Archaeological Digging is Booming Business

One local business is in an economic boom thanks to government spending at the state and federal level.

Digging through rock, dirt, and mud is what Ryan Howell’s job as an archaeologist requires.

"It's a passion," Howell says.

Since 2005, he and Black River Archaeology have been finding hidden treasures in western Wisconsin.

"It's a new thing everyday. We could be working in a 10,000-year-old mammoth kill one day and a French fur trade post the next."

He says the job is about science, exploration and a lot of manual labor.

"It's similar to what it was in the 1890s. You're digging a controlled hole and pulling things out of the ground in a controlled fashion and then you record that."

The small company located in West Salem has gone from a one person operation to a staff of ten in just three years, which gives Howell time to do one of his favorite things.

"I like talking to farmers about farming. One day I'm talking tribal stuff to Native Americans, the next I'm sitting in a board room with the Governor's aide or a state senator."

He says the business started to boom when the economy started to slump. And thanks to the stimulus package he's seeing more business than ever.

"When you have a situation like that's unfolded since October, it drives a lot of infrastructure and federal and state spending. Our boat tags onto that and sails along with it."

Searching for history may sound like something out of a movie but…

"Most of us get in here before they need to for work and stay later. It's not about a job we do for money. It's a job we do for adventure."

Howell says Black River Archaeology may hire twenty more employees for seasonal work this summer.

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