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Tourism: The state’s Tourism Department announces Wisconsin saw a $17.5 billion economic impact from tourism in 2013, a 4 percent bump over the previous year. Officials say the $700 million increase contributed to an overall increase of $2.7 billion since 2010, according to the analysis by Pennsylvania-based Tourism Economics. Wisconsin also saw 100 million visits last year, a 3.5 percent increase and the fastest growth since 2010. Among individual sectors, recreation and entertainment spending increased by 6.3 percent while food and beverage spending rose by 6.2 percent; international travel activity also increased by $100 million and accounted for 6 percent of the overall total. And Tourism officials say they expect a nice bump for 2014’s numbers as well after some 130,000 people visited northern Wisconsin for the ice caves on Lake Superior this winter. The industry also accounts for nearly one in 13 Wisconsin jobs and $4.6 billion in personal income.
Casinos: With a Menominee-backed casino project in Kenosha expected to hover over the state’s tribal gaming industry at least through next February — the Walker administration’s new deadline to approve the proposal — other tribes have moved in different directions in recent weeks. The Ho-Chunk Nation is set to move ahead with $144 million in projects at four of its six Wisconsin casinos following a vote of the tribal legislature. Headlined by a new hotel and events center in Port Edwards and a conference center in Wittenberg, the projects are expected to create 317 permanent jobs. The Lac du Flambeau Chippewa band, however, takes a different approach, as a tribal referendum narrowly approves shutting down funding to apply for an off-reservation casino in Shullsburg. A tribal spokesman says the vote doesn’t mean the Lac du Flambeau band is abandoning the project — which was rejected by federal officials in 2008 and resubmitted in 2012 — but that it could impact the tribe’s options for moving ahead with the $132 million proposal. Meanwhile, a federal judge in Milwaukee rejects arguments from the Potawatomi that age discrimination laws don’t apply to its downtown casino, ordering the tribe to turn over records as part of an ongoing lawsuit.
Workforce population: A recent report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance projects the state’s working-age population will decline 0.2 percent between 2010 and 2040 — while the number of senior citizens nearly doubles. That, the group says, puts the state’s labor force at the early stages of stagflation. In addition, the school-age population is expected to increase just 3.4 percent during that span, meaning there won’t be enough young people to address the anticipated 97.5 percent increase in the number of retirees. A potential labor shortage could hamper job creation in coming decades, particularly in areas like northern Wisconsin that could see a greater impact. And the shifting demographics could put more pressure on state finances, with income taxes reflecting the lack of growth in the workforce.