TUESDAY TRENDS — 25 Feb. 2014

Exclusively for WisBusiness Subscribers

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Join authors Stuart Levitan, Matt Levin and Tracy Will as they discuss Madison and Dane County history. Authors will give remarks on their books, take questions and sign purchased copies.

Cash bar, free snacks, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursday March 6 lower level Madison Club, 5 E. Wilson St., Madison. ph: 608.255.4861

**Levin is the author of: “Cold War University: Madison and the New Left in the Sixties’ from UW Press’;
**Levitan, also a radio host and chairman of the Madison Landmarks Commission, is the author of:” Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1, 1856-1931′ from UW Press’;
**And Will, former host of Wisconsin Public TV’s “Wisconsin Stories,’ is co-author of: “Forward! A History of Dane: The Capital County.”

Learn more about the WisPolitics.com Book Club:

–Organized by University of Wisconsin Press and WisPolitics.com–



Tax breaks: Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to use more than $500 million of the state’s projected budget surplus for tax cuts spent most of the past month in political limbo as Senate and Assembly Republicans sparred over its impact on the state’s long-term fiscal picture. The state Assembly quickly advanced the proposal with a few of its own tweaks, but several Senate Republicans questioned the wisdom of increasing the structural deficit heading into the next fiscal biennium. Last week, however, a compromise emerges and moves through the Legislature’s budget committee, giving Republicans the support they need to pass the bill through both chambers. The deal moves money originally intended for the state’s rainy day fund to the general balance while extending millions in state agency budget lapses into next year. But the tax cut numbers remain untouched, providing some $400 million in property tax relief and another $100 million on the income tax side. Meanwhile, there also appears to be room for a couple more tax breaks as the legislative session winds down, including a $3.4 million sales tax break for aircraft maintenance and a $2 million sales tax exemption aimed at certain agricultural operations.

Propane: The state is still in the throes of a propane fuel shortage as the harsh winter continues. But there are also promising signs over the last week. First, the Legislature’s budget committee and the state Assembly pass legislation designed to help middle-income homeowners affected by the shortage. The measure would allow those up to 200 percent of the median income in individual counties to receive low-interest loans — guaranteed in part by the state — to purchase heating during declared states of emergency. Then, the Walker administration announces an agreement reached with Madison Gas & Electric and We Energies giving the state access to 117,000 gallons of propane currently in storage by the utilities. And although propane prices remain high — more than double the price at this time last year — federal officials report the average price in Wisconsin has now fallen for three consecutive weeks.

Cooper Power Systems: The parent company of the power systems manufacturer announces a $54 million investment in three Waukesha plants, potentially leading to the creation of 200 new jobs over the next two years. Cleveland-based Eaton Corp. says the project, which would expand one facility and renovate two others that produce transformers and voltage regulators, will help meet growing demand for power distribution solutions. Eaton is eligible for up to $1.36 million in tax credits for the project through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Snap-on: The Kenosha-based tool and equipment manufacturer is the recipient of a $37.7 million federal contract to provide aviation maintenance tool kits, according to an announcement from the U.S. Defense Department. Snap-on Inc. received the five-year contract, which will be coordinated with the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, over three other bidders.

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Mobile Igniter


Local wage laws: In the wake of efforts by the Milwaukee County Board to enact a minimum wage requirement for employees doing business with the county, Republican lawmakers in the state Assembly quickly introduce and pass legislation that would preempt such “living wage” ordinances. The state bill would ban those requirements for local government employees and contractors that are funded at least in part from state or federal sources, and proponents argue the state shouldn’t be subsidizing inflated wages at the county or municipal level. Critics allege the measure is one of many attacks on local government by Republicans, and say such measures have worked well in Dane County for years. Backers of the ordinances, however, apparently don’t need to worry about it moving through the other house of the Legislature as Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, says there isn’t much appetite for the bill among his members.

Agriculture: Two recent reports show the strength of Wisconsin’s farm production in recent years, but data also shows a decline in the number of farms operating in America’s Dairyland. The five-year Census of Agriculture released by federal officials showed Wisconsin sold $11.7 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012 — a 30 percent increase over 2007 levels and good for the 9th highest total in the country. Another report from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, meanwhile, showed the state exported more than $3.2 billion of agricultural products in 2013, up 9 percent compared to 2012 and a new state record. For ag supporters that have long fretted about the disappearance of Wisconsin farms, however, the federal survey provides little comfort. Census of Agriculture data showed Wisconsin lost 8,700 farms and more than 620,000 acres of farmland between 2007 and 2012. Both were among the steepest drops in the country, although the state remains among the top 10 based on the number of farms.

UW research: Backers of economic development efforts at the UW System receive both good and bad news as state lawmakers advance an effort to bolster campus research. On the positive side, UW officials and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announce the Ideadvance Seed Fund, a $2 million effort to help commercialize technology and ideas developed at UW campuses. Under the program, up to $75,000 would be available to entrepreneurs in two stages and, unlike most early-stage investment programs, would encourage efforts from all academic disciplines. One day later, however, UW-Madison announces plans to shut down its Synchrotron Radiation Center near Stoughton next month in the midst of a federal funding shortfall. The center conducts experiments using a large loop carrying speeding electrons, and remains on the cutting edge of science despite operating for 28 years. Then, the state Assembly passes legislation that would allow UW campuses to conduct classified research for national security purposes, which backers said could open up huge government research contracts and lead to spin-off companies down the road. The original measure would have carved an exemption for UW research in the state’s open records law — drawing concerns from open government proponents — but that language was dropped from the bill and it passes without controversy.

Obamacare enrollment: The latest figures from the federal Department of Health and Human Services show more than 53,000 Wisconsin residents had signed up for coverage through the federally funded health insurance marketplace as of the beginning of February, while more than 60,000 others who went through the marketplace over that span were eligible for coverage through Medicaid or CHIP. The percentage of marketplace plan enrollees in the low-risk age range of 18-34, however, was 20 percent, remaining lower than the 25 percent national average. But Kathleen Falk, the regional HHS director for Wisconsin and its neighboring states, predicts the final six weeks of the marketplace’s open enrollment period will see an increase, noting a similar spike occurred ahead of the previous deadline on Jan. 1. Falk says she’s still amazed by the number of people who don’t know about the Affordable Care Act and that while no one expected to reach every eligible Wisconsinite in the first enrollment period, “we’re certainly going to give it our darnedest.”

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University Research Park


American TV: The TV, furniture and appliance retailer, which has had a presence in Wisconsin for six decades, announces it will shutter its 11 locations — including seven in the Badger State — selling off its entire inventory and laying off nearly 1,000 employees. A receivership petition filed in Dane County court indicated the fair value of the Madison-based company’s assets is worth less than its net book value of more than $72 million, and that it had total liabilities of nearly $55 million. CEO Doug Reuhl simply attributes the move to an “unforgiving economy” over the last five years. Court papers also showed nearly 700 American employees in Wisconsin at two locations each in Madison and Appleton and three locations in metro Milwaukee, with the remainder at the two stores in each in Iowa and Illinois. The stores will be closed permanently following a final going-out-of-business sale that began last week.

S.C. Johnson & Son: A spokesman for the household products giant says the company could cut up to 400 positions in or near its Racine headquarters, well above the 100 to 200 expected at the beginning of an evaluation and restructuring process last fall. At that time, the company indicated it hoped to bolster its position against rival companies despite a recent run of record sales and profits. The increased cuts are likely to impact each part of the company and would reduce the Racine-area S.C. Johnson workforce from its current level of about 3,500 employees.

Home sales: The Wisconsin Realtors Association says rough winter weather took a toll on the number of home sales last month, with monthly data showing January’s sales down 6.8 percent compared to January of 2013. Sales in northeastern Wisconsin were up 3.6 percent during that span, but numbers in every other region tracked by the group were off, led by the 23.6 percent decline in central Wisconsin. Officials said the cold temperatures likely postponed some sales, which could lead to more robust numbers in the spring. Home prices, however, continued their upward trajectory in recent months, with the price of a median home up 3.2 percent — to $126,900 — compared to prices at the beginning of 2013.

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Wednesday, February 26

– 8 a.m.: WBD Seminar Series – Working together, Madison

– 8 a.m.: HACCP certification seminar, Milwaukee

– 9 a.m.: 101 Marketing Ideas for Small Business, Marshfield

– 9 a.m.: Seminar: The Future of Sales, Madison

– 12 p.m.: Saving Through Tax Refunds, Milwaukee

– 5:30 p.m.: Lightning Round: Speed Interviewing & Resume Review, Milwaukee

– 6 p.m.: Take Control Of Your Online Business Reviews, Madison

Thursday, February 27

– 7:15 a.m.: Synergies in Sustainability, Eau Claire

– 7:30 a.m.: Women Building Wisconsin – Spring 2014, Madison

– 7:30 a.m.: Manufacturing Matters!, Milwaukee

– 8 a.m.: WBD Seminar Series – Working together, Green Bay

– 8:30 a.m.: Peerspectives Tech CEO Roundtable Introduction Meeting, Middleton

– 9 a.m.: InDevelopment Conference, Appleton

– 10 a.m.: ENCORE Entrepreneurship, Racine

– 11 a.m.: Perform to Potential Lunch n’ Learn, Green Bay

– 11:30 a.m.: Giving your Brand a Global Connection, Milwaukee

– 11:45 a.m.: Dane County Council of Public Affairs business luncheon, Madison

– 12 p.m.: Road to Credit Repair, Online

– 3 p.m.: Social Media Management Workshop, Neenah

– 5 p.m.: Manufacturer of the Year Awards, Milwaukee

– 6 p.m.: The Power of QuickBooks™ – Advanced, Milwaukee

Friday, February 28

– 7 a.m.: Focus on Manufacturing breakfast, Milwaukee

– 7:30 a.m.: One-on-One with Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Waukesha

– 4:30 p.m.: UWM Marcus Prize Lecture, Milwaukee

Saturday, March 1

– 8:30 a.m.: Ag Showcase, Fond du Lac

Sunday, March 2

– 3 p.m.: Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Lake Geneva

Monday, March 3

– 7:30 a.m.: Retail Rally Madison Part I, Madison

– 7:30 a.m.: Exporting to Latin America in 2014, Milwaukee

– 7:45 a.m.: Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Lake Geneva

– 5:15 p.m.: Chamber’s 146th Annual Recognition Dinner, La Crosse

Tuesday, March 4

– 7:30 a.m.: Managing Portfolio Risk (Defining Markets Conference), Milwaukee

– 7:45 a.m.: Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Lake Geneva

– 8 a.m.: WBD Seminar Series – Working together, Wausau

– 8:30 a.m.: Web content, copywriting & branding, Madison

– 10 a.m.: 2014 Business Expo, Green Bay

– 12 p.m.: What Can WWBIC Do For You?, Kenosha

– 5:30 p.m.: Ambassador Annual Dinner, Marshfield

– 6 p.m.: Make Your Money Talk 4-Part Series, Madison

– 6 p.m.: Technology For Your Small Business, Verona

– 6 p.m.: Options for Funding Your Small Business, Milwaukee

Wednesday, March 5

– 7:30 a.m.: Mount Mary University, Voices of Leadership – Carly Fiorina and Lauren Bush, Milwaukee

– 8 a.m.: WBD Seminar Series – Working together, Eagle River

– 9:30 a.m.: Exploring Entrepreneurship: Do You Have What It Takes?, Madison

– 1 p.m.: Budgeting /Savings, Racine

– 6 p.m.: Explore Starting a Business, Appleton

– 6 p.m.: Evening and Executive MBA Programs Information Session, Madison

Thursday, March 6

– 7 a.m.: How to Build A Championship Culture, Brookfield

– 7:30 a.m.: Surviving an Export Violation Investigation, Pewaukee

– 7:30 a.m.: Bagels and Brains Networking Event, Neenah

– 8 a.m.: WBD Seminar Series – Working together, La Crosse

– 8:30 a.m.: Communication & Delegation, Madison

– 5:30 p.m.: Local Information for Starting and Growing Businesses, Green Bay

– 6 p.m.: Small Biz – Business Planning Series Accelerated/computer based- Orientation, Kenosha

Friday, March 7

– 7 a.m.: Power Breakfast – Hank Meijer, Milwaukee

– 7:30 a.m.: Workforce Development Update: State and Local Perspectives, Green Bay

– 11:30 a.m.: AACC Women in Business Luncheon, Milwaukee

– 12 p.m.: End of Windows XP Lunch-N-Learn, Madison

Saturday, March 8

– 8 a.m.: Professional Engineers Advancing Knowledge, Milwaukee

– 8:30 a.m.: Start Smart- Business Planning Boot Camp, Madison

Sunday, March 9

No events listed

Monday, March 10

– 11 a.m.: Lean Strategies for an Optimized Business Structure, Green Bay

– 12 p.m. Wisconsin Women’s Health Policy Summit, Milwaukee

Tuesday, March 11

– 7:30 a.m.: Fitness & nutrition – Common Myths and Misperceptions, Marshfield

– 8 a.m.: Business, Industry and Education (BIE) Day, Fond du Lac

– 8 a.m.: WBD Seminar Series – Working together, Eau Claire

– 8:30 a.m.: Leverage Social Media for your Business, Madison

– 9 a.m.: Wisconsin Women’s Health Policy Summit, Milwaukee

– 11:30 a.m.: Product Pricing and Currency Strategies for International Markets, Madison

– 11:30 a.m.: Product Pricing and Currency Strategies for International Markets, Middleton

– 11:30 a.m.: The Lone Marketer – A Small Business Marketing Discussion, Madison

– 11:45 a.m.: Executive Chat: Public Official Edition, Waukesha

– 5 p.m.: GBCC 87th Annual Dinner, Beloit

– 6 p.m.: Minority and Women’s Business Certification, Online

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