FRI AM News: Madison hotel finishes $15M reno during global pandemic; WisBusiness: The Podcast features DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim

— The Sheraton Madison Hotel on John Nolen Drive is well-positioned next to the Alliant Energy Center and is easily accessible to the beltline, bike trail and downtown Madison.

When acquired in 2017 by the DeFoor Brothers, its location stimulated a vision of success and plans for a $15 million renovation beginning in September 2018. Two years later, the hotel has completed the finishing touches of its remodel, surviving an economic crisis sparked by a pandemic that has savaged the hospitality industry. 

The target completion date was April of this year, but was delayed to August due to disruptions in overseas shipping, custom work and contractor shortages due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sheraton saw a seven-figure loss of business for the year, according to hotel General Manager Adam Gautreaux. The team was cut by 75 percent during the pandemic and have since hired back 25 percent of those people impacted. 

However, Sheraton never closed — not for the construction and not for the pandemic — even with the hospitality industry being hit especially hard in the spring and early summer. 

“For us, with completing renovations and getting those efforts finished, it made sense to try to push through and remain open and operating, especially with how much was being invested, to have a revenue stream,” Gautreaux said.

Read the full story and see images at 

— This week’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim. 

Crim said many Black families have “the talk” where parents talk to their kids about policing and how to act around the police to avoid coming to harm. This summer’s events — George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha — put inequities in the Black community at the forefront for Americans. 

“That’s been the awakening is many racial backgrounds, many people of all walks of life witnessing and seeing what can happen when things are inequitable and unjust,” she said.

The DSPS secretary has an extensive background in developing and promoting Black leaders. She leads the most diverse agency in the Evers administration, and Crim serves as the only Black woman in the governor’s cabinet.

She said the social justice crisis happening now is an opportunity for businesses to look across their agencies and see if they are making the best decisions they can for the workforce and Wisconsinites. 

“The way you can make some of that best decision is by having different perspectives of values and issues articulated,” Crim said. “When you have a diverse workforce, you’re able to better respond to diverse issues that may arise, or really all issues, because you have many perspectives present.”

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— After nearly a full year at the Wisconsin Hospital Association, Mark Grapentine is heading back to the Wisconsin Medical Society, where he worked previously since January  2003.

Grapentine’s final day at WHA is today, and he’ll begin work as the chief policy and advocacy officer at WMS on Sept. 8. There he will work with the society’s physician leadership and members, as well as CEO Dr. Bud Chumbley, on advancing WMS’ mission to advance the practice of medicine, improve the health of the public and support health care public policy.

“Being able to work closely with physicians again is something I’m really looking forward to,” Grapentine told “They’re so passionate about taking care of their patients, it’s very rewarding to learn from them about what’s working, what can improve, and then getting that information to policymakers in a timely and effective way. There’s nothing quite like the patient-physician relationship, so being able to support what’s so important to all of us is really rewarding both professionally and personally.”

He said he’s learned a lot at WHA in his year there and is looking forward to collaborating with WHA on health care issues down the road.

“Health care in Wisconsin is quite remarkable — I think a lot of folks take that for granted,” Grapentine said. “I’m glad there are a lot of smart, caring people at places like the Society and WHA working to keep Wisconsin a national health care leader. You really look forward to going to work when you can dig into meaningful issues that are important for every single person in the state.”

— The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity will hold an “after hours” virtual listening session for residents to share what it will take to advance rural prosperity in Wisconsin.

The forum will be from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Sept. 8.

“We know many residents who might want to speak to the commission are busy with work and other responsibilities, so we’re offering an evening listening session to accommodate their schedules,” said Kelliann Blazek, director of the Office of Rural Prosperity at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. “The commission wants to make it as easy as possible for everyone to participate in this important process.”

Tuesday’s event is the second of three listening sessions. The commission will hold its final forum on Sept. 16 from 3-5 p.m. Residents may also join the discussion by submitting written comments by Sept. 30 to the office’s website or arrange meetings with commission members through WEDC.

The listening session will be streamed live online for those who register for the event. Register in advance: 

The commission, established along with the Office of Rural Prosperity in January, aims to collect public input early this fall and then present Gov. Tony Evers with a report by Oct. 31. The report will help shape the guv’s state budget proposal next year.

— Four Wisconsin U.S. representatives are calling on the federal departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to reconsider dietary guidelines that prohibit full-fat dairy products from being included in federal programs, such as school lunch programs.

In a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay; Ron Kind, D-La Crosse; Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah; and Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua argued that full-fat dairy products are nutrient-packed and contain proteins needed to promote a healthy weight and fend of chronic disease.

“Updating the policies on saturated fats and full-fat dairy products will not only benefit recipients of government feeding programs, including our children in schools across the country, but also our nation’s dairy farmers and the rural economies they support by providing the potential to increase domestic demand for the healthy, wholesome milk they produce,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Read the full letter: 

— The state has opened a second round of applications for CARES Act funding for health care providers affected by COVID-19.  

Eligible institutions include: home and community-based service providers, assisted living facilities; nursing homes; emergency medical services providers and emergency physician independent practice groups.

The second round application will allow eligible providers to include COVID-19-related losses and expenses for June, July and August of 2020. The first round covered March, April and May.  

Also, in calculating the second round of payments, DHS will not deduct other CARES Act payments that providers have received, including Payroll Protection Program loans.

The application period runs from Sept. 4 until Sept. 30, and payments are to go to providers by the end of October. 

Apply here: 

— Gov. Tony Evers also directed $30 million of federal CARES Act dollars to the state’s Department of Children and Families to support early care and education providers with an additional round of Child Care Counts payments.

“Our early care educators stepped up in a big way for Wisconsin families – and their kids – to help keep our state’s economy strong during the pandemic,” Evers said. “Frankly, our state needs them now more than ever. These funds are a recognition of the vital role they play in our communities.”

According to the governor’s release, at the height of the public health emergency, just under 40 percent of child care providers — 1,729 of 4,444 — closed their doors. That number has decreased to just over 12 percent of providers remaining closed — 538 providers — as of Aug. 27.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. highlighted the importance of early care and education to the state’s economy in its Wisconsin Tomorrow plan. 

“Wisconsin families rely on access to child care in order to stay employed,” said DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson. “That is especially true for women, who still carry a disproportionate burden raising children. The additional funding the state is providing to early care and education will help to stabilize the industry and ensure families have safe and reliable options for care.”

The “Child Care Counts: COVID-19 Supplementary Payment Program” is designed to help counter those trends, according to the release. Evers’ funding will be distributed through two new programs: providing child care opportunities and funding staff recruitment and retention.

Applications will be available Sept. 9 and close Sept. 18. Payments will be issued on Sept. 26: 

— In addition to Child Care Counts payments, the State Emergency Operation Center has made personal protective equipment available for providers statewide. 

DCF is finalizing a survey that will be distributed to all regulated providers with information about how PPE can be accessed and distributed within the week.

— The governor also launched a $5 million grant program to assist Wisconsin cultural organizations that have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration, the COVID-19 Cultural Organization Grant Program provides organizations grant awards of up to $250,000 to cover pandemic-related impacts. These can include lost revenue, workers compensation costs, cleaning, and purchases of services or equipment to facilitate telework.

Dollars for the funding come from the federal CARES Act.

Grant applications are due to DOA by 2 p.m. on Sept. 30. Click here for program details:  

— In a Department of Health Services briefing, Gov. Tony Evers said “we’re getting close to the end” of CARES Act funding for those outside of government agencies. 

Yesterday’s funding announcements bring the guv’s allocation total to about $1.76 billion of the $2.2 billion allocated to Wisconsin from the feds. 

“We need to make sure we save money for testing, contact tracing and PPE,” he told reporters, noting that those are the state’s largest expenditures. 

Evers also expressed his concern about federal money running out the year-end unless Congress passes state support for 2021. 

— DHS Secretary Andrea Palm says masks are working as Wisconsin reported 727 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases down to 674 from 696. 

“Face coverings help prevent that transmission, which is why a mask order is the right strategy,” Palm said. She added that states with mask requirements experienced significant declines in daily infection rates compared to those without statewide mandates.

Since Evers issued his statewide mask mandate July 30, “we have seen a decrease in our COVID-19 case activity levels and in our daily trends,” Palm added. “The science and the data tell us that face coverings make a difference.”

However, the seven-day average for percent positive tests remains at 8.4 percent, indicating that there is more community spread “than we want to see,” according to Palm. The ideal positive rate is below 5 percent. 

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said any one data point “does not tell the whole story” and “is just one perspective to look at.” 

“The percent positive rate could artificially go higher if we don’t test enough people,” he said.

All the counties in the state have a high or medium COVID-19 activity level; the statewide average is high, according to DHS data. 

“The virus is spreading in all communities,” Westergaard said. He added that “we all” need to do better to get to low or no community transmission.

The state received a total of 9,178 tests. The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 77,856, with 69,299 recovered. Meanwhile, 1.5 percent of patients have died.

— The state added four new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,146.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (494), Racine (91), Waukesha (75), Kenosha (65), Brown (58), Dane (40), Walworth (32), Washington (29), Rock (26), Outagamie (21), Winnebago (21), Grant (18), Ozaukee (18), Waupaca (18), Marathon (14), Fond du Lac (10), Sheboygan (9), Clark (8), Jefferson (7), St. Croix (7), Eau Claire (6), Marinette (6), Pierce (6), Dodge (5), Forest (4) and Richland (4).

Adams, Barron, Door, Sauk, Taylor and Wood counties report three deaths each. Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Columbia, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Monroe, Oconto, Polk, Trempealeau and Waushara counties report two deaths each.

Ashland, Bayfield, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Lincoln, Marquette, Portage and Rusk counties report one death each.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— As national reports indicate a COVID-19 vaccine is in the last phase of trials, DHS’ role will be to work with the federal government to prepare and plan for distribution.

DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said she’s “glad to be thinking and talking about it” as the agency begins work now on figuring out time frames for the vaccine and distribution, requirements around warehousing and storing, and priority populations. 

“We have a lot of work to do with the federal government to understand the status of those trials and the data that is coming out of them,” Palm said.

Westergaard noted that while the vaccine process has been compressed, it has not been shortcutted. In order to recommend a vaccine, there has to be convincing solid evidence that the vaccine is beneficial and not harmful.

“That process is underway,” he said. “Once the safety and the effectiveness questions are answered, then we would be in the position to help facilitate the distribution of the vaccine.”


# American Family unveils new logo for Brewers stadium

# Amazon grocery to open in vacated space at downsized Kohl’s store 

# Deb Archer announces retirement from position as president, CEO of Destination Madison 



– Class III Milk Price Announced at $19.77 for August 


– UW-Whitewater chancellor on paid leave as UW System investigates complaint 

– Parents Press For Dane County Schools To Teach In-Person During Pandemic 

– SW Tech Student Tests Positive for COVID-19; Programs Now Virtual for a Period of Time 


– Trump to provide Wisconsin $41 million in federal aid to address impact of violent protests in Kenosha 


Froedtert Health achieves positive financial quarter despite Covid-19 impact

– Wisconsin Prisons Have A Lower Rate Of COVID-19 Cases Than Most Neighboring States 


– Wisconsin Police Officers Could No Longer Be Required To Be US Citizens 

– Attorney General Josh Kaul declines to provide more details on knife found after Jacob Blake shooting, says most video recovered is dash-cam


– New GM Brown building up Milwaukee’s CBS station 


– Joe Biden Visits Kenosha, Urges Optimism And Unity In Wake Of Unrest 

– Madison alder denies using derogatory profanity during Tuesday meeting


– Luther Group acquires four New Berlin industrial buildings for $16 million  


– Over 100 Milwaukee restaurants and bars approved for in-person dining without capacity limits 


– E-commerce drives strong second quarter for Duluth Trading 


– Appleton company takes top spot at Startup Wisconsin Pitch at Summerfest Tech 


– Milwaukee hotel occupancy hovers at 40%, but leisure travel peak is over 


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

Green Bay Labor Council: Labor Day Drive-Thur Food Drive

SHINE: Closes $80-million Series C financing supported by Fidelity Management and Research Company LLC

Community Advocates: New federal eviction moratorium helpful for renters, but more assistance needed