FRI AM News: UW Prof argues for quality, affordable workforce housing; WisBusiness: The Podcast with Marty Piette, Green Bay international airport

— Inadequate workforce housing in Wisconsin contributes to homelessness, high living costs, long commute times and health risks, according to UW-Madison Prof. Kurt Paulsen.

Workforce housing, loosely defined as housing that is affordable to people in lower- and middle- income levels, is meant to allow people to work and live in the same area for a reasonable price.

Paulsen, an associate professor of housing, land use and municipal finance, explained that while most workforce housing is meant to house people within the workforce, it is also meant to house people who aren’t in the workforce and need affordable housing. 

As millennials reach an age when many will want to buy their first homes, baby boomers are looking to reduce their living costs because their income has decreased in retirement. These two largest age groups in the U.S. are driving a strong demand for workforce housing in Wisconsin.

“This will be one of the biggest challenges we face as a state: making sure that we’re providing adequate housing and homeownership opportunities for the millennials while also addressing the needs of a continuously aging population,” Paulsen said during a recent Legislative Council 2020 Symposia Series on Workforce Housing.

Housing prices in Wisconsin have been increasing over the past few years, but not as quickly as the rest of the U.S. housing market. Still, Paulsen said statewide deficiencies in workforce housing have affected Black Wisconsinites more than other races.

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— This week’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Marty Piette, airport director of the Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport. 

Seven months into the global coronavirus pandemic, the Green Bay airport is quiet — even during the Packers season. It’s passenger traffic is down 50 percent compared to the same time last year, Piette said. The good piece of news, however, is that the figure is up compared to the national average which is down 75 percent. 

Flyers can expect changes inside the airport including daily sterilizations and UVC light technology to sterilize surfaces. The airports are also almost completely touch-free, according to Piette. 

“Everybody is kind of doing as much as we possibly can to make it a safe environment to travel,” he said. 

January and February were record months for the airport. That dropped off in March due to the pandemic. Piette said the airport will be “nowhere near” those passenger levels this year. Even 2021 is optimistic to expect traffic to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, he said.

“The airlines are planning for probably two to three years before we see the same passenger levels,” Piette said. “I think it really all hinges around two things: so, the vaccine, when that becomes available, then I think we’ll see people return to travel; along those lines as well, it’s the business travel segment.”

The growth that the airport is seeing right now is leisure travel and very little business travel, he said. 

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— A bonus “Talking Trade’ segment features’s Jeff Mayers and Shanghai trade specialist Atty. Kelvin Ma, who got his law degree at UW-Madison, discussing how the Chinese business community views the ban on Tik-Tok and the U.S. trade war.

The video podcast explores trade issues affecting Wisconsin and the Midwest.

See this special edition of the show, supported by the Center for East Asian Studies at UW-Madison: 

— Gov. Tony Evers does not hold the authority to mandate masks, but Wisconsinites should wear masks to keep businesses open, said U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher.

“All of us as individual citizens need to step up,” the Green Bay Republican said in a Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce virtual event. “It’s a small price to pay if that keeps a business alive in my district, as imperfect as it is.”

Gallagher said initial CDC guidelines discouraging masks in an effort to prevent panic buying continues to feed into anti-mask rhetoric in conservative communities.

“The skepticism is grounded in something real,” Gallagher said. “The scientists were not completely transparent about masks.”

Gallagher also said lack of activity in schools and government due to COVID-19 could have long-term consequences.

“I’m very worried that we’re going to lose a generation of kids right now,” Gallagher said of online K-12 learning. Since children are at lower risk for COVID-19 complications, Gallagher said, they should be learning face-to-face and resume playing sports.

The House is not scheduled to meet again until Nov. 16, which could impede plans for additional COVID-19 relief legislation, Gallagher added.

“If we’re not there hashing it out, I just think the prospects for a deal get dimmer and dimmer,” Gallagher said. “The political incentives are pointing in the wrong direction.”

— The U.S Department of Agriculture is investing $3 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Wisconsin. 

This investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the federal ReConnect Program.

“USDA supports both farmers and rural communities through investments in farm operations and essential infrastructure,” USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said. “Broadband is so important to farms and other businesses as it can help improve the quality of life in rural communities and help grow rural economies.”

Ntera, LLC will use the money to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 2,044 people, 33 farms and 33 businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Chippewa, Rusk and Taylor counties.

“Rural Development achieves e-connectivity success when partners like Ntera LLC, step up to the plate to bring broadband to the most rural areas in the communities they serve,” said Frank Frassetto, the state director of USDA Rural Development in Wisconsin.

Listen to a recent WisBusiness podcast with Frassetto:  

— The national decline in manufacturing production rivals the Great Recession, according to economist Chad Moutray.

Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers, spoke Wednesday in a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce briefing. He discussed the 20 percent national decline in manufacturing between February and April and sector trends since.

In Wisconsin, manufacturing produces 20 percent of state GDP, which experienced a 31.4 percent decline in the first and second quarter — the largest drop since quarterly numbers began being collected in 1947, according to Moutray.

Following 2018, which was a banner year for most manufacturers, the manufacturers association survey recorded a crash in member optimism from 90 percent in quarter one of 2019 to 33.9 following the hit of COVID-19.

The manufacturing sector has seen very robust signs of rebound, Moutray said, noting slight improvements in the labor market, housing market and retail sales. However, he noted that getting past the COVID-19 pandemic is key to economic recovery. 

With a presidential election on the way, Moutray said “there is concern on the tax side given that manufacturers have benefitted from a globally competitive tax code.”

He added that Dem presidential candidate Joe Biden’s plan to push tax reform from 21 percent to 28 percent “is a problem as it relates to our overall competitiveness.” 

— Wisconsin reported a record 3,132 new COVID-19 cases yesterday. The seven-day average is now at 2,381, up from 841 one month ago.

The state also reports nine new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s toll to 1,424.

The confirmed cases were out of 16,656 people tested. The seven-day average of new confirmed cases per total people tested was at 17.1 percent as of Wednesday. In this metric, people are only counted once no matter how many times they’ve been tested.

But in terms of total tests collected — one person can have multiple tests — the positive test percentage was at 9.3 percent as of Wednesday. In this metric, people are included each time they are tested.

The state reports 141,830 cumulative COVID-19 cases with 113,596 of those people recovered.

The death rate for Wisconsin residents who have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 is at 1 percent. Milwaukee County leads the state’s count with 548 reported deaths.

Counties reporting deaths in the double digits include: Racine (98), Waukesha (96), Brown (72), Kenosha (68), Dane (43), Winnebago (38), Washington (37), Outagamie (35), Walworth (35), Rock (34), Marathon (24), Waupaca (22), Ozaukee (21), Sheboygan (20), Dodge (19), Grant (19), Fond du Lac (14) and Portage (12).

Nine counties in Wisconsin haven’t reported any COVID-19 deaths: Chippewa, Crawford, Douglas, Green Lake, Iowa, Lafayette, Menominee, Pepin and Price.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— The U.S. Department of Agriculture is granting nearly $1 million to expand telehealth services in northeast Wisconsin. 

The grant, which totals $996,281, allows St. Vincent and the Hospital Sisters Health System to purchase telehealth equipment and improve access to telehealth services, including opioid and substance abuse treatment and tele-stroke care. 

“Increased access to telehealth has never been more important,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay. He urged the USDA to approve this grant application in a letter earlier this year.

Josh Gustafson, director of business and strategic partnerships at HSHS Wisconsin, said the award for telemedicine equipment will serve 455,000 lives in 20 rural counties — patients that have “otherwise limited access to health care resources.” 

The grant will serve 13 hospitals and clinical sites in rural communities.

— Green Bay Area Public Schools will receive $20,000 to purchase laptops with blue light-filtering technology. 

The donation from UnitedHealthcare Vision is part of a national public awareness campaign focused on children’s eye health, helping support kids as they spend more time learning remotely and using digital devices for fun.

People spend an average of 13 hours per day on digital devices, and children are especially at risk of vision-related issues stemming from excessive exposure to blue light, according to UnitedHealthcare’s release. Developing eyes generally allow for more high-energy blue light to reach the retinas. Vision problems, if left untreated, may result in learning issues and may hinder academic performance and development. 

The donation to Green Bay schools is part of a combined total of $100,000 to five school districts across the country, with the funds in some cases being used to purchase laptops for students with embedded blue light blocking technology. 

— Pang Vang, multi-business owner, educator and philanthropist, kicked off the Lieutenant Governor’s Conference on Small Business Development with a message for entrepreneurs to seek their passion.

Vang, who was Tuesday’s keynote speaker, is the founder of Project Hope, a Milwaukee-based youth empowerment organization. She’s also the owner of Style & Grace, a salon in West Allis. 

“Money is ever flowing, you know what’s not? What brings you that money,” Vang said. “Like a river, it’s there, it’s flowing. How will you bring that water home?”

She told entrepreneurs in her virtual address that challenges and fear will hinder how and how much one is able to bring “water” home to their family. When an individual can provide for their family, though, life turns out well. That drive to provide for one’s family becomes a passion to help the community, Vang continued. Entrepreneurs will teach their neighbors to bring home water and therefore benefit the community.

“Your motivation isn’t the money; your motivation comes back to you taking care of yourself and the people you love,” she said. “You have to find what is the bigger picture and what you consider your success, and will I guarantee you, what you wanted in the beginning is going to change what you actually need later on.”

The Lieutenant Governor’s Conference on Small Business Development was a three-day event that wrapped up yesterday.


# Ascension Wisconsin to open three urgent care locations in southeastern Wisconsin 

# Housing markets in Wisconsin among least vulnerable to Covid-19 impact, report finds 

# Wisconsin Officials Confirm First Coronavirus Deaths In State’s Mink Industry 



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