THU AM News: Wisconsin voters have generally positive view of U.S. economy, poll shows; WisBusiness: the Show with Ben Juarez of i.c. stars Milwaukee

— Registered voters in the state have a generally positive view of how the national economy has performed over the last year, according to the latest Marquette University Law School Poll results. 

But the outlook for the coming 12 months isn’t as bright, poll results show. 

Thirty-seven percent of registered voters said the economy has improved over the past year, while 25 percent said it’s gotten worse and 34 percent said they see no change. 

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, 26 percent said the economy will improve while 37 percent expect it to get worse. And 33 percent expect the economy to stay the same. 

Expectations have become less optimistic compared to last year, when the average future outlook was 14.7 percent net positive. In 2019, the average outlook has been net negative, at -3 percent. 

The latest August poll is the second this year to find net pessimism about the next year’s economic outlook. The previous net negative result was in January 2019, when the federal government was shut down. 

Across poll respondents, 49 percent approved of how President Trump is handling the economy, while 50 percent disapproved. But political views strongly influenced how individuals answered the question on the nation’s economic outlook. 

See more: 

— The latest episode of “ The Show” features an interview with Ben Juarez of i.c. stars Milwaukee, who is helping to create a young cadre of coders in Milwaukee.

Also, Liz Schrum presents Tech Metrics, which chart key indicators and events in the Wisconsin economy.

In a separate commentary, Tech Council President Tom Still talks about the upcoming Early Stage Symposium on November 6-7 at Madison’s Monona Terrace. Companies will have the chance to meet and pitch to investors from Wisconsin and well beyond.

Watch the show here: 

— The Wisconsin Realtors Association says outdated regulations are contributing to a shortage in affordable housing, though others say there’s more to the issue. 

A new WRA report highlights this shortage, which was driven in part by a major slowdown in the state’s new housing market. It shows about 12,500 new single family building permits were issued in 2017, compared to 30,000 in 2004. 

Aside from a small recovery after the most recent economic downturn, the report shows the state’s housing market continues to struggle. WRA chalks that up to aging housing inventory, as well as housing costs rising faster than incomes. At the same time, two-thirds of the state’s construction companies are reporting labor shortages. 

The state is creating about 75 percent fewer lots and 55 percent fewer new housing units than pre-recession averages, the report shows. 

WRA draws a connection between this trend and rising housing costs, which the group says are increasing due to “outdated land use regulations.” Those include large minimum lot sizes, “excessive” parking requirements, prohibitions on non-single-family housing, requirements for certain building materials and long approval processes. The group claims these regulations do nothing to improve public health and safety. 

But Russell Kaney, president of the board for the Wisconsin Council for Affordable and Rural Housing, says “you can’t blame it all on regulations.” He says some land use regulations are there for a reason, and aren’t all bad. 

Kaney has been working in housing for more than 40 years, and his group focuses on the challenges facing rural communities in the state. Still, he says the housing market is squeezed “all over,” due in part to building regulations that have been around for decades. 

He said certain regulations on new housing may be creating barriers in some areas, but noted they can also attract builders to communities. 

He concedes that “it’s very common” to see building codes driven by the “old post-World War II model,” including requirements for large lots with minimum square footage and certain building materials such as bricks. 

Brad Boycks, executive director for the Wisconsin Builders Association, agrees with WRA that regulations on lot sizes are hurting the housing industry. 

“Lot size is an issue we hear a lot,” he told “Especially in some communities where there’s talk of wanting more affordable housing. But when you have such a large minimum lot size, the math isn’t going to work.” 

In its report, WRA included a number of recommendations for improving the state’s housing outlook, including: expediting the permitting and development approval process at state and local levels; using tax incentives to reduce workforce housing costs; encouraging counties, cities and villages to fund down payment assistance programs; and other ideas. 

Boycks says WBA would support any effort at the state or local level to roll back those regulations. 

“It’s a huge benefit to bring down the cost of a home,” he said. 

Kaney agrees certain regulations are outdated, including requirements for multiple parking spaces and large garages, as people “aren’t tied to their homes as much.” He connects that to fewer people having multiple cars and increased availability of public transport. 

But he adds: “You can’t blame it just on regulation. That’s easy to do.” 

He says demand is rising for “alternatives to the traditional,” including more modest housing “that makes sense from a convenience standpoint.” 

“Bring in builders and contractors, have that dialogue with them,” he said. “Ask why they’re not coming to the community and building — how can we attract you to this area?” 

He said every community is different, so regulations can’t be “one-size-fits-all.” For local municipalities, Kaney said “it’s too easy to sit there and fall back on your old code and not look at that.” 

The report was written by Kurt Paulsen, a professor of urban and regional planning at UW-Madison. 

See the full report:  

— Ascension Wisconsin is planning to open a new health center in Menomonee Falls, adding new primary, specialty, hospital and emergency services for village residents. 

The 33,000-square-foot facility’s first floor will include a 16,500-square-foot hospital with emergency services and eight in-patient beds. It will be operated by Ascension Wisconsin Emerus JV, a joint venture between Ascension and Emerus Holdings. 

The building’s second floor will be occupied exclusively by Ascension Wisconsin and operated as a separate primary and specialty care clinic. 

The overall facility will create up to 70 new jobs, with construction expected in the spring and a tentative opening date set for April 2021. That’s according to Scott Yauck, president and CEO of Milwaukee-based Cobalt Partners, the development firm working on the health center. 

“This new health center provides an innovative way to integrate inpatient and outpatient services while keeping care close to home,” said Bernie Sherry, ministry market executive for Ascension Wisconsin. 

See the release: 

— The Joint Finance Committee has unanimously approved DATCP’s request to put $200,000 in general purpose revenue into a program providing mental health assistance for farmers, but only after Republican members accused the agency secretary of playing politics with the issue. 

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, fired back Republicans who control the committee were playing politics themselves by requiring DATCP Secretary Brad Pfaff to come before them seeking the money, which includes funding for vouchers to provide farmers counseling. She said they should’ve just approved it in the budget as Gov. Tony Evers had requested. 

The vote capped off a tense six weeks between DATCP and JFC Republicans after the committee didn’t take up the agency’s request during a July hearing. 

That prompted Pfaff to fire off a statement accusing Republicans of choosing to “leave farmers behind” and “abandoning our state’s farmers.” He said the agency only had enough funding left in the program for five vouchers. 

Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, said she was stunned at reading coverage of the issue a month ago and the accusation that Republicans were playing politics. She said DATCP had enough money in other accounts plus the flexibility to move around money to cover the costs of counseling sessions. 

“I was thinking this is not Wisconsin,” Loudenbeck said. “We don’t play politics with the salt of the earth folks out there actually struggling.” 

Committee Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, asked Pfaff a series of sharp questions, suggesting the agency was failing to share information with Rep. Joan Ballweg, chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention, in a timely manner. He also said DATCP hadn’t shared with the co-chairs the dwindling amount of funding available for vouchers before going to the media. 

Pfaff didn’t directly respond to the accusation, saying his team has provided information to Ballweg, R-Markesan, and said the agency has a good working relationship with her. He also said DATCP had provided information to LFB. 

But Taylor charged it was Republicans on the committee who were playing politics by taking the money Evers set aside in the budget for the mental health programs and placing it in the JFC supplemental appropriation. That required the agency to seek the committee’s permission before it could be released. 

See more at 

— A startup called MOSAIC Box recently won the 2019 Doyenne Group’s 5x5x5 pitch event in Madison and received a $5,000 seed grant.

The company sells a monthly subscription to a box containing $200 worth of curated, handcrafted products from around the world. Founded by Chioma Amegashie, MOSAIC Box will now have the chance to participate in the Doyenne Accelerator.

The other contestants were BlkBld & Co., EmberFoods, Venture with Impact and Goods Unite Us.

Per the contest rules, all entrants were Wisconsin-based ventures that are majority-owned by a woman or women.  

See more at Madison Startups: 


# Wisconsin exports down $673 million through July

# DNC moves into new Milwaukee offices, adds staff, opens new venue portal

# Wisconsin budget committee releases $200,000 to support farmer mental health initiatives

# Finance committee OKs $1.5 million for tourism marketing



– Wisconsin committee releases $200K for farmer mental health

– Another good week for crops, but heat is badly needed

– USDA to survey barley farmers’ chemical use, production costs


– Report: Rate of new construction increases slowly again in 2018


– Milwaukee-area economy improved in July


– Milwaukee Ballet celebrates opening of new Third Ward home


– Wolf population estimated at mid-900s in Wisconsin


– ‘Something has to give’: Underground Food Collective to close Forequarter Sept. 21


– Ascension Wisconsin, micro-hospital developer to build new health center in Menomonee Falls

– Ascension Wisconsin plans health care facility at prime Menomonee Falls site


– American Family to relocate Pewaukee employees to future Milwaukee office


– Training day: Groups take various approaches to combating worker shortage


– Potawatomi Business Development Corp. names Randy Mueller its new CEO


– State lawmakers introduce bill to support beginning farmers

– Wisconsin Republicans renew fetal tissue research ban bill


– A sign of life for Oak Creek USPS facility and downtown Milwaukee project

– Wauwatosa office building sold for $8 million

– Former Allen Edmonds warehouse in Port Washington sold


– DNR announces increased efforts to address CWD


– Men’s brand UNTUCKit planning store in Milwaukee’s Third Ward


– Streetcar lakefront line to stand by Couture station, even if it means waiting


– Davey Sapinski and Pat Acker: Digital education can drive rural Wisconsin’s future


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

Trefoil Group names Schroeder Executive Vice President

Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection: Does Grandma know about DATCP?

Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation: Sheboygan County’s only Hmong radio program signs off