The City of Onalaska is roaring back from the economic downturn in a big way.
Several well-known business chains are set to open in the city this year.
The last of the products are being unwrapped and the final screws drilled in place at HOM furniture in Onalaska before the store opens its doors on a big investment.
“Not only an initial investment with the building purchase and then the renovations, but then the product in here as well, so it's literally several million dollars,” said David Greene, the store’s showroom manager.
Greene said the business isn't expanding in Onalaska by mistake.
The chain already has stores in Eau Claire and Rochester, so Onalaska was a big draw in terms of proximity.
Greene said expanding to Onalaska provides a new base of customers, but is close enough to the two other locations where products can be shipped or transported quickly.
He said the company looked into several areas of Onalaska’s economic growth -- including what businesses were already here.
“We saw a hole in the market where we cover a wide range of product lines,” said Greene.
The business also looked into the number of new-home building permits in the area.
“There's, like 73 new permits right now,”said Greene. “It's growing, so that's a great place for us to be.”
Greene said they also looked into the amount of space available to grow.
“La Crosse is fairly landlocked,” said Greene. “You're not going to see a lot of growth there, but if you look at the Onalaska area specifically, if you go back to the last census 10 years ago, there were like 5,000 people. Now it's like 17,000 people. It's nothing but growing out here.”
Bremer Bank and AutoZone are other well-known chains to follow HOM this year.
“We're starting to get exposure, and we're starting to turn people's heads and they want to be part of what's going on in the region here,” said Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen.
Chilsen said these businesses will add to the variety already here and help attract others to come.
“It diversifies your offerings, and as more offerings are available, more people want to come and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at that point,” said Chilsen.
Chilsen said when people bring their businesses to the area, they could also be bringing their families -- Onalaska's good education system could be a big draw, too.
It's not just well-known chains looking to expand in Onalaska. A mixture of about a dozen businesses in the city includes startups or small businesses from other parts of the region that have moved to Onalaska to expand.