— The founder of a Milwaukee-area firm says state trade missions like last week’s trip to Japan have helped him grow his business and connect with cultures around the world.
Bob Gross is founder and owner of Gross Automation, which has been distributing industrial automation and electrical control components for more than 25 years. State trade missions have brought him to the United Arab Emirates, Germany, France, Australia and Japan most recently, which he sees as a prime market for his company’s products.
This wasn’t his first time in Japan with state leaders, as he joined then-Gov. Scott Walker on a trade mission to Japan two years ago. This time around, Gov. Tony Evers led the mission, which coincided with this year’s meeting of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association.
Gross said the two experiences were different in a number of ways, contrasting Evers’ quieter style with Walker getting enthusiastic standing ovations from rooms full of business leaders. But at the end of the day, Gross says both governors made a positive impact on the trade efforts they led.
“One of the nice things about the governor going is, no matter who it is, the governor opens doors,” Gross told WisBusiness.com in a recent interview.
About three and a half years ago, before Gross had joined in any of the state trade trips, his company was getting about 5 percent of its business from exports. That’s now risen to 12 percent, while his business overall has grown 40 percent during that period.
— Gov. Tony Evers wrapped up last week’s trade mission to Japan in Wisconsin’s sister state of Chiba Prefecture, where he toured the original Kikkoman soy sauce facility.
Evers also met with the prefecture’s governor, Kensaku Morita, and with members of the Chiba-Wisconsin Association.
A release from the guv’s office shows Kikkoman was the first Japanese firm to build a manufacturing operation in the state in 1973, and now employs more than 200 workers at its soy sauce factory in Walworth. And the company operates the Kikkoman R&D Laboratory at University Research Park in Madison.
“Little did anyone know at the time that in doing so, Kikkoman was transforming the palate of American tastes. Today, having soy sauce with a meal is as common as ketchup, and Japanese food is as familiar to us as hamburgers and hot dogs,” Evers said in a statement.
— A coalition of dairy and livestock farmers is opposing revisions to the state’s administrative code that they warned “would severely limit livestock farming in Wisconsin.”
The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is proposing updates to ATCP 51, a rule that serves as a template for local government on which to base their regulatory standards for manure storage.
But in a Capitol news conference, a number of groups including the Dairy Business Association, the Wisconsin Dairy Alliance, the Wisconsin Dairy Products Association and Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation — cried foul.
“Our argument is that the rules are getting too restrictive now to be able to operate a dairy farm or any livestock facility,” said DBA President Tom Crave, adding the new rules on livestock siting facilities would be “unworkable” in rural Wisconsin.
DATCP spokeswoman Sara Walling countered the standards would only take effect for new or expanding livestock operations, and only if the operation’s local government decided to adopt them.
“Any currently permitted farms would not be subject to any new standards retroactively, and these changes, if adopted, would only impact farms that choose to undergo a significant expansion,” she said.
The coalition also raised concerns about the process by which the proposal was developed.
Walling said DATCP held a dozen public hearings on the proposed updates, but Cindy Leitner of the WDA claimed the agency had shut advocates out of the process by not including a farmer on the committee that proposed the revisions. She said her members regularly voiced their opposition to the proposed rule changes at the hearing but added there was often “no response.”
“You just are there at the hearing and you’re stating your comment, but you haven’t solved anything,” she said.
Walling said the agency is taking the feedback from public comments into account and will on Thursday present a draft of the proposed rule to the DATCP board and a final draft of the proposal will be voted on in a Nov. 7 meeting. Walling anticipates stakeholder feedback will play a significant role in reshaping the proposal.
“None of the rules that I have ever shepherded through the rule process have gone unchanged between the draft and the final,” she said.
The new updates will also have to go before lawmakers on Assembly and Senate ag panels and the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, among others.
JCRAR Chair Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, was not immediately available for comment on the proposed rule.
See more on ATCP 51:
— DATCP is increasing surveillance efforts for African swine fever, a disease that kills the majority of infected pigs but doesn’t impact human health or food safety.
The agency says all pigs in the state that are tested for classical swine fever will also be tested for ASF. This comes as USDA prepares to hold a four-day national exercise with the 14 largest pork-producing states. Wisconsin isn’t participating, but an official from DATCP will help moderate the exercise and bring lessons learned back to the state, according to a release.
USDA requires states to test a certain number of pigs for both ASF and CSF based on how many pigs they have. Wisconsin plans to test 100 pigs for both diseases by April 1, 2020.
— Three state education groups are calling on lawmakers to support legislation that would raise the age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21.
The Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance, Wisconsin Association of School Boards and Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance are seeking “prompt action” to address what they call a “crisis of teen vaping” in the state.
Based on self-reported numbers, the groups claim one in five Wisconsin high schoolers use e-cigarettes, while one in nine middle schoolers have tried vaping.
“As we all read the headlines that health officials from across the nation are investigating more than 450 possible cases of a potentially deadly respiratory illness related to e-cigarettes, we believe there is more urgency to take action now to protect our kids,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
The legislation was authored by Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield.
Aside from raising the minimum sales age for cigarettes, other tobacco and nicotine products, the legislation would also establish a minimum sales age of 21 for vapor products.
Since many young people get products like these purchased for them, the education groups backing the legislation say it would “help prevent underage youth from buying or getting e-cigarettes and other harmful products from their older friends.”
— The Medical College of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital have hired Mitchell Beckman as the group’s new vice president and chief development officer.
He will be responsible for fundraising and philanthropic efforts for both organizations, collaborating with senior leadership teams to create a “unified strategy” for these efforts.
Beckman previously worked as assistant vice president or the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, UI Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics, since early 2014. And he’s a UW-Madison grad.
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# Dairy industry pushes back against new manure storage rules
– WFU leader pleased with D.C. lobbying efforts
– Construction underway on Emerald Row phase two in Oak Creek
– Mass-timber tower, already to be one of world’s highest, to get a little taller
– DeVos stops in Milwaukee to stump $5B plan for school choice
– Seven startups named to fifth WERCBench Labs Accelerator cohort
– Dane County featured in national climate change study
– Groups team up to rid Rock River watershed of trash
# FOOD AND BEVERAGE
– Snack Boys relocating to former Hotel Foster space
# HEALTH CARE
– Lawyer: Ex-Wisconsin nurse to plead guilty to hurting babies
– Kenosha brothers charged for making, selling THC cartridges
– Wisconsin man accused of making THC cartridges charged
– City Lights Brewing and Third Space Brewing collaborate for Menomonee Valley beer
– Wisconsin media company works with Farm Aid on telethon
– Rep. Kind wants answers on trade bailout money distributions
# REAL ESTATE
– Geneva Lake home sold for $4.45 million
– House of Harley-Davidson closes in Mount Pleasant, consolidates into Greenfield flagship
– Harleys Co. men’s clothing store opens new 3rd Ward location: Slideshow
– Inside Packers’ restaurant with Topgolf Suites, new Associated Bank branch: Slideshow
– The Water Council launches second Tech Challenge competition
– Study shows Milwaukee is a top-growing destination for Houston and Seattle airports
# PRESS RELEASES
<i>See these and other press releases: