‘Cabinet on the Road’: Governor Tony Evers, administration officials visit Tomahawk

By Jalen Maki

Tomahawk Leader Editor

TOMAHAWK – Governor Tony Evers and members of his cabinet were in Tomahawk last week to visit two businesses that were assisted by a state grant program.

The governor, along with officials from his administration, stopped by The Knot Haus Gift Gallery and Big Bear Mini Golf and Ice Cream on Wednesday, June 5.

Joining Evers in Tomahawk were Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Randy Romanski, Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary Cheryll Olson-Collins, Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) Secretary David Casey, Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Secretary Craig Thompson, Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Secretary James Bond and Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Amy Pechacek.

The Knot Haus and Big Bear were recipients of funding from the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program.

The program, which was launched in 2021, utilized Wisconsin’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to assist small businesses that were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 9,400 small businesses in all 72 of the state’s counties used Main Street Bounceback grant funds to expand or move into storefronts.

Nearly $400,000.00 in grant funding was distributed among roughly 40 establishments in Lincoln County, according to a release from Evers’ office.

The Tomahawk stops by Evers and members of his administration were two of several “Cabinet on the Road” events last Wednesday.

After leaving Tomahawk, Evers and the group headed to Nicolet College in Rhinelander, where they were joined for a full cabinet meeting by Lieutenant Governor Sara Rodriguez, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Emilie Amundson, Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld, Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) Secretary Dan Hereth, Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) Commissioner Nathan Houdek, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) Chairperson Summer Strand, Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) Executive Director​​​ Elmer Moore Jr.

The group then visited the Lake Tomahawk Meat Market in Lake Tomahawk. A hike slated to be held at the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest in Woodruff was cancelled due to inclement weather.

A release from Evers’ office said Cabinet on the Road is an initiative driven by the governor for members of his administration to “be visible and present in different parts of the state and connect with local partners to see the positive work going on across Wisconsin, hear firsthand about any challenges faced and learn how the Evers Administration can help support Wisconsin’s communities and regions.”

Evers and members of his cabinet previously hosted Cabinet on the Road events in Hayward in 2019 and in western Wisconsin in 2022, in addition to holding a yearly cabinet meeting at the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee.

Shopping, ice cream and mini golf: Evers and company visit downtown Tomahawk

In Tomahawk, Evers and company first stopped by The Knot Haus Gift Gallery at 116 W. Wisconsin Ave.

The governor and the group toured the downtown store, did a little shopping and visited with owner Char Andreachi, who explained how the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program helped her relocate her business about three years ago.

Andreachi explained that when the building that previously housed The Knot Haus was sold, she began searching for a new location. She ultimately purchased a former downtown office space about a block away, and Tomahawk Main Street Inc. Executive Director Jennifer Turkiewicz gave her a heads up about the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program.

Andreachi applied and was approved, and the funds helped her renovate and open her current location.

After leaving The Knot Haus, the governor and the group took a short walk to Big Bear Mini Golf and Ice Cream at 24 N. 2nd St. There, Evers and his cabinet officials spoke with owner Sherry Hulett, enjoyed some ice cream and tried their luck on the mini golf course.

Hulett, who owns Big Bear with her husband, said they received their Main Street Bounceback grant when they opened the business in 2022. The grant funds helped them make some floor repairs in the building, as well as improvements to steps and railings on the mini golf course.

“It really, really helped us get up and operating in a safe manner for our staff, and then also for our visitors and guests,” Hulett stated.

Hulett said she and her husband were surprised at first to learn Evers and his cabinet members planned to visit Big Bear, but they were happy to welcome the group to their establishment.

“It was very nice that we could actually say ‘thank you’ to the people making the decisions to provide us with the grant money, to help us get started in the industry,” Hulett stated. “It’s just exciting to have them here, and I think they enjoyed themselves a little bit, too.”

Evers said seeing the impact the Main Street Bounceback Grant Program has had on small businesses, including those in Tomahawk, is one of the things he’s enjoyed the most in his five-plus years as governor.

“We were able to essentially create businesses in vacant storefronts in 10,000 places in the State of Wisconsin,” Evers stated, noting that some communities that previously had almost completely empty downtown areas now have stores there.

The grant program has helped Main Streets across the state thrive, and the influx of businesses has boosted the state’s economy, the governor added.

“(The grant program) helped in small towns, and it helped in the big towns,” Evers stated. “It was horrible because of the pandemic, but we were able to utilize federal money for a really important cause, and that’s making sure our towns stay strong.”

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