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Manufacturing: A new report from First Business Bank says the economic upswing in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties is being driven by the area’s manufacturing sector. According to a survey conducted for the bank by UW-Madison’s A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research, manufacturing businesses reported increased sales revenue, profits, employment and wages in 2012, and outpaced other sectors in the area. Overall, Milwaukee and Waukesha counties showed a slight increase in sales revenue, although employment numbers did not change significantly and the number of businesses reporting wage decreases climbed over the 2011 survey. Meanwhile, the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance found increasing optimism among the region’s manufacturing businesses in its 2013 Manufacturing Vitality Index. The survey showed 97 percent of the 156 respondents expected to be healthy financially in the next six to 12 months, while 68 percent anticipated sales growth in the coming year. Both figures represented increases over the 2012 projections.
Casinos: Gov. Walker says in an editorial board meeting that he has three criteria for approving a long sought-after Menominee casino on the site of the former Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha: local residents must support the plan, the state’s tribes must agree to the proposal, and the casino must satisfy the terms of a 1993 statewide referendum showing residents were hesitant to expand gambling. While Kenosha citizens have previously backed the casino in referendums, the final two conditions would likely be very difficult hurdles — particularly the need for tribal consensus give the vocal opposition to the plan by the Potawatomi tribe that operates a casino in downtown Milwaukee. And before reaching the governor’s desk, the Menominee application must first be approved by federal officials. Further west along the state line, the Bureau of Indian Affairs holds a sparsely attended hearing on a proposed casino in Beloit. Just five speakers address the proposed Ho-Chunk facility, which has also been floated for years and is awaiting federal approval. But the fact that the BIA came to the city at all shows “they’re very serious,” according to Beloit City Manager Larry Arft.
Right-to-work: Anti-union forces may have scored a major victory in Michigan, the birthplace of the labor union, with passage of right-to-work legislation. But all signs are such a proposal is going nowhere in its western neighbor — at least for now. Wisconsin Republicans have largely been tight-lipped about the topic other than to say they’re not pushing it or Gov. Scott Walker declaring it would be a distraction. Walker says he won’t pursue any legislation pertaining to organized labor in the upcoming session, suggesting taking it up would prompt a return to the mass demonstrations at the Capitol that marked the debate over collective bargaining rights for public employees — and would create an unstable environment in Wisconsin not long after things had finally settled down. Republican legislative leaders don’t touch on the Michigan controversy, but one right-to-work supporter in the Assembly GOP caucus concedes there’s no desire to take up the issue now. Some in the labor movement are skeptical, claiming the GOP answers show the issue may just be on temporary hold. Some say Walker believes in right-to-work but that he doesn’t want to touch it until at least after the 2014 election. If he wins a second term, that’s the time to look for it, some say — especially if it’s something that could burnish his credentials with the conservative base ahead of a possible presidential bid in 2016.