VERNON COUNTY, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Vernon County’s entire population may be less than the city of La Crosse but stand-out businesses are drawing significant interest from across the state.

In tonight’s County by County, Alex Loroff shows us how those businesses are helping drive the economy.

Vernon County may best be known for its sweeping rural landscapes, but it also features homegrown businesses that are putting a spotlight on the area.

Wonderstate Coffee was founded in Viroqua in 2005, a venture which helped combine the passions of co-founder T.J. Semanchin.

“Coffee really was the place where a lot of my environmental and social concerns came together in a business pursuit,” said Semanchin.

Semanchin spent time in Latin America before moving to Viroqua, where he witnessed the type of impact that coffee can have.

Semanchin said, “Coffee really can be something that provides for rural communities, for small farmers who work together in a cooperative and are able to pool their harvest and sell to small companies like us, and at the same time they’re growing using traditional methods and really caring for the land that they live on.”

Wonderstate is also a pioneer of clean energy usage in the coffee business, becoming one of the first solar powered coffee rostaries in the world six years ago.

Semanchin says using solar energy goes hand-in-hand with Wonderstate’s partnerships across Vernon County.

“Everything that we do, we really focus on sustainability, from sourcing the coffee beans to here at our café, all of our food is sourced locally, we work with local farmers,” said Semanchin.

Despite having cafes in Madison and Bayfield, Semanchin says Wonderstate is committed to being part of the Viroqua community for years to come.

Staying true to his roots is also a point of pride for the owner of Hillsboro Brewing Company.

Snapper Verbsky started Hillsboro brewing in 2012 after buying a building in downtown Hillsboro, but he always had his eyes on a larger operation.

Verbsky  said, “I’ve wanted this building since I was a kid, I joke around we used to jump our BMX bikes off the loading dock outside, to me it was more of the challenge to see if I could do it.”

Verbsky refurbished the vacant factory into a large-scale brewery and restaurant, opening the new facility in 2019.

Hillsboro brewing has experienced rapid growth in less than a decade, which Verbsky hopes serves as inspiration to the community.

“We have some local high school graduates who have started their own businesses and maybe i like to think that’s because of what we’ve done with HBC,” said Verbsky.

Hillsboro brewing products can be found across the state, giving Verbsky the chance to bring notoriety to his hometown.

“Why would you do something like this in Hillsboro, why would you take the risk, I mean we’re under 1,500 people, my response is why wouldn’t you do it here, look at where Hillsboro is, halfway between Madison and La Crosse, halfway between Chicago and Minneapolis, we have three state highways running through this town, it’s kind of special that it’s here in Hillsboro,” said Verbsky.

Wonderstate and Hillsboro Brewing are just some of the businesses that are helping build the Vernon County Economy.

Economic Development Coordinator Christian Dollhausen says the key to continued growth is to turn visitors into community members.

Dollhausen  said, “I mean you can just feel the authentic and the genuineness of the people, and the resilience of the people and the area, if you come and visit this area, you see that and you feel that, and before you know it your wheels start turning, and you’re like why am I living in an apartment in a larger city when I could be coming to an area like this and have this kind of quality of life.”

Dollhausen believes the combination of natural beauty and up and coming businesses will entice more people to consider Vernon County as an exciting place to live.

For County by County, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

Dollhausen says discussions are continuing adding more housing and childcare options to encourage people to settle down in Vernon County.