FRI AM News: Tech Council president says state’s tech industry is growing despite COVID; WisBusiness podcast features Frank Frassetto, USDA Rural Development

— Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, said he’s still encouraged by the state’s growing tech industry “despite COVID taking some wind out of the sails.”

Still touted a number of different companies in a Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce briefing, such as venture capital company Titletown Tech, as proof of a booming statewide tech sector.

Even though “there’s certainly not much activity” going on in the Capitol at the moment with the November election less than three months away and with GOP lawmakers and Gov. Tony Evers not on the best terms, Still said he’s holding out hope there will be consensus in the next budget for investing in the tech sector and in UW STEM programs.

“It may still be a time to invest,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of new legislators. And it could bring some fresh blood and some fresh ideas into both houses.”

And in Congress, Still touted bipartisan efforts to pass the Endless Frontier Act, of which U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, is a sponsor. The act would pump some $10 billion dollars into regional technology hubs all around the country to boost startup companies and local communities.

Gallagher earlier in a statement called the bill “a downpayment for future generations of American technological leadership” to ensure continued tech superiority over China.

— This week’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Frank Frassetto, the state director of USDA Rural Development in Wisconsin. 

The department’s focus is on rural Wisconsin, any community below 50,000 people. Recent investments have taken place in electric, water and broadband infrastructure.

The $10.2 broadband investment specifically, will allow for increased access for distance education, telehealth and business.

“What we’re trying to do here at Rural Development to increase economic prosperity and quality of life, these two projects — electricity and broadband — are right in our wheelhouse and something we’re very happy to be a part of,” Frassetto said. 

In the last year, Rural Development invested over $460 million in the state’s economy. Not only does the final product result in economic prosperity, but the work done by construction workers, engineers and project managers also create jobs and economic impact.

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison:

— Looking back, Gov. Tony Evers says there’s “not much” he wished he would’ve done differently with state policy in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he suggested during a Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce webinar that he wished the state Supreme Court would’ve allowed his stay-at-home order to stay in place just two weeks longer.

“It was working; it had driven down some of the numbers that we had going,” Ever told viewers. “And if I had done differently, it would’ve been to allow us to go to the end of May. And I think, frankly, that we’d be in a better place today than we are.”

The conservative majority state Supreme Court in mid-May struck down the guv’s “Safer at Home” order, arguing DHS did not have the authority to maintain an emergency order beyond the 60-day statutory limit.

He added that if he’d known the Supreme Court was going to “create such chaos for us” and that the federal government was going to taper off its relief efforts, he wouldn’t have waited for the federal CARES Act stimulus funding to begin coronavirus testing and precautionary measures. He said he would’ve instead started a testing regimen “immediately,” paying for it with “whatever money we had.”

He then said he wished the GOP-controlled state Legislature had held its special session earlier than it did, blaming the lawmakers for the state missing out on millions in federal Unemployment Insurance dollars.

Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

— Charter Communications, Inc. announced it will invest an additional $100,000 to support the City of Milwaukee and its residents through a series of activities and events with Milwaukee nonprofits in advance of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“In less than a week, all eyes will be on Milwaukee as we host the Democratic National Convention,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “I am appreciative of Charter for partnering with local nonprofit organizations to provide services and virtual programming that will help improve the lives of many residents in our city.”

The community impact support is part of a broader $1.4 million investment in conjunction with the DNC. Charter will serve as a premier connectivity provider for the convention and has built and upgraded the broadband infrastructure in downtown Milwaukee to serve the Wisconsin Convention Center, Panther Arena and Miller High Life Theater, according to Charter’s release.

The company noted it also committed to a similar investment for the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Community organizations to be highlighted include: Sojourner Family Peace Center, YWCA of Southeast Wisconsin, Benedict Center, Milwaukee Urban League, Milwaukee Public Schools and Revitalize Milwaukee, among others. 

“Milwaukee is a special city that many of our employees call home,” said Gary Underwood, Charter’s vice president of state government affairs. “We felt the best way to give back was to build on our longstanding community presence through a special program that honors the DNC host city providing resources and support to several nonprofit organizations to help further their good work.”

See the release for highlights from Charter’s week long community impact program: 

— Evers today identified testing and contact tracing as two priorities for CARES Act money the state has yet to allocate.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau earlier this week identified nearly $1.8 billion the state has allocated from the federal aid it received to address COVID-19 costs. That left about $243.7 million that hadn’t been designated yet.

The Evers administration unveiled a dashboard yesterday so the public can track how the state has spent the money. It comes as some Republicans have raised questions following a U.S. Treasury report that showed a fraction of the money had been spent by June 30. The Evers administration has said that summary didn’t account for some money released after July 1 as well as the designations identified for the funds.

Evers said not all of the money has been allocated yet so the state has flexibility to deal with some costs. He anticipated testing and contact tracing to go through year’s end and “ratchet up as we move forward.”

“It costs money, and we will do everything in our power to make sure that we continue to do that. That is the overall first priority,” Evers said.

See more on the dashboard:

— Department of Health Services officials say it will be two weeks before trends indicate whether the statewide mask mandate was effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19.  

As far as success from another standpoint, Evers said “anecdotally, I think it has made a difference.”

After conversations with business owners, specifically retailers, Evers said the additional support from the state to mandate masks has been helpful for them. He also noted school support for the mask mandates. He said districts were concerned before the mandate about parents refusing to mask up their kids. 

And if the trend line for COVID-19 infections doesn’t go down, Evers said he “can’t imagine” that “we’ll stop wearing a mask.”

— Wisconsin reports 943 new COVID-19 cases after receiving a total of 12,415 tests, bringing the percentage of positive tests per total tests up to 7.6 from 4.8.

The seven-day average for percent positive tests rose to 6.9 percent from 6.3 percent, and the cumulative positive tests per total tests is over 5.7 percent and rising, according to DHS’ figures. That continues to be above the 5 percent threshold for which health officials are aiming.

The seven-day average of daily confirmed cases rose to 775 from 760.

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 63,206. DHS reports that 53,239 have recovered. Meanwhile, 1.6 percent of patients have died and 8.2 percent have been hospitalized.

Evers stressed that COVID-19 continues to have a disproportionate impact on communities of color as Black, Latinx and Indigenous Wisconsinites have higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

“The infection rate for Latinx Wisconsinites is over five times that of white Wisconsinites, and Black Wisconsinites are experiencing a death rate over four times higher than their white counterpart,” he said.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— The state also recorded seven new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the toll to 1,018.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (462), Racine (78), Waukesha (61), Kenosha (60), Brown (54), Dane (38), Rock (26), Walworth (24), Washington (22), Winnebago (18), Ozaukee (18), Grant (16), Waupaca (16), Outagamie (14), Marathon (10), Sheboygan (8), Clark (8), Fond du Lac (8), Dodge (5), Jefferson (5), Marinette (5), St. Croix (5), Eau Claire (4), Forest (4) and Richland (4). 

Barron, Door, Pierce and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Columbia, Kewaunee, Monroe, Polk, Trempealeau and Wood counties report two deaths each.

Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marquette, Oconto, Rusk, Taylor and Waushara counties report one death each.

— From Harleys to Havarti, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and Johnson Financial Group will host the “Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin’’ contest for a fifth straight year. 

The annual competition aims to highlight the state’s manufacturing industry, which employs one in six Wisconsinites.

“Wisconsin’s manufacturers have shown resiliency and determination in the face of COVID-19,” said WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer. “As we approach manufacturing month in October, we hope this contest will showcase the spirit and tenacity of the state’s largest industry and its hundreds of thousands of dedicated workers.”

Any product that is manufactured in Wisconsin qualifies for the contest, and nominations will be accepted starting Monday through Sep. 4. 

This is the fourth year that WMC and Johnson Financial Group have partnered for this contest. 

“We are proud to once again join WMC in sponsoring such an energized contest,” said Johnson Financial Group CEO Jim Popp. “Wisconsin’s manufacturers make some of the coolest products in the world, and we are eager to find out what will be named the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin this year.”

Nominate a product at

See the release: 


# Health secretary discourages fans at Packers games this fall

# Visit Milwaukee launches virtual tour of city ahead of the DNC

# Ron Johnson says he hopes stimulus talks ‘remain broken down’



– Farm projects delayed by COVID construction backlog 

– Dairy co-op urges public to ask for latest milkfat science in dietary guidelines 

– Crop Forecast: WI Corn, Soybeans Expected to Set Records 

– Despite Spring Challenges, Apples are Looking Good 


– The Equitable Bank appoints new CEO, CFO 


– Reptiles And Amphibians Alert 


– Milwaukee-based Healics sold to employees 

– Epic Systems says employees can work from home until at least 2021 

– Ascension Wisconsin promotes exec to chief operating officer 


– Ansay & Associates acquirers Brookfield-based insurance agency 


– Arandell files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy 

– Generac expresses interest in bidding on parts of Briggs & Stratton 

– Harley-Davidson dealers are active and prepping Labor Day weekend rallies 


– Madison’s alt-weekly Isthmus announces shift to nonprofit news after COVID-19 close

– Facebook groups trading fake Amazon reviews remain rampant 


– Legislature releases records of Staush Gruszynski sexual harassment probe

– Takeaways from the August primary elections in Madison

– Asian American, African Immigrant, Black Conservative: Diverse Candidates Win Wisconsin Primaries


– Grocery properties face pricing upheaval as landlords respond to Covid-19 


– Two Weeks Later, Wisconsin’s Mask Mandate Remains In Place


– Horizon League cancels fall season sports, hitting UWM, UW-Green Bay 


– Milwaukee’s average daily room rate surpasses $90 


– State’s Airports Still Seeing Large Drops In Travel, But Numbers Improving For Some 


– Sara Meaney: Wisconsin tourism needs your help


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

– Paper Council: Selects Sen. Testin as the trade association’s Legislator of the Year 

– Marshfield Clinic Health System: Helping clients with essential supplies during trying times 

– Association of Local Health Departments, Boards, WPHA: Announce 2019-2020 Friends of Public Health 

– Great Water Alliance: Federal financing means big savings for water ratepayers, Mayor says 

– Wisconsin Restaurant Association: DNC participants being asked to avoid bars and restaurants