Tuesday Trends sample: Start-up businesses rising, interstate expansion mixed and La Crosse falling

Below is an excerpt from the most recent edition of WisBusiness Tuesday Trends.

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RISING

Start-up businesses: The number of new businesses formed in Wisconsin in the first quarter of 2012 increased by 12.2 percent compared to the same period in 2011, according to data from the state Department of Financial Institutions. That translates to 9,821 new businesses, compared to 8,752 registered in the same period last year. Last month, meanwhile, showed a 4.3 percent improvement over March 2011, the 10th month out of the last 12 to show an increase in new business formation from the previous year. Meanwhile, an annual study by Boston’s Suffolk University ranked Wisconsin at No. 29 in the country for its ability to incubate businesses, up from ranking 43rd in the 2010 study. The overall competitiveness study ranked Wisconsin at No. 22; the state received high marks for crime, labor participation, skilled workers and health coverage, but comparatively low marks for electricity prices and level of high-speed telecommunications, cell phone use and air travel.

MIXED

Interstate expansion: Officials from the state Department of Transportation unveil details of a project to renovate and expand a 45-mile stretch of Interstate 39-90 between Madison and the Illinois border. The construction is scheduled to take eight years and cost some $715 million. While that would already be enough to make the project one of the most expensive in state history, the federal government’s share of the cost is also decidedly less than normal. The feds will only pick up 30 percent of the cost — they ordinarily can cover up to 90 percent of such projects — while the state accounts for 70 percent. Still, state and local officials say the project is essential to the region, noting the volume of traffic and commerce that takes that freeway — as well as the frequent backups and safety concerns that plague the road currently. Construction is set to begin in 2015, although reconstruction of an interchange in Janesville will start next year.

FALLING

La Crosse: A pair of job cut announcements combine to deliver a blow to the western Wisconsin city. First, North Carolina-based Compass Group USA announces that its Chartwells operation in La Crosse will lay off some 270 workers following the closure of dining facilities at UW-La Crosse. The cuts — expected to start in the middle of June — are set to include 184 part-time student employees according to a filing with the state labor department. Then, Virginia-based ammunition and defense firm Alliant Techsystems announces it will shutter its ammunition plant in nearby Onalaska by the middle of June. That move will cost 130 jobs; the plant makes ammunition and accessories for sportsmen, law enforcement and the military.