Crawford County WI

Crawford County WI
Crawford County
Economic Development
Jim Bowman, Director
225 N. Beaumont Rd. STE 139
Prairie du Chien, WI 53821
Crawford County WI Business
Assistance Contacts

Fur traders first impacted the economic development of Crawford County in the 1700s when Prairie du Chien became a major trading post along the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. Early settlers prospered through the fur trade. Abundant woodlands served as rich hunting and trapping grounds. Other early industries, such as button manufacturing, also relied on natural resources – in this case Mississippi River clam shells. Rivers such as the Kickapoo, streams, and spring-fed lakes provided still other opportunities for fishing or hunting waterfowl.

As two great American rivers, the Mississippi and Wisconsin offered clear transportation advantages, facilitating commerce that increased the area’s population. Cities, towns and villages were established and grew where there was access to waterways. These same natural resources continue to play a major role in the manufacturing, agricultural and tourist industries into the present.

Crawford County is one of Wisconsin’s two original counties, established in 1818 under President James Monroe. Prairie du Chien, the county seat, is the oldest community on the Upper Mississippi River. It is home to the Fort Crawford Medical Museum and the Villa Louis estate. Other larger communities are Gays Mills, Eastman, Wauzeka, Mount Sterling, Soldiers Grove, and Ferryville. We invite you to experience Crawford County!

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The largest occupation group in Crawford County is Production, Transportation & Material Moving with manufacturing being the major employment sector. Cabela’s distribution center and retail store is the largest employer in the county, followed by 3M Manufacturing, both located at Prairie du Chien.

Crawford County participates in numerous state and regional economic development initiatives, while some municipalities also offer their own economic development program options. The Crawford County Economic Development Corporation is an association of individuals and interests working together to achieve best-case development of the local economy. Industries and new businesses targeted as part of an ongoing economic development planning process include:

  • Trade Industries: Equipment, metal, plastic and composite material manufacturers
  • Natural Resources Based Industries: Agricultural and food processing, forest products, and direct to consumer agricultural businesses
  • Local Industries: retail businesses, lodging and food services, health care, construction and technical services

Crawford County has an established strong manufacturing base and modern industrial parks. Designation as a Wisconsin Community Development Zone assures availability of tax credit incentives. Local banks and financial institutions are numerous and offer a complete line of business loans and financial services. Public sector regional revolving loan funds will also provide gap assistance for beginning businesses or those looking to expand.

Rail - barge offload area at Prairie du Chien

Rail – barge offload area at Prairie du Chien
Photo courtesy Wisconsin-Southern Railroad

Manufactured goods are easily moved along the county road network and across the State Highway System. As the only harbor in Southwest Wisconsin, the Port of Prairie du Chien has fleet capacity of 30 barges and is a major hub for shipping agricultural products. The port is equipped to handle the direct transfer of cargo between barges and rail cars or trucks. Several major truck carriers also serve Crawford County.

The City of Prairie du Chien Industrial Development Corporation works with new and existing businesses within the community. Agriculture plays a major role in the area economy and, combined with capital incentives and a strong labor force, Prairie du Chien has a solid economic base to support growth well into the future.


Agriculture provides almost 1500 jobs in Crawford County and accounts for about 13% of the county’s total business sales. Dairy is the major agricultural industry, with numerous dairy farms, two milk processing plants, and a major goat cheese producer. The county is known for organic and pasture-raised products, including beef, pork, poultry and goat meat.

Farmers own and manage 65% of the county land, including cropland, pastures, tree farms, forests and wetlands. Rotational grazing, strip cropping, and other conservation methods are utilized to help conserve the area’s highly erodible soil.

Eight large-scale orchards are located in Crawford County and the apples produced are well-known for their outstanding quality and flavor. The local fruit and vegetable markets are major contributors to the county’s agricultural business sales.
ApplesCrawford County’s top commodities are:

  • Milk
  • Grain
  • Cattle and calves
  • Fruits, nuts & berries
  • Nursery & greenhouse

Direct-marketing sales through farmers’ markets, roadside produce stands, pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms, and auctions generate nearly $1.6 million in sales. Logging is another major industry in the county, as are tourism, hunting and fishing.

*Source: 2011 Crawford County Agriculture: Value & Economic Impact


Much of Crawford County is defined by the Mississippi River which forms the western border, the Wisconsin River which forms the southern border, and the Kickapoo River, nicknamed “the crookedest river in Wisconsin.”  The rivers, bluffs, steep hills, deep valleys and smaller waterways throughout the county create a remarkable landscape. Crawford County is part of the Driftless Area, which covers more than 24,000 square miles in southwest Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and a small part of northwest Illinois.

Mallard ducks and waterfowl are abundant on the rivers - Photo by Randy McSorley

Mallard duck on the River
Photo by Randy McSorley

The natural habitat created by the rivers and forested land provide homes for a wide variety of wildlife and waterfowl. Anglers enjoy excellent trout fishing in the streams and year-round fishing on the larger rivers. Boating and water recreation are favorite summer activities on the Mississippi River. The Wisconsin River is popular for canoeing and kayaking as there are no dams on the lower part of the river. The meandering Kickapoo River is a favorite among paddlers, photographers and birdwatchers.

County and state parks provide recreation trails, education programs and activities for all ages. Bicycling, mountain biking, hiking, horse trails, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, camping, interpretive nature trails and bird watching are just some of the recreation opportunities available in the county. Interesting educational programs are offered at Wyalusing State Park and Astronomy Center. Be sure to visit the area historic sites and museums. The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is one of the country’s largest and most visited refuges.

Carriage Classic at Villa Louis

Carriage Classic at Villa Louis

Local festivals and fairs, heritage celebrations and historical reenactment weekends draw huge crowds in the summer. The autumn season brings leaf-lookers, apple orchard visitors and hunters. Ice fishing and snowmobiling are great activities in the winter. Arts & crafts fairs, fishing and boating kick off the spring season. There is something for everyone in Crawford County!

For more information on tourism in Crawford County and the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin, see the Driftless Wisconsin website and the Prairie du Chien Chamber of Commerce website.

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Featured Company

Universal Forest Products

When Universal Forest Products opened its Prairie du Chien facility in 2002, it was already a multi-national company leading the way in environmentally friendly manufacturing.

Incorporated in 1955, UFP is best known for its wood and wood-alternative products for the construction and home improvement industries. That is to say, those two-by-fours you purchased at Home Depot likely came from UFP and were born of responsibly harvested plantation grown trees.

Interestingly, UFP’s Prairie du Chien affiliate, UFP Ventures II Inc., is one of the few Universal companies that don’t work in lumber, per se, but in manufacturing. This branch is a part of the alternative materials group, born of UFP’s use of what they call the “Whole Log Model,” meaning that their manufacturing is specialized to ensure minimization of waste through use of the entire log. For example, smaller parts that might normally end up in landfills are instead used to make joints, trusses, and studs, while even tinier pieces are used in composite products.

The Prairie du Chien location specializes in making use of those tiny pieces to build and distribute outdoor living products, like composite decking, trim, and railing components.

With more than 100 employees, this location is a major contributor to UFP’s net worth of $2.7 billion. Named a Top Value Stock by in May of 2015, the company’s steady growth over the past several quarters is expected to continue.

For more information on Universal Forest Products, including available jobs, please visit