Area businesses win innovation prizes

MADISON — Two Menomonie businesses were among those to win their categories in a statewide contest that recognizes and reimburses companies that used innovative ways to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced winners last week of its We’re All Innovating Contest, which is awarding a total of $3 million to businesses throughout the state.

Menomonie Market Food Co-Op was named a category winner for technology innovation to address pandemic impacts on a business with 21 to 50 employees. The co-op accelerated its launch of a new online store, which hadn’t been planned until 2023, to help the business, its shoppers and suppliers during the pandemic.

Brewery Nonic, a Menomonie craft brewery, invited musicians and guest chefs from struggling restaurants in its doors during the pandemic. The brewery also added a food trailer, outside heaters, wind curtains, a fire pit and a coronavirus safety plan to expand its amenities in a way that also allows people to socially distance. These innovations made the brewery a winner for service and business operation innovation among companies with less than five employees.

In addition to an overall winner and 17 businesses that topped their categories, the state recognized 212 other companies for their efforts, according to a WEDC news release.

Those included several Eau Claire businesses: Hmong Noodle Wrap, Volume One Magazine, Drone Tours and SMARTcare Software. Other area companies recognized by WEDC were bakery Sweet Complete in Augusta, Monforton’s Lake Country Pizza in Turtle Lake and Golden Calf Co. in Bloomer.

Reimbursements granted to businesses ranged in size from $800 to $52,000, according to WEDC.

Short takes

EAU CLAIRE — Royal Credit Union promoted Zach Mara to the position of hub branch manager in Menomonie, putting him in charge of the two offices in the city. An RCU employee since 2012, Mara rose from the position of member account representative to branch team lead and then branch supervisor, all in Menomonie.

From staff reports