Free Tuesday Trends sample: Aircraft manufacturers rising, Marinette Marine mixed, home sales falling

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Rising

Aircraft manufacturers: After much discussion, the state Assembly finally clears legislation establishing a sales tax exemption for aircraft maintenance, parts and labor, sending the measure to the governor for his signature. Senate President Mike Ellis, locked in a tough re-election fight, had been pushing the bill hard to help Gulfstream in his Appleton-area district, while Cessna in Milwaukee also stands to benefit. There had been some talk of including the measure in the special session tax cut proposal, but Ellis ends up supporting that bill as his proposal gains enough support to pass as a standalone measure. Some had worried about the price tag, noting the Department of Revenue estimates the change would cost the state $2.9 million annually with another $240,000 in revenue lost for local governments. But backers argue that would be offset by an increase in business from clients who literally fly over Wisconsin to other states that don’t impose the sales tax on such work.

Mixed

Marinette Marine: Long-term, the shipbuilder in northeastern Wisconsin is facing some uncertainty with the Navy reconsidering a program that has helped the company boom. But in the short term, things aren’t looking too shabby. The company announces plans to add 200 jobs over the next six months, bolstering a workforce that already numbers nearly 2,000. Half of those will be in the skilled trades, while the other half will be those looking for workplace training to move into better jobs. The new hires are meant to address a backlog of work until 2018. Beyond that, the company isn’t sure what to expect with the Navy looking at changes to the littoral combat ship, which is produced at Marinette and in Alabama. There have been concerns about the performance of the ship, which is designed to speed along at 46 mph while being able to operate in water as shallow as 20 feet. The Defense Department is moving to cut the fleet of ships to 32 rather than the planned purchase of 52, though that decision will first have to clear Congress — and the city’s federal lawmakers have vowed to fight on the company’s behalf.

Falling

Home sales: The latest monthly numbers from the Wisconsin Realtors Association show home sales dropped by more than 10 percent in February compared to the same month in 2013. WRA officials largely attribute the decrease to record cold temperatures, saying although the group expects slow sales this time of year, this winter has been particularly difficult. But weather wasn’t the only factor: the group also notes home prices continue to rise and that mortgage interest rates are almost a full percentage point higher than this time last year. The price of a median home grew 7.4 percent over February 2013 levels to $130,000.