(WisBusiness) FRI News Summary — 18 April 2008

From WisBusiness.com …

— As oil prices rise along with consumption, businesses are looking to a variety of biofuels to meet energy needs.

Over two days in Stevens Point at the Wisconsin Biofuels Destiny Conference, researchers and developers compared notes with politicians to find common ground to grow the fuels of tomorrow.

“Wisconsin has what we might call the perfect storm,” said Brad Pfaff, policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse. “We have the technological base, we have the resource base and we have the manufacturing capability.”

Conference coordinator Tom Still asserted that ethanol will continue to be in the forefront and making it won’t burden food production.

“The ethanol of five years ago is different than it is today, and it’ll be different in five years,” says the president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. “The food versus fuel controversy is being overblown by those who ignore many other significant factors affecting food prices around the world.”

See story: http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=123905

— Wisconsin’s unemployment rate for March was 5.6 percent, down two-tenths of a percentage point from February’s 5.8 percent and equal to the rate one year ago. The national rate for March was 5.2 percent, same as the February rate, but seven-tenths of a percentage point higher than the March 2007 rate of 4.5 percent.

“Wisconsin’s labor market showed improvement from February with a drop of two-tenths of a percentage point in unemployment rate and an increase of nearly 13,000 in jobs over the month,” Workforce Development Department Secretary Roberta Gassman said. “We are encouraged by these figures as we work to address the challenges and opportunities of today’s economy in a number of areas, including manufacturing.”

From February to March, total Wisconsin non-farm jobs increased by 12,900 to 2,825,100. Private sector jobs grew by 10,000, led by the leisure and hospitality sector with an increase of 2,900, and educational and health services with 1,600 jobs. Goods producers added 2,600 jobs with 2,300 in construction and the remaining 300 in manufacturing. Government jobs were up 2,900, led by local government, which added 2,500.

See release: http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=123907

— Milwaukee-based MGIC Investment Corp. is reporting a net loss of $34.4 million for the first quarter, compared with net income of $92.4 million for the same period a year ago.

The company’s loss per share was 41 cents for the quarter, compared with earnings per share of $1.12 for the same quarter a year ago.

MGIC’s total revenues for the first quarter were $423.9 million, compared with $369.6 million in the first quarter of 2007. Net premiums written for the quarter were $368.5 million, compared with $304.0 million in the first quarter last year. New insurance written in the first quarter was $19.1 billion, compared to $12.7 billion in the first quarter of 2007.

See story: http://www.biztimes.com/daily/2008/4/17/#mgic-reports-344-million-first-quarter-loss

— Harley-Davidson says falling motorcycle sales and lower-than-expected first quarter earnings are causing it to reduce workforce by 370 unionized workers and 360 non-production workers.

Most of the reductions in non-production workers will come from the Milwaukee area, where the company is headquartered, said Bob Klein, director of corporate communications.

“We’re still working through the details of where those will occur, but most of the positions are in the Milwaukee area,” he said. The company has not yet decided on specific areas where it will make cuts, but expects to and notify workers in the second quarter, Klein said.


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Press Releases
March Unemployment Rates Announced

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


Harley-Davidson will cut work force, cycle shipments: Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson said Thursday it will cut its work force by 8 percent and trim motorcycle shipments by the thousands, as domestic sales fell nearly 13 percent in the first quarter. Chief executive Jim Ziemer said Harley-Davidson has had temporary production cuts over the past four years, but the hundreds of layoffs announced Thursday are the first of that magnitude in two decades. Ziemer said the company would cut shipments to dealers so they wouldn’t be stuck with unsold bikes. Harley plans to cut this year’s shipments by between 23,000 and 27,000 units. That means the company expects to ship between 303,500 and 307,500 units for the full year, at least 7 percent below last year.

Unemployment down in state: Wisconsin’s unemployment rate for March was 5.6 percent, down two-tenths of a percentage point from February’s 5.8 percent and equal to the rate one year ago, according to a Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development press release. The national rate for March was 5.2 percent, same as the February rate, but seven-tenths of a percentage point higher than the March 2007 rate of 4.5 percent. In March, private-sector jobs grew by 10,000, led by the leisure and hospitality sector with an increase of 2,900, and educational and health services with 1,600 jobs. Goods producers added 2,600 jobs with 2,300 in construction and the remaining 300 in manufacturing. Government jobs were up 2,900, led by local government, which added 2,500.

Urban businesses get a boost: Pilot program in 11 U.S. inner cities provides training, other resources… Milwaukee, home to one of the densest concentrations of urban poverty in America, was chosen as one of 11 cities for a pilot program of the U.S. Small Business Administration to help expand inner-city businesses. “This adds another set of resources to our tool chest” to rebuild the inner-city economy, said Cory Nettles, a Milwaukee attorney and inner-city economist activist. The SBA on Thursday announced a list of 11 cities for a program called the Emerging 200 – an initiative to track down 200 inner-city companies and offer their owners a six-month, 80-hour entrepreneurial training curriculum.

After Briggs warning, shares hit 15-year low: Lawn equipment sales off to slow spring start… Investors punished Briggs & Stratton Corp. on Thursday, after the supplier of lawn-mower engines and yard products warned of lower sales and profit because of a slow start to the spring selling season for lawn and garden equipment. The Wauwatosa manufacturer’s shares fell $2.46, or 14%, and closed at $14.82, the lowest point in more than 15 years. The sell-off in heavy trading came after the company reported a nearly fourfold jump in profit in the third quarter, but lower income than analysts projected. Earnings per share were 75 cents, 57 cents higher than a year ago but 10 cents below analysts’ projections.

Oxygen line explodes at Milwaukee mining equipment plant: An oxygen line used for welding exploded Thursday at a mining equipment plant, causing a small fire and inflicting minor injuries on one worker. The explosion at the P&H Mining Equipment plant near Miller Park happened shortly before noon, Battalion 3 Fire Chief Randall Zingler said. One worker had small superficial burns and singed hair, he said. Seventy-five workers were evacuated while firefighters shut down oxygen, gas and electric lines to the building. That helped put out the fire because there was no place for it to go in the concrete building, Zingler said. P&H Mining officials and We Energies representatives remained on the scene to assess damage to the lines and look into the fire’s cause, Zingler said.

WPS of Green Bay plans to buy hydro power: Wisconsin Public Service Corp. of Green Bay signed an agreement to negotiate with Manitoba Hydro to purchase electricity from two proposed hydro-electric plants expected to be in operation by 2018. The transaction, valued at more than $2 billion over 14 years, is subject to regulatory approvals and construction or upgrade of transmission lines between Manitoba and Wisconsin. The deal is for 500-megawatt capacity. “We are excited about the possibility of bringing a large, carbon-neutral electric resource into our supply portfolio,” said Charlie Severance, general manager of wholesale and renewable power for WPS.


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)
– TomoTherapy cuts outlook

BIOTECH (back to top)
– UWSP Researchers Pushing for Development of New Biofuel

ECONOMY (back to top)
– Gas and diesel prices set records

– Study: Great Lakes restoration would boost cities’ economies

– Barter firm secures equity investment

MANUFACTURING (back to top)
– A.O. Smith cuts forecast

– Navy places $69.3M order with Oshkosh

– Bemis Co. to release quarterly earnings

LABOR (back to top)
– Harley to cut 730 jobs

– UGHS contract talks remain stalled

– Wisconsin launches W-2 subsidized job program

– Unemployment equals ’07 rate

SMALL BUSINESS (back to top)
– Area specialty stores hope Shop Hop stirs business

INVESTING (back to top)
– MGIC swings to 1Q loss on housing ills, but beats forecasts

– Baird downgrades Badger Meter in wake of stock run-up

REAL ESTATE (back to top)
– Oconomowoc YMCA planning $20 million expansion project

AGRIBUSINESS (back to top)
– Field work delayed by soggy, cold conditions

– Midwest Horse Fair Kicks Off Friday

– Price Remain Mixed on NASS Cheese Survey

TRANSPORTATION (back to top)
– Airport gets $3.4M from feds

– WisDOT: Safety is job No. 1 post explosion

RETAIL (back to top)
– National retail woes not so cruel here

– 2 entertainment, dining chains consider area

REGULATION (back to top)
– Wis. Legislature doesn’t have a date set for compact vote

– Bond referendum could have long-lasting consequences

– Magnetek to appeal court ruling

TOURISM (back to top)
– Movie production crews give boost to Fox Valley businesses

– Best Western teams with Harley, offers perks for bikers

UTILITIES (back to top)
– Utility seeks future supply of hydro power

– Stormwater district idea floated by Town of Neenah

HEALTH CARE (back to top)
– Crumbling state health labs flagged

– Anthem parent buys Resolution Health

– Surgeon finds ‘small’ change worth his practice

– Associated Banc-Corp earns $66.5 million in Q1

– House moves to maintain availability of student loans

– A lesson in financial planning

MANAGEMENT (back to top)
– ThedaCare names Gruner as new CEO

BUSINESS COLUMNS (back to top)
– Jacque Georgia: Mortgage monopoly under way?

– John Oncken: Longtime farmers leave on their own terms

Media Partners
Small Business Times
Madison Magazine

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

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