Free Tuesday Trends sample: GE rising, household income mixed and dairy falling

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RISING

GE: General Electric announces a trio of high-profile developments in Wisconsin — one in Madison and two in the Milwaukee area. In Madison, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, GE Healthcare and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation announce a 10-year research agreement that will lead to GE spending an expected $32.9 million on imaging research at the university, including potential advancements in CT, PET and MRI scans. In a similar agreement, GE announces $3 million in funding toward a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The funding will bolster the campus’ GE Healthcare Center for Advanced Computational Imaging; the collaborative effort seeks to create new research and development of medical imaging software. Officials from both GE and UWM say the effort will keep area workers on the cutting edge of global health care technology. And outside the medical realm, GE opens a new engineering center at its gas engines plant in Waukesha, a $3.1 million facility that has resulted in 115 new GE employees over the last year and a half. The renovated engineering facility formerly belonged to Dresser Waukesha, which was acquired by GE early last year. Company officials say the center will help the company attract and keep the world’s best tech workers.

MIXED

Household income: The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows a slight increase in Wisconsin household income. But that report also showed poverty in the state was up. The analysis showed median household income in Wisconsin in 2011 was $52,058 compared to $51,939 in 2010. That’s also ahead of the national median income of $50,054. The percentage of Wisconsinites living in poverty, however, jumped from 10.1 percent in 2010 to 13.1 percent last year. That was still below the national rate of 15 percent. The report also said the number of Wisconsinites without health insurance increased last year over 2010, from 528,000 residents to 589,000.

FALLING

Dairy: A state center that’s helped bolster America’s Dairyland’s specialty cheese industry is set to shut down at the end of the month after eight years of operation. The Dairy Business Innovation Center, a nonprofit organization funded largely with federal dollars, has fallen victim to a congressional earmarks ban and indicates in a letter to clients that it was unable to raise $500,000 needed to continue operating. The center’s consultants provide technical and marketing assistance to new and emerging specialty dairy businesses, launching 68 new specialty products and 43 new processing plants since 2004. DBIC officials say their relatively low consulting costs helped spawn record specialty cheese production here, questioning whether any other groups will help fill that role going forward. Meanwhile, dozens of congressmen and senators from both political parties — including six from Wisconsin — sound the alarm over a drop in the federal safety net for dairy farmers as debate over a new farm bill languishes in the Capitol. They ask congressional leadership for an extension of the Milk Income Loss Contract program until a new farm bill takes effect, saying even newly reduced coverage likely won’t be triggered this year — despite high grain prices and a drought that consumed much of the country.