RCU's Test Drive Digital logo

Royal Credit Union’s virtual version of an in-person simulation it had done for high school students won a statewide financial literacy award.

HATCH goes to Cadott festival grounds

CADOTT — A regional startup business pitch competition is headed to the great outdoors next month and welcoming spectators.

Instead of an indoors setting this year, the HATCH competition will be from 4 to 8 p.m. on May 11 at the Chippewa Valley Music Festivals grounds, 24447 Highway S, Cadott.

Local entrepreneurs will give their five-minute business pitches to a panel of judges in front a live audience to compete for a $5,000 grand prize. Audience members will also have the chance to vote for their favorite pitches as well.

Attending the competition is free, but advance registration is required. To reserve a spot, register through the Chippewa County Economic Development Corp. website at chippewa-wi.com.

RCU’s virtual fair wins award, goes statewide

EAU CLAIRE — Royal Credit Union’s in-person simulation that gives high school students a taste of real-world financial decisions went virtual last year and won statewide acclaim in the process.

RCU’s Test Drive Digital was among 13 winners of the Wisconsin Governor’s Financial Literacy Awards presented Thursday in a virtual ceremony.

“Our team developed Test Drive Digital in May of 2020 in order to be able to continue offering a reality fair experience to high school students during the pandemic,” Brandon Riechers, RCU president and CEO, said in a news release.

Like its live version, RCU’s online program gives students experience managing a hypothetical budget based on their prospective careers and expenses such as student loan payments, insurance, housing and groceries. Students also are randomly assigned family statuses and credit scores to see how those factors impact their budgets. Before and after the simulation, students are tested to see how much they learned and how their opinions changed.

Riechers said Test Drive Digital’s benefits will extend beyond the pandemic and beyond the Chippewa Valley. This month RCU made the program available to all Wisconsin high school students for free through the state Department of Public Instruction’s academic and career planning website.

WEDC starts downtown business contest

EAU CLAIRE — Entrepreneurs planning to open or expand a small downtown business in Chippewa Valley cities are eligible to enter a statewide contest.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced its Wisconsin Main Street Downtown Pitch Contest last week with a top prize of $10,000.

“Small businesses anchor our downtowns,” Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the WEDC, said in a news release.

Wisconsin residents who are 18 and older with a for-profit business idea that is located or planned in a community in either the state’s Main Street or Connect Communities programs can enter the contest.

Cities in those programs include Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Menomoine, Ladysmith, Rice Lake, Whitehall, Blair, Black River Falls, Arcadia, Ellsworth and New Richmond.

Applications to the program, including a five-minute video pitch, are due by May 28. Then there will be semifinal and final rounds in June to decide the winners of the cash prizes.

In addition to the grand prize, there are two second-place prizes of $5,000 and nine regional prizes of $1,500 each.

Businesses pitched by entrepreneurs that win prizes must be open no later than Dec. 31.

For more information or to apply, go to bit.ly/WEDCpitch.

Short takes

• MADISON — Local companies were among 12 Wisconsin businesses recognized by Focus on Energy this month with awards for the energy-saving upgrades made at their facilities. Local winners of the 2021 Energy Efficiency Excellence Awards were On Site Performance Testing of Chippewa Falls, Mule-Hide Manufacturing of Cornell and Mellenthin Farms of Eau Galle.

From staff reports