(WisBusiness) WED News Summary — 9 July 2008

From WisBusiness.com …

— Discount carrier AirTran Airways is cutting 480 jobs, or more than 5 percent of its work force. But it says most of the terminations will occur at its Atlanta hub.

An official with the company said the cuts should have a minimal impact on the airline’s operations in Milwaukee. The Florida-based company said it will lay off 180 pilots and 300 flight attendants on Sept. 6.

AirTran will offer a voluntary severance package to employees with at least five years of service. The company has nearly 9,000 workers, including 1,450 pilots and 2,000 flight attendants.

It will give extended health and travel benefits to employees who decide by July 31 to take an early exit. The company said the cuts should save $16 million in annual costs.

AirTran’s cuts follow last week’s announcement by the Midwest Air Group that it is asking union pilots and flight attendants to take pay cuts of 50 percent or more as it tries to ward off bankruptcy. In addition, CEO Timothy Hoeksema said he would take a 40 percent pay cut. His base pay last year exceeded $400,000, but with bonuses he earned more than $1.2 million.

See story:

— A coalition of health care, labor and advocacy groups has unveiled the Wisconsin branch of a $40 million national effort to focus lawmakers on achieving health care reform.

The effort, named Health Care for America Now, launched today in 52 cities across the nation, including 37 state capitals and Washington, D.C. Robert Kraig, program director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said the group decided that this will be the year voters determine whether America will provide “quality, affordable health care for everyone.”

“In 2009 we’re going to decide whether we actually guarantee care for everyone or if we leave people at the mercy of the private health insurance industry,” Kraig said. “Are you on the side of quality affordable health care, or are you on the side of being left alone to fend for yourself in a complicated, bureaucratic insurance market?”

In addition to Citizen Action, the coalition includes support from AFSCME, SEIU, the state AFL-CIO, WEAC, Planned Parenthood and numerous other groups.

Although primarily focused on congressional efforts to shift to universal health care coverage, several speakers endorsed the Senate Democrats’ Health Wisconsin plan as a way to move the state to universal care.

The national campaign unveiled an ad that will run nationally on cable TV. Kraig added that the campaign would also include additional TV, newspaper and online advertising.

“This is a movement that is going to succeed,” Kraig said. “We are going to make history.”

See the press release:

— A median-income elderly person in Wisconsin fails to take in enough income to pay for basic expenses, according to a new study.

The report, released by the Wisconsin Women’s Network in partnership with the national organization Wider Opportunities for Women, shows that depending on a variety of circumstances, single elders need between $16,909 and $22,909 to cover basic expenses each year and couples need between $25,360 and $33,178.

The report pegs median income for single elderly men at $18,223 and at $15,395 for single women.

The federal poverty level is set at $10,400 for a single person and $14,000 for a couple annually.

The “Elder Economic Security Index,” developed by the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, takes into account expenses such as transportation, food, housing, health care and miscellaneous needs.

The report recommends increasing SSI payments for the elderly, increasing income and asset limits for access to public assistance for elders, supporting long-term care in community and home settings, expanding elderly transportation services and supporting initiatives to reduce housing costs.

See a release on the report:

— Wisconsin Lottery ticket sales were down 3.2 percent in 2006-07 compared to the previous fiscal year, largely due to a $25.2 million drop in Powerball sales, according to a study from the Legislature Audit Bureau.

The lottery chalked up the $16.2 million decrease in sales to the timing of large Powerball jackpots, which are typically a driving factor in ticket sales.

Operating expenses were also down $3 million for the fiscal year.

Lottery proceeds of $160 million were distributed in 2006-07 for property tax relief, up from $133.3 million in 2005-06 and $143.4 million in 2004-05, according to the audit.

The audit also noted $137,563 in lottery resources were transferred to the general fund during 2005-07 to help address budget shortfalls despite the state constitution requiring the net proceeds of the lottery be used only for property tax relief. It noted the transfer as “immaterial noncompliance involving the use of lottery resources.”

Read the audit:

— Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio says the team will likely lose money in its acquisition of Cy Young-winning pitcher CC Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians, but that it was an opportunity he could not pass up.

Attanasio told Milwaukee Rotarians at their weekly meeting today that with average attendance between 35,000 and 36,000, including several sold out games, it’s difficult to raise additional revenue through ticket sales to cover the $5 million Sabathia will cost the team this season.

“It’s really just trying to win as opposed to making money,” Attanasio said, “In this case we’ll probably lose money, paradoxically, by doing right by the team.”

But Attanasio stood by the decision.

“I don’t know that we would ever have an opportunity again to get a Cy Young Award winner at the top of his game to come in and help us in a pennant race,” Attanasio said. “If you have that opportunity you have to take it.”

Part of the impetus for going forward on the deal was a promise Attanasio said he made to Jeff Suppan about being committed to spending money or making trades to be competitive while trying to recruit the Brewer pitcher to the team.

“I don’t think I could be true to that kind of a pledge if we didn’t go for CC Sabathia,” Attanasio said.

Listen to Attanasio discuss the trade:

— Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. has launched two initiatives to encourage more women to take life by the handlebars.

The company has stated the Let Freedom Ring promotion and the We Ride – The Harley-Davidson Guide for Women.

The number of women who have purchased new Harley-Davidson motorcycles has tripled over the past 20 years, with women now accounting for nearly 12 percent of new Harley-Davidson motorcycle purchases.

See story: http://www.biztimes.com/daily/2008/7/8/#harley-targets-more-women-riders



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Press Releases
‘Ideas to Profits’ Conference: October 1-2, 2008 at Radisson Paper Valley
AirTran Airways Announces New Orlando Flight Specials
Community Bank & Trust Enhances Customer Service, Lowers Toll Charges, Eases System Management With ShoreTel’s Unified Communications Solutions
Godfrey & Kahn Attorney Timothy F. Nixon Authors Bankruptcy Book on Prepackaged Chapter 11s
Harley-Davidson Encourages Women to Take Life by Two Wheels
Manpower Inc. to Announce 2nd Quarter 2008 Earnings Results
MGIC Investment Corporation Schedules 2nd Quarter 2008 Earnings Call
Midwest Air Group Reports June Performance
UW-Madison Zero-Gravity Team Finds Spray Cooling Works in Space
Wisconsin Farm Bureau pleased with USDA’s release of CRP land for grazing
WPMCA Adds Pam Christenson as New Director of Public Affairs

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


High court backs Walgreens in battle with Madison over property taxes: The city of Madison, the school district and other governmental tax districts will have to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes to two Walgreens stores, the state Supreme Court said Tuesday. Walgreen Co. sued the city in 2004 for $150,000 that the company said it was overcharged because the city based its property tax assessment on the lease amount Walgreens paid on its stores in 2003 and 2004. Dane County Circuit Court and the state Appeals Court both sided with the city. But Tuesday’s Supreme Court opinion rules that the lower courts erred by not following the tenets of the Wisconsin Property Assessment Manual.

Clothing maker sues Kohl’s over markdowns: Manufacturer says vendor unfairly withheld payments… A New York sportswear manufacturer is suing Kohl’s Corp. for more than $4.8 million, claiming the department store chain unfairly held back payments for merchandise and stopped ordering from the company because it complained about the deductions. The suit, filed by Fu Da International Ltd. in federal court in New York in June, offers a glimpse into a part of the business that retailers seldom talk about: their demands for markdown money from vendors to support the retailers’ profit margins. Retailers routinely seek financial help from their suppliers when they have to mark down merchandise to sell it. The Fu Da suit is the second action filed this year by a vendor against Kohl’s over markdown deductions.

EMTEQ acquires Canadian firm: Company: Merger will improve aviation markets… EMTEQ Inc. has acquired a Canadian company in a merger that will boost product and service offerings to U.S., Canadian and international aviation markets, the company said Monday. Aero Consulting Services Ltd. and Northern Aero Industries Ltd. of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, joined the New Berlin-based EMTEQ Family of Companies late last month. ACS-NAI specializes in OEM and after-market structural and avionic design, interior certification, engineering, fabrication and technical support.

Nonprofit group to support entrepreneurs, innovators: BizStarts’ goal is to jumpstart innovation businesses… A group of Milwaukee-area business people are gathering support for a nonprofit organization to foster more innovation and entrepreneurship in southeastern Wisconsin. BizStarts Milwaukee will begin a series of meetings today with lawyers, accountants, marketers and other service providers who are interested in joining the effort. The meetings will focus on what BizStarts is trying to do, and what kind of resources and arrangements the service providers offer for start-ups.

Survey: No price relief from state cable franchising laws: Cable franchising laws like the one enacted in Wisconsin late last year have provided virtually no price relief while eroding support for public access channels, according to a survey commissioned by opponents of such laws. The Alliance for Community Media (ACM), which represents more than 3,000 public, educational and governmental (PEG) access centers across the country, initiated the online survey in May involving members of ACM and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. There were 204 respondents from 33 states, representing PEG access television centers. ACM’s summary of the results focuses on the 140 respondents from 18 states that now have a state video franchise law in effect.

State OKs funding for airport projects: Gov. Jim Doyle has approved state money for projects at several airports in west-central Wisconsin. Among the projects: $22,000 to maintain pavement at the Rice Lake Regional Airport, including $17,600 in state funds to seal and re-mark a portion of the aircraft parking ramp and the hangar taxiway. Rice Lake is contributing $4,400. The project is scheduled to begin in midsummer and should be completed by fall. The airport has a 6,700-foot primary runway and 3,500-foot crosswind runway. It gets about 28,000 aircraft takeoffs and landings a year.


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)
– Would-be Charter partner NebuAd to come under spotlight at Senate hearing

– Next generation steps up for farm tech days

BIOTECH (back to top)
– Plans for Sharon ethanol plant still a go

– TomoTherapy to acquire assets of Japanese distributor

ECONOMY (back to top)
– Oil prices drop, but gas costs still go up

– Report: Many elders can’t cover basic needs

– R.R. Donnelley lands $80M contract

– Olympus Flag buys Holzhauer Graphics

MANUFACTURING (back to top)
– MetalTek acquires British firm

LABOR (back to top)
– Siemens layoffs won’t affect Rothschild division

– AirTran will cut 480 jobs to blunt rising fuel costs

SMALL BUSINESS (back to top)
– Ledgeview’s Olde-School Square gets new business

– Session focuses on small business growth

INVESTING (back to top)
– Dow down in early trading

REAL ESTATE (back to top)
– Owners of McGrath condos rail against big repair costs

– Adios to Chi-Chi’s as new development at site gets OK

– Private Langdon dormitory to close

– Pewaukee condo plan coming back

– Home sales continue spiral

AGRIBUSINESS (back to top)
– Families Can Find Adventure at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days

– State Holstein Show Set for Next Week in Eau Claire

TRANSPORTATION (back to top)
– Improvement project approved for Mitchell

– June traffic declines at Midwest Air

– Allegiant Air ending Austin Straubel flights

– Gas prices cause problems for city

– Local governments receive $1.66M in transportation aid

RETAIL (back to top)
– Farm & Fleet to open Verona store Aug. 14

– Pick ‘n Save to be second anchor for Shoppes at Fox River

– Lena’s plans to close store at Jewel site

REGULATION (back to top)
– Supreme Court sides with Walgreens in tax lawsuit

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