FRI AM News: Evers declares public health emergency as confirmed Wisconsin coronavirus cases rise to eight; WisBusiness: The Podcast with Nick Myers, founder and CEO of RedFox AI

— Gov. Tony Evers has declared a public health emergency to deal with the growing outbreak of coronavirus.

Within hours of Evers’ announcement yesterday, state and Dane County officials announced two more Wisconsinites had tested positive. They were the seventh and eighth cases in Wisconsin, with seven of those discovered in just the past week.

“This declaration allows us to access state resources that deal with this pandemic head-on, care for those who need help and also limit the spread of the virus,” Evers said at a news conference in the Department of Military Affairs’ Emergency Operations Center.

The most recent cases are in Pierce, Dane, Fond du Lac, and Waukesha counties. The first known case, a person in Dane County who tested positive in early February, has recovered.

The first six cases were exposed to the virus while traveling. Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said five of the cases are under home isolation while the remaining case is currently hospitalized.

The two announced after the news conference had contact with a confirmed case that had been reported earlier this week.

Evers signed an executive order yesterday authorizing DHS to take the necessary measures to help prevent and respond to the virus.

Under the order, DHS can purchase, store and distribute medications as needed, regardless of whether people have health coverage. State funds are also authorized to help local health departments with costs related to quarantine and isolation.

See more: 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Nick Myers, founder and CEO of RedFox AI.

This startup company out of Madison helps other companies leverage the power of artificial intelligence and voice assistant technologies. RedFox guides businesses through the process of understanding a problem that AI or voice can help solve, and then builds custom voice apps for the business.

“We’ve seen new technologies come out and organizations adopt them, but there’s no real strategy behind why they’re adopting them and no real problems identified,” Myers said. “For us, we always like to start from a high level overview of the brand and get to the nitty-gritty of existing problems that voice and AI can solve.”

Listen to the podcast here: 

See a full list of podcasts, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— The coronavirus outbreak is causing numerous events in the state to be cancelled or postponed as organizers hope to avoid in-person transmission of the virus. 

The Wisconsin Technology Council’s upcoming annual Tech Summit event is shifting to a “virtual meeting environment,” according to a recent update. The Tech Council will still coordinate video conferences between major firms and emerging companies who were slated to meet Monday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 

Meanwhile, other political, business, sports and academic events in Wisconsin are also being cancelled after the COVID-19 viral outbreak was recently labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. 

More than 134,000 cases of the virus have been reported around the world. Just under 5,000 people have died and nearly 69,000 people who had the disease have recovered. 

See more in headlines below. 

— Revised federal jobs number from the state Department of Workforce Development show the state’s unemployment rate in December hit 3.5 percent for the first time in nearly three years.

January’s unemployment rate is unchanged from December, according to preliminary numbers released yesterday. 

The last time Wisconsin’s unemployment rate reached this level was February 2017. It’s now just below the national rate of 3.6 percent, the release shows.

See the DWD release:

— Sixteen agriculture groups came together at the Capitol to press senators to take up 14 bills that have been passed by the Assembly.

“Wisconsin farmers have been hit hard by a combination of low commodity prices, trade disruptions and tariffs, as well as extreme weather events throughout the last five years,” said Karen Gefvert, director of governmental relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. “The ag groups are asking the Senate to take action that would benefit Wisconsin agriculture.”

Five of the bills are centered around investments in programs and grants for water quality and groundwater protection, issues that Jefferson County beef farmer, Kirsten Jurcek, said go hand-in-hand with farm profitability.

“Saving soil saves us money in the long term,” she said yesterday. “Maintaining our rural property values also depends on us having clean water to drink and access to lakes and streams that are fishable and swimmable.”

The other bills include labeling requirements that would prevent plant-based products from using the term “dairy” and “meat,” investments to exporting dairy and a grant program at DATCP, tax credits on farm buildings, funding for UW-Madison and UW-Extension and a wildlife abatement program.

After the press conference, the groups were scheduled to deliver letters to each Senate office asking to pass the bills.

There has been no indication from Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald if the Senate will take up the bills, according to Gefvert.

The groups in favor of the bills: the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Agri-Business Association, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, GrassWorks, Wisconsin Association of Professional Agricultural Consultants, Wisconsin Hemp Alliance, Farm Credit, Cooperative Network, Wisconsin Pork Association and Wisconsin Soybean Association.

See the full list of bills:

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is urging USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to help protect funding for programs aimed at supporting struggling farmers.

In a Senate subcommittee hearing yesterday, the Madison Dem asked Perdue to ensure farmers can access local financial guidance through federally funded extension programs.

She also noted President Trump has proposed eliminating funding for the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives, which fund efforts to modernize ag operations, develop products and reach new markets. And she said the Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposes cutting $2 million from the Farmers First mental health grant program.

She called for those decisions to be reversed, asking Perdue to “commit to taking these actions on behalf of family farmers in Wisconsin,” which leads the nation in farm bankruptcies.

He said the agency is “going to commit to do everything we can.” He noted the agency provides grants for extension services, but that the extension officers themselves are operated by the state, typically through land-grant universities. He added many of these programs offer mental health services for farmers.

He also mentioned that Wisconsin had been identified as a “center of excellence” through USDA’s dairy assistance program, but was cut off by Baldwin.

“The funding has been totally eliminated in the 2021 budget proposed by the president, and we need to restore this funding going into the future,” she said.

Watch a video of the exchange:

— Madison has been ranked 31st among the best “heartland” cities for millennials in a recent report from a national group called Heartland Forward. 

The report focuses on the 20-state region spanning from Texas in the southwest to Ohio in the northeast. It highlights the top cities in the region based on share of residents aged 13-17, population growth within that age range, educational attainment of millennials, total job growth and total average earnings growth. 

For this report, millennials are defined as any Americans born between 1982 and 2003. 

The report shows Madison is among the top 50 cities in the region for millennials, and is also ranked 3rd for its region category — having between 500,000 and 1 million residents in the greater metropolitan area. 

In contrast to the time following the most recent economic downturn in 2008, when many young people were flocking to the coasts to find more opportunities, the report notes that millennials are being drawn to the broad heartland region. 

“The Heartland, as this paper shows, increasingly appeals to the young and ambitious,” report authors wrote. “It also provides a democratic and diverse economy that spreads the wealth more evenly.” 

Of the factors incorporated into the report’s ranking, Madison’s metro area was ranked highest for the education levels of its millennial residents. Other Wisconsin metro areas were also included in the list, including Eau Claire, Appleton and Milwaukee, though all were outside the top 100. 

See the full report: 

— Baker Tilly, a Chicago-based financial services firm, recently acquired a data analytics consulting firm based in Madison called Talavant. 

According to a release, the acquisition bolsters the firm’s digital suite of services. 

Baker Tilly Digital Leader and Principal John Runte says adding Talavant’s “deep analytics capabilities” will help clients better anticipate market conditions. 

See the release: 


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

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