Expansion Updates

Expanding on a Solid Foundation

Posted by Jan Rasikas, General Manager on Aug 26, 2017 7:00:00 AM

A big shout out and THANK YOU to the VFC Owners who have invested in Class C shares! We’re steadily 2017.08-Jan-hard-hat.jpgmoving toward our $1 million goal. You may ask, “How can we begin the project if we haven’t raised all of the owner equity?” Our local lender, Bank of Cashton, is confident in our success and supports us with a bridge line of credit if we need it; this allows us to take advantage of the summer weather to keep us moving on construction. We are underway and our cherished Co-op will soon have some exciting new ways to serve you.

I believe in this project and understand the great responsibility that the VFC Owners and Board of Directors have entrusted me with to do what is best for the Co-op and the community. VFC is my family, my community, and my passion; nothing could make me jeopardize its well-being. Our Co-op has become an essential part of life here for many folks. Every step we take to provide healthy food choices to our families will take us closer to our mission of healthy individuals, a healthy community, and a healthy planet.

VFC always was and always will be a community-owned co-op. Owner/community wants and needs inform every decision we make through their purchases, surveys and direct input – but ultimately someone must be held accountable for business decisions. Our Board functions as your representatives in this democracy – and this is how cooperative businesses function all around the world.
expansion process infographic 5.jpg

It’s refreshing to see owners care so strongly that they want to have deeper involvement in this Co-op expansion. Still, please know that we must consider and make decisions that best represent all Co-op owners and shoppers.

In 2012, VFC embarked on an extensive planning and evaluation process to determine if this expansion was the right move. We understand that some of the owner input and visioning that guided this expansion may not be in everyone’s recent memory. This has been a long road and has included extensive communications and owner input all along the way.

VFC expanded once before in 2005 with the new construction of our current building. The Board of Directors used the identical process then to engage owners as we have for the current expansion – starting with a Community Conversation followed by several years of study, an owner survey, and many in-person events to gather owner input.

In retrospect, the 2005 expansion held significantly more risk than the current expansion project. VFC had no track record of profitability, fewer members, fewer local and organic farm suppliers, and not much tourist trade. Thanks to the visionary Board members (and Bank of Cashton) who had confidence and were willing to take a leap of faith, we did it! 

Check out the comparison below:2017-08-expansion-comparison-to-2005.jpg

Twelve years later, we have an excellent track record of continuous growth in sales, modest profitability, and owners totaling more than 3,600. The Driftless area is now a tourist destination for water ways, bicycling, fishing, recreation at parks and reserves, and many people travel here (and move here!) because of this Co-op!

I want to recognize that some questions and criticisms we’ve received are coming from a place of genuine concern for the Co-op. Rest assured that the VFC Board of Directors have done their due diligence to make our expansion a success. We value transparency, and along with that comes more questions and complexity! Many of these questions (and more), along with VFC’s answers, are posted on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page. 

The VFC Board of Directors bring a diverse spectrum of life and work experience that directly relates to our Cooperative and the project. They represent a wide range of the owner-membership through multiple generations (ages 29-69) and include: two engineers, a finance professor, small and large business owners, an organic certifier, both an Organic Valley executive and a brand manager.

But we rely on other professional opinions as well. Many independent organizations have looked at the project numbers; each has independently analyzed the project and decided to partner with us, recognizing and affirming the expansion project’s viability. This includes:

  • City of Viroqua (CDI grant & Tax Incremental District-TID, Center Ave variance)
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (CDI grant)
  • US Dept. of Treasury Community Development Fund (NMTC)
  • USDA Rural Development - Loan Guarantee, 90% of primary loan
  • Bank of Cashton - Local Primary Lender
  • National Cooperative Grocer’s Development Cooperative
  • Wegner CPAs

With the CDI grant, the NMTC, and your Class C investment we can stretch our expansion project farther than what we could finance on our own and fulfill the highest potential suggested by the Market Study. This allows us to expand our building in a way that will last at least 10 more years, similar to our relocation and expansion in 2005. This is the best way to spend our collective commonwealth and keep those dollars right here supporting our local food economy!

We still need your investment to accomplish our goals! If you’re ready to support Viroqua’s only community-owned grocery cooperative, call Christina Dollhausen, our Capital Campaign coordinator at 637-7511 or email christina.dollhausen@viroquafood.coop.

Tags: Expansion