Free Tuesday Trends sample: Dairy exports rising, economic optimism mixed and highway costs falling

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RISING

Dairy exports: As the annual World Dairy Expo descends on Madison, the state’s agriculture department releases figures showing a sharp increase in exports of Wisconsin dairy products to international markets. Those exports, valued at $282 million in 2012, reflect an increase of 22 percent over 2011 levels, according to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. State ag leaders say they expect that trend to continue, noting Wisconsin is a fairly recent entry into the global dairy market and that the state continues to find its niche, from tie-ins with state companies that have an international presence to marketing specialty products that can overcome Wisconsin’s central location — and added transportation costs. Cattle exports also boomed last year, more than doubling 2011’s total to come in at $24 million for 2012.

MIXED

Economic optimism: Gov. Scott Walker and a pair of state CEOs tout the state’s economic growth at an annual Madison gathering of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce members. But numbers from the newest edition of the Wisconsin Economic Scorecard poll show Wisconsinites don’t necessarily feel the same way. The quarterly poll finds 58 percent of Wisconsin residents feel the state is heading “in the right direction,” but just 30 percent give the current state economy a positive evaluation. When asked about the pace of job creation, 52 percent of residents express dissatisfaction, while 48 percent say they are satisfied — and one in four say they are “very dissatisfied,” compared to just one in 20 who say they are “very satisfied.” On a personal level, meanwhile, the proportion of Wisconsin residents describing their personal financial situation as “poor” has increased for the fifth consecutive quarter, rising to 18 percent.

FALLING

Highway costs: The state Department of Transportation says the rebuilding of Interstate 94 between the Milwaukee airport and the Illinois state line is now expected to cost $262 million less than originally projected. DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb says the 2008 recession helped drive down the expected inflation in costs, helping produce the savings. Costs were also lower than anticipated for real estate, utilities, railroad and construction costs, while design costs came in slightly higher. The overall cost of the 35-mile project is now estimated at $1.65 billion instead of the 2006 projection of $1.91 billion. It is scheduled for completion in 2021.