Ho-Chunk officials examining La Crosse business venture


Jan. 13, 2021

Ho-Chunk officials examining La Crosse business venture

A new business venture in La Crosse may be on the horizon if everything goes as planned.

Shortly after Ho-Chunk President Marlon WhiteEagle was inaugurated in 2019, he, Perry Carrimon, and Michael Sallaway, met with La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat to see if a business venture could be established with the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Since that time, Executive officials have been looking into the possibility of diversifying the Ho-Chunk Nation’s business enterprises. La Crosse city, La Crosse Area Development (LADCO), and Ho-Chunk Nation officials have been actively discussing small business and housing opportunities within the city of La Crosse.

A section of land has been identified to be favorable for development by the Ho-Chunk Nation.  Under consideration is the construction of a high-rise building with commercial office and retail space on the first floor, space for a regional office of the Ho-Chunk Nation along with Youth Services and meeting space on the second floor, apartments for rent on the next three or four floors, and condominiums for sale on the top floor.

The area under consideration is a vacant lot near downtown that is being transformed into a development project named “River Point District.” The project is being organized by developer Blair Williams of Wired Properties of Milwaukee.

“I think it would be terrific to have the Ho-Chunk to participate at River Point District,” Williams said. “We are confident that the Ho-Chunk Nation has the ability to deliver a development of the highest quality and caliber.”

The effort is being made to diversify the Ho-Chunk Nation’s business opportunities, breaking away from gaming, and attempting a more sustainable venture that will endure through downward cycles in the economy.

“Housing is always in demand,” said LADCO Economic Development Coordinator Sam Bachmeier. “There is a shortage of housing in the La Crosse area; people always need a place to live regardless of the current economic situation.”

A proposal video has been created by the Ho-Chunk Nation’s Public Relations Office, which will be shown at the Development Committee meeting on Jan. 26. One of the key people in the video is La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat, who speaks in favor of the Ho-Chunk Nation becoming involved in developing the site. He also gives his endorsement for getting a parcel of land changed over to trust status so that the Ho-Chunk Nation would not have to pay property taxes.

If the Development Committee accepts the proposal, the issue would go before the Ho-Chunk Legislature for approval.

The OOP staff are considering several avenues to fund the venture, should the project be approved, including various grants and other low-overhead funding opportunities.

“It’s exciting to work towards a new enterprise within the Ho-Chunk Nation, one that will be self-sustaining and resistant to any economic downturns,” said Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle.

“Also, we will be fulfilling the need for housing in the La Crosse area, as well as providing a meeting place and Youth Services for our tribal members and children. The Three Rivers House in La Crosse has been our regional office for many years and perhaps now would be a good time to provide a new, exciting facility for our people,” WhiteEagle said.