THU AM News: New WEDC CEO stresses strategic alignment within organization; WEDC board approves report on economic development

— WEDC’s new CEO stressed the importance of strategic alignment among leadership, board members and staff at the agency’s latest board meeting.

Missy Hughes called the WEDC board “a key stakeholder” in the overall strategy of the organization, after being welcomed by the 18-member board yesterday. 

“I have no idea what’s happened in the past, but it’s my intention that … we will have alignment on the strategy and that you will all be supporters of that out in the universe for the organization, and really help us expand our voice,” she said. “If we’re not aligned on it, it’s going to be hard for everybody to do that.”

Hughes previously worked at the cooperative Organic Valley, where she worked “very closely with our board of just seven farmers.”

“So this is a new challenge,” she said. “But I’m really looking forward to that.”

According to WEDC spokesman David Callender, Hughes’ annual compensation has been set at $195,000.

Hank Newell, the former CEO of Wausau Paper, took over as board chair today for outgoing chair Lisa Mauer. He echoed Hughes’ sentiments about the need for alignment, noting 11 of the board’s members are newly appointed.

“I think we have an opportunity here,” he said. “We have a new chairman, a new CEO, we have lots of new board members with new ideas.”

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— WEDC board members have approved the agency’s annual report on economic development for fiscal year 2019, showing financial awards totaled more than $218 million during that period.

Most funding from WEDC requires co-investment, meaning the agency isn’t typically the sole or even largest investor in any given project. The report shows WEDC investments for the latest fiscal year were matched at a ratio of 11-to-1, exceeding a goal of 8-to-1 leverage.

“Many times when a company spends money on an expansion project, much of that money is pumped into the local economy through the direct purchasing of contractor services,” said Emily Clavette, WEDC director of operations and program performance.

Projects represented in WEDC’s award portfolio represent $1.8 billion in capital investment in the state, the report shows, not accounting for associated economic ripple effects.

Clavette said the majority of FY2019 awards went to startups, communities and small businesses. Thirty percent of those awards were in the manufacturing sector, and 52 of the state’s 72 counties received awards.

See the full report: 

— Wisconsin has about 147,323 women-owned businesses, according to a recent national report commissioned by American Express. 

The ninth annual report relied on U.S. Census Bureau data, and shows women-owned businesses represent 42 percent of all companies in the United States. 

Wisconsin’s women-owned businesses collectively employ 169,737 workers and bring in about $28 million in revenue, the report shows. 

The state was ranked 32nd for the growth of women-owned firms since 2014, with a 6.7 percent increase. It was ranked 33rd for jobs created by these companies, with 2.5 percent growth; and 28th for growth of women-owned firm revenues, with 8.9 percent. 

Among the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas, Milwaukee was ranked 46th for the number of women-owned companies. The state’s largest city saw a 6.2 percent increase in these companies over the past five years. 

Milwaukee was ranked 45th for job growth at these companies, with a 0.7 percent increase; and 47th for growth of firm revenues, with 3.7 percent. 

See more on the report: 

— Two UW-Madison professors have been named 2019 MacArthur Fellows, which comes with a five-year, $625,000 award. 

UW-Madison geochemist Andrea Dutton and art professor Lynda Barry are two of 26 recipients of the “genius grants” that come from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. 

Dutton’s work in the university’s Department of Geoscience focuses on oceanography, atmospheric sciences, earth sciences and meteorology. 

“I think of myself as a CSI for planet Earth — I’m a detective collecting clues, trying to put together the puzzle of Earth’s climate history so we can better understand our future,” she said in a video produced by the foundation. 

As a field geologist, Dutton travels to coastlines to collect fossils that grant insights into the history of the planet’s oceans.

“By looking at these fossil corals, we can determine how high sea levels rose when the planet warms, and also how quickly that happened,” she said. “That’s the burning question that everyone wants to know about our future.” 

While Dutton’s research is grounded in the physical sciences, Lynda Barry works in the creative space as a graphic novelist, cartoonist and educator. 

“My comics are about childhood, and they’re about the kinds of early experiences people have that make them who they are,” Barry said. 

See more on this year’s MacArthur Fellows: 

— Wisconsin health officials and doctors were instrumental in establishing the link between vaping and the mysterious lung illnesses affecting hundreds around the country, according to a recent report from Kaiser Health News. 

The report documents how individuals at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin used patient history to understand the common thread weaving together several unexplained cases. Specialists at the hospital reached out to public health officials in Waukesha County, who then connected with officials at the state level. 

The state Department of Health Services followed up with health officials in other states, leading to a concerted nationwide effort to understand the cause of the lung illnesses. That effort continues as more than 500 cases and nine related deaths have been identified nationwide. 

DHS continues to track the illnesses in Wisconsin, with nearly 50 confirmed cases. 

Follow the DHS investigation here: 

See more in Top Stories below. 

— The U.S. Transportation Department has announced $50.5 million in infrastructure grants to Wisconsin airports.

That includes $4.7 million for Appleton International to expand a runway and $4.6 million for Rhinelander-Oneida County for infrastructure and to buy aircraft deicing equipment.

It’s part of a program awarding $986 million in airport infrastructure grants.

See more:


# Meet the health officials who alerted the world to the alarming vaping illness

# Wisconsin Consumers Receive Health Rebates Under ACA

# Northwestern Mutual realigns leadership; one woman left in C-suite when Eisenhart retires

# Wisconsin virtual health diagnostics company Intellivisit raising $2.5M



– Warrens Cranberry Festival to celebrate another harvest


– Honeypie plans project in former Bay View theater building


– 2 UW-Madison professors win prestigious $625,000 MacArthur ‘genius’ award

– Former Cree Inc. CEO named innovator-in-residence at Marquette University

– Extension meetings to focus on farm succession planning


– Five Wisconsin deer confirmed to have fatal EHD disease


– MACC Fund pledges $25 million to Medical College of Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital


– A Goodman’s Desserts wins Rev-Up MKE

– Bakery wins Near West Side Partners’ Rev-Up MKE pitch competition


– New series of bills aims to combat suicide in Wisconsin

– Wisconsin suicide task force reverses course on proposal


– Bader Philanthropies to redevelop King Drive building into cafe and wellness center

– Landmark Credit Union acquires Brookfield property for new headquarters


– Bayshore to drop ‘Town Center’ from name as redevelopment work begins


– Fear District shows off Milwaukee Bucks’ trend-setting skills with arena attractions: Slideshow


– World Beef Expo about to kick-off in West Allis


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher: Secures grants to support Appleton International Airport upgrades 

WEDC: 25 businesses named finalists for 2019 MARKETPLACE Governor’s Awards 

Security Health Plan: Rated among top plans in Wisconsin by NCQA