From WisBusiness.com …
— Following a rash of negative publicity, Commerce Secretary Jack Fischer says he will resign Friday, writing in a letter to the governor that “it has become increasingly difficult to carry out the mission of the Department.”
Last week, Fischer was the subject of several stories raising questions about expenses that he charged on a recent state trade mission and his performance while on those trips.
According to a release from the Commerce Department, Fischer said he did “not want to stand in the way of continuing progress; because of that, I am resigning.”
A spokesman for Gov. Jim Doyle said it was Fischer’s decision to resign. Deputy Secretary Aaron Olver will lead the agency until a new secretary is found.
“I am grateful for Jack Fischer’s service to the state of Wisconsin,” Doyle said in a statement. “He brought valuable experience from the private sector to the role of Commerce Secretary, and I thank him for all his work to promote Wisconsin businesses.”
In the Commerce Department’s release, the agency noted there would be no comment beyond the statement. It said Fischer, who joined the agency in November, planned to return to the private sector and was exploring several business opportunities.
Fischer was president and CEO of The Fischer Group Cos., Fischer Investors Inc. and J.L. Fischer Inc. He also previously served as president of JP-Marathon Inc. and president of Interglobia Development.
See the Commerce release:
— Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, said he hoped the controversy over Fischer’s travel will not discourage the next Commerce secretary from going abroad on trade missions.
“The Commerce secretary should be traveling on a regular basis around the state and country and globe,” he said. “It is a valuable way to project what Wisconsin has to offer.
“The next one shouldn’t feel that he or she should stay home and not travel on appropriate missions. Now more than ever we need to stay out front in terms of promoting our state.”
Still said he is confident Doyle will pick a qualified successor to Fischer “who has the right skills for the job so the positive momentum we’ve achieved can continue.”
“Meanwhile, I believe Commerce is staffed by a lot of first-rate professionals and that the work they do will continue,” said Still, who gave a vote of confidence to Olver, the deputy secretary.
— Flambeau River BioFuels President Bob Byrne says his company could have its biorefinery in Park Falls up and running by the spring of 2011 now that the U.S. Department of Energy has said it will pitch in $30 million to fund the project.
Byrne said the biorefinery, which will produce around 6 million gallons of sulfur-free diesel fuel annually from forest and agriculture sources, was budgeted at $84 million last year. But the rising cost of steel and other construction materials will likely push it over the $100 million mark, he said.
The biorefinery will be built beside Flambeau River Papers. In addition to diesel fuel, it will generate at least 1 trillion BTUs per year of process heat that will be sold to the paper plant, making it the first integrated pulp and paper mill in North America to be fossil fuel-free.
— Milwaukee-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp. is reporting a net loss of $1.52 per share for the second quarter as it absorbs nearly $900 million in losses, primarily from the struggling construction and real estate development markets in west Florida and Arizona. That’s down from a profit of 68 cents a share for the same quarter last year.
Because other areas of the company were profitable, M&I’s total quarterly loss was $394 million, down from a net income of $179 million during the same period in 2007.
In a conference call with analysts, M&I CFO Greg Smith said the bank – Wisconsin’s largest – hadn’t made any subprime loans and should return to profitability in the coming quarter.
See the full story:
— Beating out locales such as Atlanta, Dallas, Denver and Seattle, Milwaukee has been ranked as the ninth best city by Forbes.com in its “Best Cities For Young Professionals” list. Other Midwestern cities in the top 10 are Minneapolis, fifth, and Chicago, sixth.
Forbes ranked the country’s 40 biggest metropolitan areas for economic opportunity for young professionals to gauge which cities are attracting the next generation of top business talent.
The Forbes article said “Milwaukee might not be a leading innovator, but it has the fifth-highest concentration of top companies in the country, by our count. And those jobs pay.”
See the full story:
— Plymouth-based Orion Energy Systems Inc. has announced that it expects revenues in the range of $16.1 million to $16.3 million for its fiscal 2009 first quarter.
The company’s revenues are lower than it expected, which the company attributed to its focus on building its sales organization. Total revenue for fiscal 2009 is now forecasted by the company to be between $101 million and $103 million.
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Commerce secretary resigns amid criticism: Wisconsin Department of Commerce Secretary Jack L. Fischer announced Wednesday that he would resign effective Friday. The resignation comes on the heels of criticism from trade missions Fischer made earlier this year. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Fischer and Commerce Department staff submitted bills for $21,282 for trips to Ireland, Canada and the Czech Republic, including $2,200 for a one-night stay in Dublin. The newspaper later reported that two Wisconsin businessmen who went on the Ireland trip with Fischer said in evaluations that he was a disappointment, in particular for a rambling introductory speech at an embassy reception. Fischer seemed to reference the controversy in his prepared statement Thursday, which said “it has become increasingly difficult to carry out the mission of the Department, and I do not want to stand in the way of continuing progress; because of that, I am resigning.”
M&I reports $393M loss: Marshall & Ilsley Corp. of Milwaukee reported a net loss of $393.8 million, or $1.52 per share, because of continued stress on its construction and development portfolio “due to the ongoing deterioration in the housing market.” Milwaukee-based Marshall & Ilsley (NYSE: MI) said the net loss for the quarter ending June 30 compared with net income from continuing operations of $178.9 million, or 68 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2007. The year-earlier figure excludes the contribution of M&I’s former financial technology arm Metavante Corp. (NYSE: MV), which was spun off in November 2007. The net loss was within the range of projections by analysts and a July 3 pre-announcement by M&I management.
Great Lakes studies on health, business reveal dim reality: Two separate studies released Wednesday reveal a dim reality for both the ecological health of the Great Lakes and the businesses that rely upon them. The economic toll of the 57 invasive species that oceangoing ships have dumped into the lakes since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 are costing the United States alone about $200 million annually, or $2 billion per decade. That number, released by federally funded researchers at the University of Notre Dame, does not include any impacts to the Canadian economy, and only looks at the economic damage done to the lakes’ fishing industry, businesses that tap the lakes for their water and the regional wildlife viewing industry. It does not consider property-value losses tied to invasive mussel-fueled algae outbreaks or damage to inland lakes.
Harley’s second-quarter profit tumbles: Harley-Davidson Inc. said Wednesday its second-quarter profit fell sharply as a weak economy, record-high gas prices and lower consumer confidence continued to hobble the iconic motorcycle maker’s shipments and sales. But the Milwaukee-based company stood by its outlook for the year, and its earnings beat Wall Street’s expectations. Shares of Harley climbed in premarket electronic trading. Harley said its earnings for the quarter ended June 29 fell 23 percent to $222.8 million, or 95 cents per share, from $290.5 million, or $1.14 per share, in the same quarter last year. Revenue dropped nearly 3 percent to $1.57 billion from $1.62 billion in the year-ago quarter. The results beat Wall Street estimates. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected earnings of 76 cents per share on $1.4 billion in revenue, on average.
Communities profit from Depp’s movie: Seeing movie star Johnny Depp was enough of a reward for many. But the movie “Public Enemies” also provided millions of dollars for the state’s economy at a time communities greatly needed it. According to early estimates by Film Wisconsin and The Associated Press, film crews spent more than $5.6 million on hotels, restaurants, supplies and local workers like stagehands. Scott Robbe, executive director for Film Wisconsin, said the complete figures should be compiled in about two months. He expects the total impact to be more than $10 million. “The preliminary numbers really indicate that there’s definite economic power for the state in terms of developing the film and television production industry here,” Robbe said.
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