(WisBusiness) FRI News Summary — 21 March 2008

From WisBusiness.com …

— Wisconsin’s unemployment rate climbed to 5.8 percent in February, up three-tenths of a point from Januaray, state Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman announced Thursday.

She said the unadjusted rate was the same as last February. And she blamed “an especially difficult winter” for holding jobs down.

Total Wisconsin non-farm jobs increased 4,100 from January 2008 to February 2008, to 2.8 million. Private sector jobs fell over-the-month by 6,100, led by a drop of 1,900 in construction jobs and 1,800 in manufacturing jobs.

Government jobs were up 10,300, led by local government, which added 6,100, and state government, which added 4,200, as public schools and universities resumed classes after winter break.

The national rate was 5.2 percent in February compared to 5.4 percent in January and 4.9 percent in February 2007.

See release: http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=121492

— The possibility of a looming recession is making many business owners rethink their hiring plans, according to a survey released yesterday by the Brookfield-based staffing firm, QPS Companies Inc.

Moreover, two-thirds said they won’t be raising their workers wages this year.

QPS said it queried more than 200 companies, including manufacturers, banks, printers, distributors and information technology firms throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. The survey showed that 38 percent of employers plan to increase staff, down from first quarter forecast of 54 percent.

QPS said the 38 percent figure is also well below second-quarter numbers from 2006 (53 percent) and 2007 (52 percent).

According to the survey, the biggest issues facing companies are material costs and lack of qualified or reliable employees. Many companies noted in their responses how fears of an economic slowdown are affecting their businesses, with the lack of work orders, the down housing marketing and the possible recession looming.

Mark Immekus, executive vice president of QPS, said economic uncertainty is playing a major role in the way companies are doing business.

“Companies are slowing down their anticipated hiring trends and are making conservative wage adjustments,” he said. “Many businesses are taking a ‘wait and see’ type of approach before making any drastic changes.”

See the release:
http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=121497

— A Milwaukee real-estate expert testified Thursday that although it may seem counterintuitive, an indicted real estate broker’s actions regarding the now-halted sale of a state office building were permissible, as long as they were to be disclosed in an offer to purchase.

The purpose of today’s hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman was to determine if Martin Greenberg will be allowed to testify as an expert witness at Lupton’s trial. Greenberg is former chair of the Wisconsin State Fair Board and a managing member of Greenberg & Hoeschen LLC, which specializes in real estate and sports law. He’s also an adjunct professor at Marquette University, where he has taught real estate and sports law for more than 30 years.

Adelman withheld a decision and requested the parties to file briefs.

Federal prosecutors allege the agent, Larry Lupton, solicited an illegal $75,000 kickback and shared confidential bid information with brokers representing potential buyers of a state office building. Lupton represented the commercial real estate firm Equis, which had the contract to sell the building.

Greenberg said it’s normal for brokers to discuss how commissions will be split, but it must be disclosed in writing and agreed to when an offer to purchase is drafted.

Greenberg also disagreed with the government that the letter of intent Lupton received from a potential buyer is confidential information because it’s non-binding and amounts to a proposal under the law, which he said brokers can share.

“There was absolutely no breach of confidentiality,” Greenberg said, adding that Lupton’s action drove up the price the state would receive.

— State tribes have handed $196 million in gaming revenues over to the state in the last three fiscal years, according to a report from the Legislative Audit Bureau. The majority of that, $115 million, went to the state’s general fund.

See the report:
http://www.legis.wisconsin.gov/lab/reports/08-4full.pdf

— Modine Manufacturing Co. announced Thursday that David Rayburn will retire as president and chief executive officer on March 31.

The Racine-based manufacturer of thermal management technology and solutions has named Thomas Burke, its chief operating officer, to succeed Rayburn at the helm of the company.

Bradley Richardson, Modine’s chief financial officer, will be promoted to a newly created position of executive vice president of corporate strategy and chief financial officer.

Both Burke and Richardson will be appointed to the company’s board of directors concurrent with the assumption of their respective new positions.

See story: http://www.biztimes.com/daily/2008/3/20/#modine-ceo-rayburn-to-retire

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Press Releases
Business Plan Winners Announced
Economic uncertainty leads to slowed hiring outlook
February Unemployment Rates Announced
LoanSifter Integrates With MortgageDashboard(TM)
Onvia to Help Streamline Purchasing Process for Local Governments in Wisconsin
Report Finds Progress in Decreasing Asthma Burden
The Votes Are in and Five Oscar Mayer Winners Head to Hollywood
UW-Madison Events Celebrate Nanotechnology
With Flight Delays More Common Than Ever as Spring Break Approaches, AIG Travel Guard Helps Travelers Stay on Course

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


TOP STORIES
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Tax changes sought to fix state budget: Senate Democrats say businesses should pay more… The Senate Democrats’ plan for solving the state’s budget shortfall includes a tax on hospitals and the closing of tax loopholes corporations use. It also would authorize a car rental tax increase to pay for a three-county rail line. All three ideas are opposed by Republicans who control the state Assembly. And Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle has only included the hospital tax in his plan to plug a $527 million shortfall. Now that both the Senate Democrats and Assembly Republicans have put forward their plans, it’s time for them to work toward a compromise, said Doyle’s spokeswoman, Jessica Erickson.
http://www.postcrescent.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/APC0101/803210559/1003/APCnews

Employers hiring but wary: Work rolls increase slightly, but jobless rate remains above national average… Wisconsin continued adding jobs in February, and its unemployment rate held steady compared to February 2007, the state reported Thursday. The report from the state Department of Workforce Development wasn’t bad news, amid various indicators lately suggesting an economic slowdown nationally. But the job gains were thin. And the unemployment rate of 5.8% surpassed the national mark of 5.2%. Wisconsin employers added a net 3,100 jobs from February 2007 after a scant 500-job increase from January 2007 to January 2008, according to preliminary estimates. Manufacturing employment dropped by 9,100 jobs in the last 12 months, the 16th consecutive month of year-to-year declines in that sector, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=730580

Manufacturer might lay off 40 employees: A Menomonee Falls company has notified the state Department of Workforce Development that it may lay off 40 or so workers at or near the end of the month. Ultra Tool & Manufacturing Inc. told state officials that, because a customer is facing a possible strike, around 40 Ultra Tool workers could be laid off for “an indefinite period,” documents show. “The company has learned that one of its customers may have employees who will be striking,” according to a recent letter from Ultra Tool to the state. “If the employees of this customer implement a strike, the company’s ability to continue its full business operations will be adversely affected. The company is carefully monitoring the situation and has analyzed alternatives to avoid or postpone indefinitely a mass layoff.”
http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2008/03/17/daily42.html?surround=lfn

Aggressive energy plan for Wisconsin urged: Wisconsin can create jobs, save money for consumers and improve the state’s economy by implementing aggressive energy-saving policies, according to a new report. The report, titled “The Power of Efficiency,” was issued today by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group of Madison, a nonprofit and nonpartisan advocacy organization. By implementing efficiency initiatives, the report says, families could save hundreds of dollars per year off rising utility bills while also reducing pollutants by using less energy. The report details opportunities to improve energy efficiency in homes, businesses and factories by replacing existing heating, cooling and lighting systems and inefficient appliances.
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/biz/278022

Modine CEO plans to retire: Operations chief Burke will replace Rayburn… The chief executive at Modine Manufacturing Co. is retiring at the end of the month, company officials said Thursday. President and Chief Executive Officer David Rayburn, who has been with Modine 17 years, is to be succeeded by Chief Operating Officer Thomas Burke as of April 1. Modine, a maker of heating and cooling systems for vehicles and buildings, has about 8,500 employees at more than 30 facilities worldwide. In recent months, the Racine company has been hurt because of weak sales to the automotive industry and a slower-than-expected recovery in sales to heavy-duty truck manufacturers.
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=730581

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WISBUSINESS FEATURED COLUMNISTS

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
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TECHNOLOGY (back to top)
– Third Wave unveils partnership with Indianapolis lab
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/biz/278025

– Online mapping service offers more than directions for motorists
http://www.madison.com/tct/business/278080

BIOTECH (back to top)
– Waunakee company still involved in investigation over heparin
http://www.madison.com/tct/business/277968

ECONOMY (back to top)
– Wood costs hit Stora Enso
http://www.postcrescent.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/APC03/803210555/1028/APCbusiness

– Gaming audit: Tribes gave $196M to state
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/GPG0101/803210645/1207/GPGnews

– Subpar area air expected for years
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=730604

MANUFACTURING (back to top)
– HUSCO chooses Iowa as site of new plant
http://www.gmtoday.com/news/local_stories/2008/March_08/03212008_04.asp

– Actuant hikes earnings guidance
http://www.gmtoday.com/news/local_stories/2008/March_08/03202008_04.asp

LABOR (back to top)
– State unemployment up again
http://www.postcrescent.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/APC03/803210550/1888/APCbusiness

– Wisconsin unemployment at 5.8 percent
http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2008/03/17/daily52.html?surround=lfn

SMALL BUSINESS (back to top)
– Rising coffee prices force tough choices
http://www.madison.com/tct/business/277961

– Flight school cleared for takeoff
http://www.gmtoday.com/news/local_stories/2008/March_08/03202008_05.asp

– Prices provide some a golden opportunity
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=730605

INVESTING (back to top)
– MGIC amends credit agreement
http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2008/03/17/daily54.html?surround=lfn

– National City windfall from Visa IPO tops $500M
http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2008/03/17/daily46.html?surround=lfn

REAL ESTATE (back to top)
– Green Bay offers Mall Properties $4 million to end lawsuit
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/GPG0101/803210658/1207/GPGnews

– Green Bay, De Pere pushing downtown renovations
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/GPG03/803210629/1247/GPGbusiness

AGRIBUSINESS (back to top)
– Price Down on NASS Weekly Cheese Survey
http://wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=366&yr=2008

– Tests, Quarantines & Permits to be Required for MN Cattle Imports
http://wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=367&yr=2008

TRANSPORTATION (back to top)
– Canadian National to make $300M in rail improvements
http://www.postcrescent.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/APC03/803210543/1888/APCbusiness

– Federal disaster aid welcomed by Washington County road crews
http://www.gmtoday.com/news/local_stories/2008/March_08/03202008_08.asp

RETAIL (back to top)
– In face of costly credit and lower sales, Borders may seek suitor
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/biz/278024

– Satellite providers scramble over HD
http://www.madison.com/tct/business/277960

– Retirement may not hurt Favre’s advertising appeal
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/GPG03/803210627/1247/GPGbusiness

– Report backs more aid to project
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=730700

REGULATION (back to top)
– Hospital tax, rail line proposal included in Senate Dem plan
http://www.gmtoday.com/news/politics/politics_front.asp

– Downtown neighborhood group may split
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/278040

TOURISM (back to top)
– Sales sour in a lemon of a season for the Bucks
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=730677

UTILITIES (back to top)
– Appleton’s water rate hike proposal in state hands
http://www.postcrescent.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/APC0101/803210557/1003/APCnews

– Green Bay-based WPS gets OK to raise electric rates
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080321/GPG03/803210642/1247/GPGbusiness

– Dairyland Power Co-op air permit hearing planned for Tuesday
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2008/03/21/news/z08dairyland21.txt

– Wauwatosa growth sparks power expansion
http://www.dailyreporter.com/item.cfm?recid=20048162&snippet=t&forward=%2Fitem%2Ecfm%3Frecid%3D20048162%26snippet%3Df

HEALTH CARE (back to top)
– Humana to buy Illinois insurer OSF HealthPlans
http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2008/03/17/daily47.html?surround=lfn

FINANCIAL SERVICES (back to top)
– Bank clocks lag an hour
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=730579

– Mortgage industry cuts back
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/biz/278027

– Associated names director of finance
http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2008/03/17/daily51.html?surround=lfn

MANAGEMENT (back to top)
– Modine CEO Rayburn to step down, replaced by COO Burke
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2008/03/21/wi/07wi.txt

– Johnson Controls’ CFO named among ‘America’s Best’
http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2008/03/17/daily44.html?surround=lfn

– County adopts controversial comprehensive plan
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2008/03/21/news/02board21.txt

BUSINESS COLUMNS (back to top)
– Penelope Trunk: Internship can pay off, even if it’s unpaid
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/biz/277942

– John Oncken: Milking profits in a time of uncertainty
http://www.madison.com/tct/business/277963

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

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