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30 August 2011

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Forestry: The American Forest and Paper Association pegs Wisconsin as the top state for forestry jobs in the country in its June report, attributing 56,533 jobs to the industry. That’s 3,300 more forestry jobs than second-place Pennsylvania; Wisconsin also bested the Keystone State by $2.2 billion to take top ranking in the economic value of its shipped wood and paper products. Just more than $16 billion in Wisconsin forestry products were shipped in June. The governor’s office said the state’s efforts in sustainable forestry were a key factor, noting that manufacturers are increasingly looking for timber and paper that is certified as sustainable. All state- and county-owned forests and a large portion of privately owned forests have been third-party certified as being sustainably managed.

Lambeau Field: The long-discussed expansion of the home of the Green Bay Packers is finally within reach, with the team set to break ground on a $143 million renovation on Thursday — one week before the team opens its 2011 season at home. The expansion, unveiled by team officials last week, adds 6,600 seats behind the south end zone, builds new entrances on the north and south sides of the building and constructs a terrace on the roof of the stadium behind the north end zone. The team had previously planned to upgrade its scoreboards and sound system, and said it plans to use as many local workers and contractors as possible; the project is expected to utilize 1,600 workers at a cost of some $70 million. The Packers have said they won’t use public funding to finance the project, but the team is considering another stock sale to help cover the renovations.

Child care costs: A new study ranks Wisconsin as the fourth-most expensive state in the country for child care based on median income levels. The report from the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies says the average annual cost for 4-year-old child care was $9,050 — or 11.4 percent of median income for a two-parent family. Infant care, meanwhile, averaged $10,500 per year, and the study said costs for both continue to increase nationwide. Advocates in Wisconsin say child care expenses can cost families more per month than their rent, and urge the state to continue subsidizing the costs for those in need. They say studies show spending dollars on early childhood education saves considerable costs later on in “juvenile justice, neglect and foster care.”


Health care reform: A study commissioned by the administration of former Gov. Jim Doyle issues its report on federal health care reform in Wisconsin, projecting that the overhaul will cut the number of uninsured Wisconsinites while potentially increasing premiums and leading to companies dropping current coverage plans. Gorman Actuarial LLC of Massachusetts and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber project the state’s current number of uninsured to drop from the current 520,000 level to 180,000 by 2016. But the vast majority of individuals without employer-sponsored or public insurance would see premium spikes due to high-risk applicants entering the insurance market. An increase in employer-sponsored coverage premiums would also likely lead to a drop in that form of coverage. A survey of companies by New York-based Towers Watson backs up that aspect of the study, as 9 percent of respondents say they intend to drop their coverage plans once the new law takes effect. The Walker administration, meanwhile, highlights a projection that 100,000 workers will lose employer-backed coverage, with state Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith arguing that as more employers drop coverage, “the greater the costs of this entire package will be.”

Banks: The latest quarterly report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation shows stabilization in the state’s banking industry, with a second consecutive quarterly profit. The second quarter’s $51 million income for banks contrasts to a $120 million loss in the same quarter last year. State officials are also encouraged by an increase in equity capital and a decrease in nonperforming assets. But bank deposits dropped in the last quarter compared to the previous year, and one in seven state banks reported a net loss in the second quarter. The FDIC also recently levied penalties against Janesville’s Mid America Bank and the Bank of Ontario in Vernon County for violating banking regulations.

Transit: Transit systems statewide are coping with cuts under the new state budget, but some relief could be in sight for systems in southeastern Wisconsin. The budget dissolved existing regional transit authorities, including the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee authority that was set to take in more than $22 million in funding. Most of that will likely stay in southeastern Wisconsin, but with the caveat that it be used for capital investments rather than ongoing costs. Local officials say that could include replacing parts of local bus fleets with more fuel-efficient models, helping alleviate future costs. But the federal portion of the KRM funding could head to projects in other states. And Racine Co. Exec. Jim Ladwig says he’d rather use his county’s local KRM allocation to bolster tax relief efforts than for transportation costs.


Farm costs: The federal Agriculture Department reports the cost of operating a farm in Wisconsin has, on average, declined for the second straight year. Farm production spending in the state totaled $8.6 billion in 2010 — a drop of 5 percent from 2009 and 10 percent from 2008. Farm construction spending dropped more than 30 percent over the previous year, while truck and automobile spending dropped 29 percent. State farmers also spent less on labor (13 percent), chemicals (12 percent) and on feed and farm services. On average, spending per farm in Wisconsin totaled $110,385 last year, down from $115,128 the previous year. Analysts say farmers chose to keep spending down as milk prices remained low over the last two years.

Newspapers: A federal court rules against Gannett Co. and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association in their lawsuit against the state’s high school athletic association over restrictions it places on the broadcast of games. The plaintiffs had argued the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association couldn’t enter into exclusive contracts with a private company to broadcast events online or to raise revenue. The 7th Circuit U.S. Appeals Court called the implication of Gannett’s arguments “staggering,” saying the implication was that “no state actor may ever earn revenue from something that the press might want to broadcast in its entirety.” Judge Diane Wood wrote that argument is “not correct,” adding, “Simply put, streaming or broadcasting an event is not the same thing as reporting on or describing it.”

Trees: Gov. Scott Walker declares a state of emergency in Burnett, Douglas and Washburn counties after a series of severe storms between July 1 and Aug. 1 creates the worst case of downed timber since 1977. Officials say more than 130,000 acres are affected in those three counties, along with Bayfield and Polk counties, and that the amount of fallen timber is equivalent to the logging harvest over a full calendar year in the state. The executive order directs state agencies to assist local authorities with the cleanup of debris, and their plan includes clearing trees with the help of National Guard soldiers, easing air pollution permits and increasing logging transportation weight limits. The state could also enable faster construction of bridges and fords to access the wood, while the new Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is looking into potentially selling the timber in China. If not properly addressed, the downed trees could cause problems with potential fires, insects, diseases and even snow removal efforts as winter approaches.


Wednesday, August 31

– 10 a.m.: PSC telephone hearing on Cornell Municipal Water and Electric Utility application to increase water rates, Madison

– 10:30 a.m.: Welcome Back Packers Luncheon 2011, Green Bay

– Noon: Minority and Women’s Business Certification, Online

– 5 p.m.: FUEL Milwaukee presents ‘The Milwaukee Streetcar Inside Scoop’, Milwaukee

– 6 p.m.: WWBIC Orientation, Madison

Thursday, September 1

– 7 a.m.: What is Your Policy Under the New Wisconsin Concealed Carry Law?, Pewaukee

– 11:30 a.m. AT&T luncheon on telecom infrastructure, Milwaukee

– 3 p.m.: Farm Bill forum with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, Black River Falls

– 6:30 p.m.: YP Snappers Game Picnic, Beloit

Friday, September 2

– Noon: Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce 6th anniversary, Milwaukee

Saturday, September 3

No events listed

Sunday, September 4

No events listed

Monday, September 5


Tuesday, September 6

– 7:30 a.m.: Power Networking Breakfast, Green Bay

– Noon: WWBIC Orientation, Milwaukee

– 7 p.m.: Dane County Farm Bureau annual meeting, Madison

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