing, J.F. Brennan Company, Kish & Sons Electric, Market & Johnson, Mathy Construction Company, Schneider Heating & Air Conditioning and Wieser Brothers in funding the grant — all who put “their own self-interest and their own bottom line” aside to help, Kruse said.

Each company donated $25,000, and officials are hopeful other businesses and individuals will help grow the fund.

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