LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Last week, Logistics Health Incorporated announced it had acquired four Department of Veterans Affairs contracts worth nearly $3 billion.
That move is expected to add 1,200 jobs to the company, although not all will be located in La Crosse.
Much of that move, as well as the recent downtown building boom, has a lot to do with businessman Don Weber.
From his humble beginnings on a farm near Cashton, Weber has always been looking for a challenge.
But those challenges, especially after serving in Vietnam, were much different than they are today.
"At the time, we were struggling, we often talk about that, because life was a lot simpler -- living from paycheck to paycheck," Weber said.
Fast forward many years, and Weber leads a much different life.
From the Charmant to Belle Square, much of La Crosse's building boom in the last year can be attributed to Weber.
"I don't look at it as geez, my fingerprint on this or on that, I look at it as why have I been blessed that this opportunity came our way? And then when they do, what are we going to do with it, what's the right thing to do," Weber said.
While he loves a good challenge, LHI's acquisition of the V.A. contracts, as well as adding 1,200 jobs, may be his biggest challenge yet.
"To hire 1,200 people in La Crosse in less than a year is not possible," Weber said. "We're recruiting nationally, we are recruiting in Eau Claire."
According to Weber, most of the new jobs will be located in La Crosse and Eau Claire. LHI's Riverside Campus near downtown will be used to house these jobs, as well as potentially the new Belle Square construction.
"We'll have about another 55,000 square feet of space to expand, and the possibility to take the next three, four hundred jobs we have once we're completed down here on the Riverside Campus, this is a very good possibility," Weber said.
While the V.A. contracts are only renewable for five years, Weber explained how the veteran healthcare industry is evolving, and why LHI will be at the forefront of that growth for years to come.
"They're actually transitioning the delivery of health care to our veterans to where its going to be privatized, so it won't go back to the 20th-century systems that they use," Weber said. "It's not only 1200 jobs, maybe it's going to be 3,000 jobs. So how do you plan that growth?"
Above all, Weber says, his plans have always been motivated by his love of helping veterans.
"We need to do so much more for them," Weber said. "They've earned that -- they've earned that. And to say, 'Hey I helped just one of them turn their life around because of what I have, what my children have, what my grandchildren have, there's nothing more gratifying than that."
Weber also addressed the concern over parking with the influx of new jobs.
LHI's Riverside Campus location is expanding two levels to its parking garage, increasing its car capacity by 300.
Belle Square will also see a new parking ramp, which will add around 600 parking spaces in the next year.
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