Tuesday Trends sample: Exports rising, UW System mixed and sand mining falling
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Exports: The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation says state exports grew by 12 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, rising to a total of $5.8 billion in the latest quarter. Exports of industrial machinery and vehicles drove increases to the state's three largest export markets, in particular -- exports rose 14 percent to Canada, 9 percent to Mexico and 12 percent to China. Industrial machinery exports, the largest sector of the state's export market, saw a 21 percent hike, while transportation equipment exports increased 51 percent. The latest quarter also saw Japan re-enter the state's top five export partners, while Australia replaced Germany in that group as economic instability continues to plague Europe. Exports to Russia, meanwhile, grew by 191 percent in the first quarter.
UW System: The University of Wisconsin gets some rough treatment in the headlines over another tuition increase for the upcoming academic year. The UW Board of Regents votes to approve a 5.5 percent hike for the system's four- and two-year campuses. The increases range from $431 at the flagship Madison campus to $247 at the two-year UW Colleges. The Board of Regents also deadlocks on three ballots to name a new president, splitting 9-9 each time between current Vice President Brent Smith and fellow Regent Michael Falbo. Ultimately, the board agrees to elect Smith as president and Falbo as vice president. Members of the UW Restructuring and Operational Flexibilities Task Force also meet for a final time before the group is set to craft a report to the Legislature. The group determines that the UW System must present a comprehensive tuition plan to the Legislature, and uses the second half of the meeting to tear into the state Department of Administration over what many felt was a lack of information and justification for its positions on capital costs on UW campuses. The task force also agrees to recommend giving UW authority over purchasing, despite further objections from DOA. The task force could meet once more in July after the report is drafted to review recommendations and potentially make changes.
Sand mining: The Department of Natural Resources has referred pollution violations by two silica sand mining companies to the state Department of Justice, the first such cases referred for prosecution as the mining of so-called frac sand -- used in natural gas drilling -- expands in the state. The DNR says Minnesota-based Preferred Sands did not have a plan to prevent storm water pollution when an embankment collapsed in Trempealeau County in March, and that Interstate Energy Partners and Tiller Corp. failed to maintain dikes and berms keeping material from a Burnett County mine out of the St. Croix River watershed.