Jake Prunuske moutain biking with Family Banner

Good Jobs and Good Trails Attract New Workers to Wausau Area

March 15, 2022
Jake Prunuske family on a biking trip

Jake Prunuske brought along his mountain bike when he interviewed for a job in 2016. If he was leaving Duluth and relocating his family to Wausau, the trails had to meet his expectations. Nine Mile County Forest did not disappoint. “I went for a ride after my interview, and that was the clincher,” he said.

Prunuske and his wife, Amy, both professors at the Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin, found “exceptional work opportunities in Wausau,” and their love of the great outdoors made this the perfect place to raise their three boys.

“We have this unparalleled accessibility to skiing and mountain biking that’s similar to what I had while living in Salt Lake City and Duluth, but I don’t have to worry about traffic and parking or a high cost of living,” said Prunuske. “Combine all that and Wausau is an outstanding place to be.”

According to Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Wisconsin’s cost of living is lower than the national average — 23% lower than the East Coast and 19% lower than the West Coast.

If you want a new career in a great community, Wausau area businesses are hiring. Lisa Westphal, president of Westphal Staffing, has at least 55 jobs to fill right now including positions in accounting, law, high-level administration and project management.

“Greater Wausau is an exceptional market in that we offer good-paying jobs in a variety of industries including healthcare, education, manufacturing and finance with strong opportunities for upward mobility,” she said.

Opportunity To Do Even More on Rib Mountain

You could say that Wausau has it all when it comes to work and play, but there’s one thing Prunuske says is missing — bike trails on Rib Mountain. “Honestly, when I moved here, I was a little surprised and confused that there weren’t mountain biking trails on Rib Mountain,” he said.

The DNR is reviewing the 2005 Master Plan for Rib Mountain and considering changes to the state park and Granite Peak. Prunuske is “absolutely ecstatic about the possibilities” of lift-assisted trails and shared-use trails. He is confident that everyone can benefit whether you bike, hike, ski or snowshoe.

“In my experience from living in other places, the partnership between trail users, the community and businesses were really strong. Everyone recognized the value of trails in terms of wellness, community building, recreational opportunities and business impact,” he said.

As a lifetime member of The Sierra Club and active in Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition (CWOCC), Prunuske is incredibly passionate about the environment. “There are ways to build and maintain sustainable trails that don’t do environmental damage,” he said. “Mountain biking is a peaceful activity, and most of us want to enjoy nature and the world around us.”

Jake Prunuske's son on bike trail

Contrary to widespread belief, mountain biking isn’t just for the extreme adventure seeker. “It’s an incredible source of health and wellness with so much versatility,” said Prunuske, a medical doctor and avid cyclist who tries to ride at least five days a week, including fat tire biking in the winter.

It is a great family activity, as well as something that can be done alone, and lift-access trails open up opportunities for those who don’t have the endurance to pedal uphill, he said. “I think a lot of people would have fun flowing on a smooth path down the side of a mountain,” said Prunuske.

A DNR public input period on the Rib Mountain plans is coming soon, and mountain biking enthusiasts will have an opportunity to weigh in then.

Stay informed and sign up for email updates at ElevateRibMountain.com.

The Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership is a collaborative group of business and community leaders coming together to help develop a stronger, more competitive economic development platform for our community. Our primary purpose is to assist in the implementation and execution of the Greater Wausau Region Economic Development Strategic Plan. The primary objectives of the plan are to 1) attract and retain talent, 2) embrace technology to grow local enterprises, and 3) engage in placemaking to enhance amenities and quality of life. For questions or more information, contact info@elevateribmountain.com.