Apr 7, 2021 - News
The St. Croix Crossing is fueling a Twin Cities-driven boom in western Wisconsin
The St. Croix Crossing bridge is helping spur economic development in western Wisconsin. Photo: MnDot

Lift Bridge Brewery's announcement last week that it is opening a second taproom in New Richmond isn't the only sign of economic development in western Wisconsin.

The state of play: Yes, Lift Bridge chose Wisconsin in part because of its more lenient liquor laws that will allow it to sell more products from the brewery, but co-founder Brad Glynn told Axios the $690 million St. Croix Crossing was also a factor.

  • "There's a lot of things going on in New Richmond, and Somerset, in terms of industry and people moving there and building homes," Glynn said.

There's been an influx of development of all types in the communities on the Wisconsin side of the bridge, which opened in 2017 and cut out the long delays that motorists encountered at the Stillwater lift bridge.

  • New Richmond was adding 60 units of new housing annually between 2014 and 2016, according to city data. Since the bridge opened, housing starts have averaged 175 units annually.
  • The total value of the buildings and infrastructure in the city has jumped from $549 million to $978 million between 2012 and 2020.

Yes, but: Housing development has booming all over the Twin Cities metro in the past five years.

  • It's not easy to quantify how much of the growth in New Richmond and Somerset should be attributed to the bridge versus a strong economy.
  • "I don't think anyone's moving here just because of the bridge," interim New Richmond city administrator Noah Wiedenfeld told Nick. "But you know, that shorter commute time does make a difference for folks. "

What's ahead: Wiedenfeld said he expects the momentum to continue as more companies move toward flexible work schedules, given the city's small schools and more affordable housing.

  • Already 40% of the city's residents work in Minnesota.
  • "Many folks in the last year have been working from home," he said. "Are we going to see people say, 'Hey, I work for 3M, I will drive into St. Paul two days a week and I'm going to live here in New Richmond?"

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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