FRI AM News: Madison tourism head says capacity limits hurt small businesses; “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Kristine Hillmer

— Small businesses will be impacted most by a new Dane County health order that prohibits all indoor gatherings, according to an industry executive panel.

“The smaller the business, the more impact it will have,” said Destination Madison President and CEO Deb Archer in a Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce briefing. 

Public Health Madison & Dane County issued a new order earlier this week prohibiting all indoor gatherings and limiting outdoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer, with physical distancing. The previous limit for gatherings was 10 indoors and 25 outdoors, with physical distancing. The order took effect Wednesday early morning and remains in effect until Dec. 16 at 12:01 a.m.

“The 10-person indoor meeting situation was already pretty grim for the hotel industry,” Archer said. “It’s really hurting our small gyms, small businesses that already had their capacity lowered and now they really don’t have any opportunity to have clients.”

Gyms are still allowed to open to 50 percent capacity, but the order prohibits indoor group exercise classes for people not from the same household. Yet, Archer said she’s grateful that the order did not instill new restrictions on restaurant and retail capacity.

It’s difficult for Dane County businesses to watch other areas of Wisconsin progress toward fewer restrictions, according to Archer, who is retiring at the end of the year.

“Our industry sees other counties in Wisconsin able to function at different levels,” Archer said of the hospitality and tourism industry. “It’s hard, psychologically, and I worry as much about mental impact as the fiscal impact.”

Paul Jadin, president of Madison Region Economic Partnership, said the agriculture and manufacturing industries have learned to deal with pandemic-related shifts, but local businesses remain at risk. 

“Certain sectors of our economy pay for the activities of those who aren’t complying,” Jadin said, referring to COVID-19 outbreaks resulting from private gatherings. Instead, hospitality is taking the brunt of the regulations.

According to Archer, increased federal aid is an essential ingredient for economic recovery in hospitality and tourism. 

“We are in threat of losing businesses that really create the personality of this place,” Archer said of Dane County. “We have to get Congress to help support our industry.”

But Jadin is optimistic that the future of Dane County’s economy will be bright. Madison’s nationally recognized brand could benefit local businesses in the long run, he said.

“We’re just getting started when it comes to economic development,” Jadin said. “And it is clearly a marathon.”

— On this week’s segment of “WisBusiness: The Podcast,” restaurant industry leader Kristine Hillmer likens the constant changes in COVID-19 mitigation efforts to a pingpong match — with emergency orders being taken to court, overturned and reinstated.

“The constant changes has been particularly challenging to restaurants to try to keep up with what’s happening not only at the local level, but the state level and the federal level,” said Hillmer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. 

In addition to making sure restaurants can navigate the ever-changing legal landscape, Hillmer said the WRA is getting businesses connected to grants and using its own grant from the Department of Tourism to begin a public relations campaign for December. The campaign encourages a “hyper-sanitization” pledge from restaurants and dine-in, delivery and takeout from patrons. 

Hillmer said the consumer confidence campaign will help restaurants through the slow months of January and February. 

Employees have also been impacted by slow business, shutdowns and capacity limitations — a record unemployment rate in April to show for it. The WRA has a seat on the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council through the Department of Workforce Development. 

“This is an unprecedented time … I think we can all agree that there’s some work that needs to be done,” Hillmer said of the UI backlog. “We support some of the things that they’re doing that they are trying to get as many people through the system as quickly as possible. They have not required a job search, but they’re encouraging people.”

She said restaurants are hiring and a safe place to work. 

“We need to really urge our politicians and our regulators to consider policies and regulations that help the industry serve safely for the duration of the pandemic,” she said. “What we’re seeing is even when there’s a case at a restaurant … it’s not spread at the restaurant and all of the protocols in place are working and that’s why we feel that it’s safe to dine in at restaurants.”

Hillmer said WRA has sent a series of letters with that message to the governor and mayors statewide. 

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— Eau Claire-based UpStream provides wireless technology in order to eliminate the hassles of wired media presentations. 

Founded in 2019, UpStream’s team of three is building the next generation of media presentation technologies. Their product, the Freedom platform, is a tool that allows for wireless streaming of content to different devices. 

Convention centers, churches and homeowners are a few of the customers that can benefit from the first-of-its-kind product, according to the company’s website.

UpStream’s solution is more flexible than current AV solutions that require hardwiring, allowing it to be easier to use and faster to install, according to CEO Jim McDougall. The solution utilizes paired hardware and software, thus eliminating the need to wire AV equipment together.

The company “increases system flexibility and reduces non-value-added labor costs in commercial installations … by creating patentable, custom electronics supported by next-generation software systems with cloud and mobile management,” McDougall said. 

Read the full story at 

See more stories written by students in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication: 

— The Department of Health Services is conducting 3,361 investigations in facilities across the state — over 360 more than last week.

Workplaces outside the health care industry accounted for 986 of the investigations as of Wednesday.

Long-term care facilities make up 811 of the investigations. Those facilities are reporting 779 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 27 percent of the state’s death count. These include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, such as community-based residential facilities and residential care apartment complexes. The average number of confirmed cases per investigation for long-term care facilities is 10.

The state has 306 active nursing home investigations. About 92 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have died in the state were age 60 or older. 

Educational facilities account for 744 of the investigations.

The state is also conducting 474 investigations in “other settings,” which according to DHS include adult day care centers, restaurants, event spaces and religious settings.

One hundred and ninety-seven of the investigations are in group housing facilities, including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 77 COVID-19 deaths or 3 percent of the state’s total. 

DHS marks 1,328 deaths as “unknown” meaning they may or may not have occurred at a long-term care or group housing facility.

And the department is conducting 149 investigations in health care facilities.

Click here to see the nursing homes under investigation and a breakdown of investigations by county: 

— The Wisconsin Hospital Association today urged Gov. Tony Evers and legislative leaders to cooperate and quickly implement a new mitigation strategy to slow COVID-19 spread.

Evers and top Republicans are set to meet today.

WHA President Eric Borgerding suggested Evers and lawmakers consider a statewide mask policy and taking steps to affirm the authority of local governments to adopt their own restrictions. He also wrote a “chief priority” is addressing capacity issues at state hospitals, including the creation of more alternate care facilities.

Borgerding’s push comes amid a series of legal setbacks for the guv on the various steps his administration has taken to address the pandemic. Evers is also poised to extend his mask mandate into mid-January even as the state Supreme Court has been asked to strike down the existing order.

“Community spread of COVID-19 is the clear root cause of the crisis now gripping Wisconsin and striving for common ground and unified action to slow it down must be our top and immediate priority,” Borgerding urged.

An Evers spokeswoman said the guv is scheduled to meet today with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and incoming Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg.

Earlier this week, Evers sent the GOP leaders and their aides legislation to address COVID-19, and his staff had suggested a Friday meeting.

An Evers spokeswoman pointed to the guv’s statewide speech last week calling on citizens to take more steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and calling for additional measures in saying the guv supports the WHA’s call.

Vos said in a statement the issues the WHA raised don’t come as a surprise because he and his colleagues are in regular contact with the group and local hospitals.

“I agree with the Wisconsin Hospital Association that more must be done to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” Vos said. “Wisconsin needs more COVID testing, contact tracers and other solutions to help ease the strain on our healthcare facilities, decrease the rate of transmission and ultimately save lives.” 

— Nearly every Wisconsin county has reached the “critically high” level that the state Department of Health Services added to its COVID-19 dashboard last week. 

The state health department’s weekly surveillance shows only Green County at “very high” COVID-19 activity in the two weeks leading up to Tuesday. 

Wisconsin reported 6,635 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, bringing the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases to 6,440. And the state reported 83 new COVID-19 deaths yesterday. 

The new deaths brought the state’s toll to 2,876. The seven-day average for daily deaths due to the virus is at a record 52 deaths per day. One month ago, the average was 18 deaths per day. Two months ago, it was five.

The latest WHA coronavirus update shows COVID-19 hospitalizations in Wisconsin at 2,104 patients. The record is Wednesday’s census of 2,277 patients. Of those hospitalized, 456 are in intensive care, also below Wednesday’s record of 456.

The Alternate Care Facility at State Fair Park is treating 17 coronavirus patients — five fewer than Wednesday. The West Allis field hospital, an overflow facility for hospitals statewide, has a capacity of over 500 patients.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates:

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— Milwaukee’s tech community will be featured on a national TV program, “Advancements TV,” on Saturday.

This series explores various industries, issues and topics currently impacting society. 

The episode, airing on CNBC at 1:30 p.m. will show how advanced technology is transforming essential industries and products. The show will also explore how innovation and collaboration are key to building a strong and diverse regional technology ecosystem.

Johnson Controls, Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee Tool, Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition and Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce will be featured in the show.

— IKEA US Community Foundation donated $947,000 to address workforce needs in southeastern Wisconsin with a focus on improving racial equality in employment.

The donation reflects the amount IKEA employees collected in Wisconsin unemployment insurance benefits when the company closed stores and furloughed employees during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Department of Workforce Development

IKEA directed the state to use the funds toward the state’s economic recovery efforts in response to COVID-19 that reflects the needs of the community. The pandemic has underscored racial disparities and has had disproportionate effects on communities of color, according to DWD’s release.

“We are so grateful for IKEA’s support for our state, and the generosity of businesses like IKEA that work with and take care of their communities as they face unprecedented challenges,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated some of the inequities our state was already facing, including economic disparity. We are looking forward to using this donation for innovative training programs that will support our state’s economic recovery.”

Southeastern Wisconsin, a seven-county economic driver for the state, makes up more than 35 percent of Wisconsin’s total population. Its residents have relatively high per capita income when compared to the state as a whole, but prosperity has proven to be uneven, with major disparities in unemployment and poverty occurring along racial lines. 

“A recent report ranked Wisconsin’s state economy as having the least racial equality in the nation in terms of employment and wealth,” DWD Deputy Secretary Rob Cherry said. “DWD’s Workforce Equity grant program will fund education, skills training, and placement in high-demand occupations to under-represented populations in southeastern Wisconsin to reduce racial disparities and to narrow the education gap in Wisconsin’s workforce.”

The money is available in the 2021 fiscal year to train new and current employees and to place them in jobs. The grant will reimburse southeastern Wisconsin employers for the expenses to design and implement training programs and post-training support to underserved populations.

Applications for the Workforce Equity Grant Program are due by 3 p.m. on Jan. 18. 

For more information visit:


# Wisconsin Unemployment Rate Ticks Up Slightly To 5.7 Percent In October

# How Madison’s EnsoData unlocks dormant data for sleep physicians, speeding up diagnosis and treatment

# Milwaukee hotel occupancy continues to drop as industry faces closures without federal help



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– More than 60% of Molson Coors jobs coming to Milwaukee will top $100k annually 


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– Milwaukee Art Museum closing until January 


– InsideWis: Cybersecurity worries mount for businesses, health care during transition 


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