Fleet Farm considers opening store in Eau Claire, breaks ground - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Fleet Farm considers opening store in Eau Claire, breaks ground on distribution center

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Chippewa Valley (WQOW) - Fleet Farm announced it may build a new store on the south side of Eau Claire. 

Fleet Farm said it is seriously considering building the store on a vacant lot just off Highway 93 along Old Town Hall Road. 

"There is a good chance you might see more of us in the future, yes," said Hugh Leasum, Fleet Farm Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, said. 

Tentative plans show part of the design that includes a 220,000 square foot retail building with garden and agriculture centers, fuel and car wash areas and more. News 18 asked Leasum about the possible store at Friday's groundbreaking ceremony for their more than $60 million distribution center being built in the Lake Wissota Business Park. Fleet Farm said it will create 325 jobs that pay more than $15 an hour. 

Gov. Scott Walker attended the celebration and commended Fleet Farm for expanding when other retailers have been cutting back. 

"While other retailers nationally are contracting, Mills Fleet Farm is growing here in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest," Walker said. "It is a big win  for the Chippewa Valley, and a big win for what they believe is the future for  our state."

Fleet Farm credited its success to the store's diversity.

"I think it is the uniqueness of our product," Leasum said. "Our customer mix is much different in the marketplace  than others, and I think our growth story is that."

Fleet Farm started moving dirt for the distribution facility in March. They have not yet set a completion date for the project but hope to have it completed by this winter.

While at the groundbreaking ceremony, Walker also praised Wisconsin's latest unemployment rate at 3.2 percent. Walker said it is the state's lowest unemployment rate since February of 2000.

He said it is the lowest it has been since February of 2000. 

With Fleet Farm's new distribution center promising more than 300 jobs, and an unemployment rate so low, Gov. Walker admitted it poses a good problem to have in a state. Manufacturers are looking for skilled laborers with a smaller employee pool to choose from. Walker said he hopes to close that gap by investing more in the school system with his biennium budget that is being reviewed by the Joint Finance Committee.

"I'm thankful they kept the base," Walker said. "I'm hoping they will build off of that to put more money in our technical colleges like Chippewa Valley Technical College, than ever before, more into worker training, and even the changes we're making of welfare through Wisconsin Works for Everyone. We need to have people get the qualifications they need to get in the workforce. We can't afford to have anyone on the sidelines."

According to Walker, the lowest unemployment rate has ever dropped in Wisconsin was 3 percent. 

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