(WisBusiness) FRI News Summary — 16 May 2008

From WisBusiness.com …

— Bill Harvey, president of Alliant Energy, is defending his utility’s plans to build a coal and biofuels-fired plant at Cassville as a “balanced” approach to meeting the state’s future energy needs.

Speaking at Alliant’s annual shareholders’ meeting, Harvey said the proposed 300-megawatt plant would be able to burn coal, corn stalks, wood waste and switch grass. He also said his utility is aggressively pursuing wind, other alternative power sources and energy efficiency programs.

“We need to be diversified, we can’t put all our eggs in one basket,” he said.

Outside the Alliant Energy Center, where Harvey spoke to about 300 shareholders, several dozen protestors from Clean Wisconsin and the Sierra Club carried signs and shouted chants against the plant.

They said the Cassville plant would pollute more than other designs and be a risky financial investment because of the rising cost of coal and impending federal carbon regulations.

See story: http://www.wisbusiness.com

— Twenty-seven Wisconsin lawmakers have signed a letter to federal EPA administrator Stephen Johnson urging the agency to lift its summer requirement for reformulated gas in southeast Wisconsin.

Rep. Robin Vos, R-Racine and author of the letter, said lifting the gas mandate would curb gas prices in that part of the state.

“A prosperous summer tourism season could be just what Wisconsin needs to pull us out of our current economic situation,” Vos said in a statement. “But gas prices that are skyrocketing toward $5 a gallon will stop summer travelers dead in their tracks.”

Twenty-one fellow GOP representatives joined Vos in signing the letter, along with GOP Sens. Alberta Darling of River Hills, Glenn Grothman of West Bend and Mary Lazich of New Berlin.

Two Dem representatives, Sheldon Wasserman of Milwaukee and Robert Turner of Racine, also signed onto the letter.

*See the letter: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/large/080515_RFG_repeal.pdf
*See the Vos statement: http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=126281

— Twenty-five legislators have signed a letter by Sen. Darling to the state’s Congressional delegation, urging lawmakers at the federal level to repeal the renewable fuel mandate and eliminate tax credits for ethanol production.

“It is a laudable goal to reduce our dependence on foreign oil for our energy needs, but current ethanol policies have been an economic and environmental disaster worldwide,” the letter states.

*See the letter:
*Darling statement:

— Wisconsin mortgage foreclosure filings continue at “escalated levels,” according to newly released data compiled by ForeclosuresWI.com, a leading provider of Wisconsin foreclosure resources and statistics.

Wisconsin foreclosures have spiked 70 percent over the last three years (from 12,311 in 2005 to 20,995 in 2007), and the first four months of 2008 are showing no signs of improvement. The number of Wisconsin foreclosures in April 2008 grew to 2,103 homes, up more than 40 percent from the total in April 2007.

“We expect foreclosures to remain at escalated levels through 2008, with some experts not predicting a housing market recovery until at least 2010,” said Robert Jansen, president of ForeclosuresWI.com.

Milwaukee County has the most foreclosures in the state in April, up 42 percent from a year ago.

See story: http://www.biztimes.com/daily/2008/5/15/#foreclosures-continue-to-skyrocket-in-wisconsin

— — Scott Lockard, U.S. Bank, Madison market president, James R. Imhoff, Jr., chairman/CEO. First Weber Group, Inc., and Bill Duddleston, director of the Center for Economic Education at Edgewood College will highlight “The Wisconsin Economy in a Time of Uncertainty” forum on June 3 at 7:45 a.m.

The WisBusiness.com-WisPolitics.com breakfast event at the Madison Club in downtown Madison will feature discussion of the impact of the nation’s economy on Wisconsin. With the looming presidential election and recent economic turmoil, find out how you should be safeguarding your financial security.

The event is exclusively sponsored by AARP.

Additions to the panel and other participants will be announced in coming days.

The event is open to the public. General public tickets cost $10, but tickets area only $5 for AARP members and WisPolitics & WisBusiness subscribers. The ticket price includes breakfast.

For ticket information, contact Jim Greer at 608-237-6296 and [email protected]




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Press Releases
WisBusiness.com-WisPolitics.com Forum: “The Wisconsin Economy in a Time of Uncertainty”
‘The Stock Market Handbook for Beginners’: New Book Offers Affordable Advice from Experienced Investor
EPA Redesignates Kewaunee County, Wis., to Attainment of Smog Standard
Farm Bureau pleased with Legislature’s passage of Great Lakes Compact
Governor Doyle Appoints Kevin Opgenorth to University of Wisconsin Board of Regents
Icehouse Offers Chance to Win Cool Adventure in Icelandic Hot Spot
PSC Issues Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Public Service Commission: Alliant’s Proposed Coal Plant “Is Not the Optimal Choice”
Report Card Time for State, Too

For these and more releases visit http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Content=82


Hoffmaster to close Appleton plant, cut 300 jobs: Napkins/plates maker opts to expand in Clintonville… The Hoffmaster Group Inc. announced Thursday it will close its plant at 1200 S. Perkins St., ultimately cutting 300 jobs. The phased closure of the 280,000-square-foot plant is expected to last through April. Workers were informed of the company’s plans Thursday. The move affects the company’s creative converting consumer division, which also has a facility at 255 Spring St. in Clintonville. Hoffmaster plans to expand the Clintonville site, which will add jobs, said Rory Leyden, president and chief executive officer of Hoffmaster. “What it boils down to is we have two facilities making similar products,” he said. Both plants produce napkins and paper plates for the party goods industry.

Wisconsin unemployment dips to 4.4 percent: The state of Wisconsin’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for April was 4.4 percent, nearly a full percentage point from the rate in April of 2007. The unemployment rate, which was down from March’s rate of 5.2 percent in Wisconsin, compares with the national rate for April of 4.8 percent. National unemployment increased from 4.3 percent last April. “Wisconsin’s labor market improved significantly in April, as the construction industry enjoyed warmer weather and manufacturing continued to see strong exports, due in part to a weaker dollar,” Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman said.

State ag exports hit record in first quarter: Agricultural exports from Wisconsin totaled a record $466 million in the first quarter of the year, an increase of 18.4 percent over the first quarter of 2007, Gov. Jim Doyle announced Thursday. Notable increases include 103 percent in dairy exports to $65 million; 19.5 percent in cereals, including corn and wheat, to $19.6 million; 1,000 percent in live cattle to $6.4 million; and 10 percent in dairy genetics to $11 million. The dramatic increase in live cattle sales stems from Mexico’s move to lift age restrictions on U.S. cattle following the diagnosis of BSE in a cow in Washington state in December 2003, the state said. Mexico also removed a ban on processing U.S. cattle.

Kohl’s earnings down: 27% drop beats forecasts; full year’s target lowered… Kohl’s Corp. said earnings fell nearly 27% in the first three months of its fiscal year, but it still beat Wall Street’s estimates by a nickel a share on the strength of inventory management. But based on those results and a tepid sales outlook, the company lowered its earnings guidance for the full year to a range of $2.95 to $3.15 a share. The company’s earlier guidance called for a range of $3.15 to 3.50 for the year ending in January 2009. The average estimate of analysts reporting to Bloomberg called for earnings of $3.11 for the year.

MGIC may need 2 years to recover from subprime meltdown: While acknowledging that MGIC Investment Corp. suffered “a very difficult year” in 2007, the mortgage insurer’s chairman and CEO said Thursday that the company’s business is solid and its outlook is bright. Nevertheless, Curt Culver said at the annual shareholders meeting that Milwaukee-based MGIC (NYSE: MTG) may need another two years to work through the financial woes created by insuring subprime mortgages in bulk. The company in February reported a $1.5 billion fourth-quarter loss and a net loss of $1.67 billion in 2007. In April, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the company from AA- to A with a negative outlook, a move that affected MGIC’s status with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, government-established corporations that buy mortgage loans.

Doyle to again propose hospital tax: Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle today told members of the Wisconsin Hospital Association that he plans again to propose a hospital tax that could bring hundreds of millions of federal dollars to state hospitals and provide the government with $125 million to help it through trying economic times. “We’ll be putting forth a new budget next January for the next two years, and when we do we’ll be working to make sure that that federal money is coming into the state of Wisconsin and we are working in a way to be able to raise the reimbursement rate that you have needed,” he said. Doyle’s speech during the WHA’s annual Advocacy Day at Monona Terrace comes as he goes to work on a budget repair bill negotiated by legislative leaders that was sent to his desk on Wednesday.


GREGG HOFFMANN: Contributor, WisBusiness.com

TOM STILL: President, Wisconsin Technology Council

JENNIFER SERENO: Senior manager, Wood Communications Group

STEVE JAGLER: Executive editor, Small Business Times

TOM BURZINSKI: IT executive and consultant

TECHNOLOGY (back to top)
– Charter to track customer browsing; pilot program outside Wisconsin

BIOTECH (back to top)
– UW-Madison biotechnology program grad is planning spinoff company

ECONOMY (back to top)
– Gas cost dips here, but hits new highs across state

– Miller CEO says drinkers are turning to cheaper beer

– It took time for Vietnam to find feet

MANUFACTURING (back to top)
– Papermaker Appleton gets governor’s honor

– Nolen to pay $55,000 for dies

– Neenah Paper to sell Canadian mill

LABOR (back to top)
– State unemployment down in April

– Workers say union no longer effective

SMALL BUSINESS (back to top)
– Green-certified vet clinic to hold open house

INVESTING (back to top)
– Stocks up in early trading

REAL ESTATE (back to top)
– Reaction sour to Royster-Clark coal storage idea

– Wis. developer that lost building deal can’t sue state

– West Allis developments boxed in by sand

– Foreclosures up 40 percent in April

AGRIBUSINESS (back to top)
– Veto-proof farm bill headed to Bush

– Prices Mostly Higher on NASS Cheese Survey

– Rural Mutual Insurance Offers Sponsorship for Young Farmers

TRANSPORTATION (back to top)
– Gas-sipping scooters are gaining popularity

– Outagamie airport expands food options

– DOT chief abused authority, examiner finds

RETAIL (back to top)
– Department stores hurt by slumping apparel sales

– Madison shoppers getting taste of higher food prices

– Miller earnings up 27 percent

– Miller to distribute Grolsch in U.S.

– Tipping sales, not scales

– Kohl’s rolls out Bobby Flay kitchenware line

REGULATION (back to top)
– Wisconsin senators Feingold and Kohl vote for farm bill

– As federal debate rolls on, state gas tax holiday unlikely

– Can fuel change save a dime at the pump?

TOURISM (back to top)
– Traveler spending passes $1 billion mark in Wisconsin Dells area

– Excellent service leads to tourism award

– County tourism revenue up slightly in 2007, down across state

UTILITIES (back to top)
– Activists protest proposed coal plant

– Integrys Energy Group to expand its energy efficiency plan

– City of Janesville cancels 4,500 delinquent water account notices

– AT&T officials answer questions from concerned residents

HEALTH CARE (back to top)
– Wisconsin’s 124 nonprofit hospitals would have paid $117 million in property taxes

– Health expo grows to 2 days

– Franciscan Skemp buying land for Onalaska clinic expansion

– Health care reform faces uphill fight

– Credit unions escape slumping fate of banks

– Fiserv Health to operate as UMR

– Integrity hires Jewelers chief

MANAGEMENT (back to top)
– Packers look to increase revenue

– Local companies win environmental awards

– Desmond Mason joins MIAD board

– African American chamber elects officers as Martin preps departure

BUSINESS COLUMNS (back to top)
– Jacque Georgia column: Blame game isn’t the answer to lending crisis

– John Oncken: What’s next for Barney’s Utica Store?

Media Partners
Small Business Times
Madison Magazine

National Business Roundups ( back to top)
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–CNBC BUSINESS NEWS: http://www.cnbc.com
–ABC BUSINESS NEWS: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/business/
–GOOGLE NEWS: http://news.google.com/news/en/us/business.html

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