The Soon-to-Hit $191 million Shortfall to

La Crosse County's Quality of Life

Graphs Can Say a Lot, But Not All

You don't have to tell Fayze's, Jacqlon's, Houghtons or Root Down Yoga what the sales tax number from March to June 2020 show, but that doesn't mean their small business owners eyes won't pop open when they see the actual number.

La Crosse County saw a $54 million drop in sales compared to 2019 collected at places we love and that create our high quality of life -- restaurants, hotels, RV parks, salons, spas, yoga studios, gyms wellness programs, bowling alleys, golf courses, and more.

That's just through June.

If we project out the same loss percentages in these industries from June to December 2020, we're looking at $191 million in lost revenue.

That's local jobs, families and dreams impacted.

The people employed in those industries already live paycheck to paycheck. As we enter the holiday season, that's concern over puting food on tables and presents under trees.

This puts a strain on social services programs and nonprofits who rely on local generosity to kids and families impacted.

We are Spending Money. We Just Are Not Buying From Local Companies.

Data lover or not, the graph for accommodations and food services shows a historically deep plummet in accommodations, food and drink.

Shocker. We're Not Having Much (of our usual) Fun Either.

In case you weren't aware, we are not bowling, golfing, and exercising together.  The lines show us that the revenue loss is pretty painful.

The blue line below was 2019. Yellow is 2020.

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This second graph is for services we receive.

  • beauty salons and spas
  • funeral homes
  • photography
  • lawn care
  • home cleaning
  • dry cleaning
  • pet services

But the County Sales Tax Collection Looks Strong

That's the head scratcher. When you look at overall sales tax collected, the County is faring okay. Two things are happening:

1) Other industries, for example electronic components and textile production, are up.

2) Retail sales tax is higher than 2019. Ask many local stores and they'll tell you that's not the case. That's the impact of buying online. Remember, if you buy from Amazon, you are paying local sales tax still. The misalignment of the numbers and local pulse reinforces what we are hearing nationally -- Amazon is gaining speed over local sales. 

That's good for the County, but not good for our local economy.

Have Fun With Numbers

I've chosen just the industries we can all relate to. Others you can look at include: plastic & rubber products, computer and electronic product manufacturing, beverage and tobacco, etc.

What These Numbers Tell Us, Specifically

March - June 2020 vs. March-June 2019

2020 sales (green) versus 2019 (gray)

We spent less at local restaurants, having fun, and paying for fitness. The drop in sales at accommodations, particularly, shows how much tourism, conventions, and business travel support financially contribute to these other industries. Fewer people visiting the La Crosse area created a hole in sales too big to be filled even if local people increased their spending locally.

  • RESTAURANTS: $31 million in lower sales 67% 67%
  • HOTELS: $13 million lower 45% 45%
  • AMUSEMENT & RECREATION: $6.3 million lower 55% 55%
  • PERSONAL SERVICES: $3.9 million lower 72% 72%

Adding Up Our Quality of Life

The industries I am spotlighting form our quality of life. They are the vibe of our community. When I added up the shortfall from March - June, the numbers are staggering. 

THOUSAND $ Less in Sales Tax Collected From These Industries


by the .005% of La Crosse County sales tax (i.e. the ".5" of our 5.5% sales tax) this represents and you get the full amount sales were down.

MILLION $ Less in Sales In These Industries


These numbers are just for March - June


Assuming the percentage of lost revenue will stay the same per industry from July-December, we can use the 2019 numbers to project out the year end. 


MILLION $ in La Crosse County Sales Lost







Per Business Loss

Using the Data Axel database provided by the La Crosse Public Library (formerly Data USA), we can find the number of businesses in each industry and divide the projected loss by the number of businesses.


$ Sales Lost Each


$ Sales Lost Each


$ Sales Lost Each


$ Sales Lost Each

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We must slow buying online sales. 

Our jobs, families, dreams depend on it. 

The holiday season is critical to helping keep businesses operating in January -February. 

The people working in the industries impacted are those who live paycheck to paycheck.

Help them put food on the table and presents under the trees this Holiday season.

Choose community over convenience.

We must be intentional and work to keep and the community we want to live in upon full reopening.

Support local.

Disclosure: the group approached me/Engage Greater La Crosse to project manager their efforts.

Vicki Markussen
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Author: Vicki Markussen

CEO/Founder, Engage Greater La Crosse



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