MON AM News: Recent study shows Milwaukee apartment conversions at an all-time high; AirDeck helps create on-demand business presentations

— Apartment conversions are at an all-time high in the U.S. and Milwaukee, according to a recent study from RENTCafe, an apartment search website.

The analysis found that throughout the last 70 years, nearly 2,000 old buildings were converted into residential apartments in the U.S., including around 800 in the last decade alone. Milwaukee has converted 36 old buildings since the 1980s, which brought a total of 3,262 apartments to the market. More than half of them were delivered in the last decade.

Milwaukee ranks among the top 10 cities nationally for adaptive reuse — reusing an existing building for a purpose other than what it was originally intended for. The city is tied with Cleveland and is ahead of larger cities such as Dallas and Seattle. Chicago ranks No. 1 with 91 converted apartment buildings.

“Adaptive reuse is important for cities like Milwaukee, which has a rich history with distinct architectural and building characteristics,” said UW-Milwaukee Prof. Lingqian Hu, who chairs the university’s Department of Urban Planning. “The buildings that are preserved generally have solid structural integrity and prominent locations, which can continue to attract new users to these buildings and the neighborhoods.”

One of Milwaukee’s first repurposed buildings is the old CW Fischer Furniture Store and Warehouse, which created 112 new units, according to RENTCafe. The most recent adaptive reuse project is Milwaukee Fortress in 2019, which added 132 new apartments to the local rental market.

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— Colectivo leadership argued a union would provide “zero benefit” to employees as cafe workers try to unionize. The comment followed an announcement for a reverse boycott over the holiday weekend.

“It’s our belief that introducing a union into Colectivo would not only change the open, collaborative and direct-relationship culture we’ve painstakingly built here over those 27 years, but also a union presents zero benefit to the highly transient and part time employee base we serve,” said Scott Schwebel, marketing director at the Milwaukee-based chain of cafes.

The most recent attempt for employees seeking to unionize was a reverse boycott. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Locals 494 in Milwaukee and 1220 in Chicago assisted the effort with new measures this weekend. This included “A Day of Action” on Small Business Saturday to encourage Colectivo employees in their bid and provide added revenue to the employer.

“When the pandemic started, it took employees emailing Human Resources and a petition signed by 1403 people in order for them to look out for our safety and close the cafes,” said Kait Dessoffy, a full-time Colectivo shift lead. “As Workers, we just don’t have a lot of strategic input at this point.”

The boycott asked customers to support the bid for safe working conditions and fair wages by ordering coffee “IBEW Strong!!” through the Colectivo app. 

Colectivo respects the right of all workers to organize and in the right circumstance a union can make sense for long-term or tenured professions, according to Schwebel. 

“Many of our coworkers are with us for a short stop along their journey and then on their way to other adventures, not with us as baristas for life seeking a pension,” he explained. Schwebel argued that dues, mandatory taxes, fees and third party compliance that come with forced organization is a “penalty to employment” and purely a financial win for the union.  

“It’s important to note that presently Colectivo coworkers are not ‘collectively’ demanding the right to form a union,” he added. “In fact, only a small number of our employees are openly advocating for a union while most of our co-workers find this pursuit distracting, needless and without any tangible merit.”

Hillary Laskonis, another Colectivo employee organizing the union, said the company claims it has an open-door policy for employees to walk into offices, such as the CEO’s, to talk. 

“The problem is, we can’t walk through their doors together. That is essentially what a union would be and that’s where they draw the line,” she continued. “When we are able to form a union, we feel every worker would have a collective voice and an equal seat at the table. If the owners of Colectivo don’t succeed, the employees don’t succeed.”

— Over 20,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 and over 190 people died from the virus during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. 

Since Tuesday afternoon’s Department of Health Services update, 20,728 new coronavirus cases brought the cumulative total to 384,701. DHS’ reported probable cases bring that total to 409,054 cases. 

A person is counted as a probable case of COVID-19 if they are not positive by a confirmatory laboratory test method, but have either tested positive using an antigen test method, have had coronavirus symptoms or been exposed to COVID-19, or had COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 listed on the death certificate.

The seven-day average for daily confirmed cases is 4,289 from 5,732 on Tuesday. 

The DHS coronavirus dashboard shows the seven-day average of new confirmed cases per total people tested is at 28.7 percent, up 1 percentage point from Friday. In terms of total tests collected, the average positive test percentage is at 12.6, up from 12.3 percent.

The state reports 69,894 active infections, while 311,438 patients have recovered.

One hundred and ninety-two deaths brought the state’s death toll to 3,307. Probable deaths bring that figure to 3,487. 

Deaths among probable cases are those that have had a probable case of COVID-19 and are reported to have died from causes related to COVID-19 or a death certificate that lists COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 as an underlying cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death is reported to DHS but the state’s disease surveillance system has no record of laboratory evidence for SARS-CoV-2.

The seven-day average for daily deaths due to the virus is 43 deaths per day. One month ago, the average was 35 deaths per day. Two months ago, it was seven.

— The latest Wisconsin Hospital Association coronavirus update shows COVID-19 hospitalizations in Wisconsin at 1,824 with 398 intensive care patients statewide.

 Those are the lowest those numbers have been since early November.

The Alternate Care Facility at State Fair Park counts six coronavirus patients. The West Allis field hospital opened Oct. 14 as an overflow facility for hospitals statewide. It is ready to serve up to 500 patients. 

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

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— Three state agencies including DHS recently launched WisHealth Careers, a multimedia campaign to encourage Wisconsinites to enter the health care field.

In partnership with the Department of Safety and Professional Services and the Department of Workforce Development, the campaign seeks to reach all Wisconsinites in search of meaningful employment by using both traditional and social media. 

Residents will see the call to action on television, radio and local newspapers. The campaign will also use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“Our ability to fight COVID-19 depends on having a robust workforce caring for our most vulnerable residents,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm. “The surge in cases has put a strain on every community in the state, and we need motivated Wisconsinites to step up and fill in where they are needed most.”

In response, DHS has developed several emergency training options to respond to the unprecedented need for additional staff to join the workforce. In addition, this call to action extends to previously certified nurse aides whose certification has lapsed.

The agency recently allocated an additional $80 million to long-term care facilities to cover losses and expenses related to COVID-19 and support additional hiring. In addition, Gov. Tony Evers recently set aside $40 million to further address hospital and skilled nursing facility staffing shortages.

Employers wishing to post their open health care positions on the portal must first register on the site. Detailed instructions on registering and posting positions on the Job Center of Wisconsin are available here: 


Those interested in pursuing a career in health care can visit the Job Center of Wisconsin: 

— Tourism Secretary Sara Meaney will soon leave her post to pursue an executive leadership role outside of state government.

“Sara has been a relentless advocate for the tourism industry even before the pandemic, but especially as it has faced unprecedented challenges this past year,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a release. “I’m incredibly grateful for Sara’s support and service these past two years, and I wish her and her family all the best.”

Meaney was among the first officials Evers named to his cabinet in December 2018. The Senate Local Government, Small Business, Tourism, and Workforce Development Committee in September 2019 signed off on her nomination but she never received a floor vote in the chamber. 

After the announcement, Meaney posted on LinkedIn that she is grateful for the guv’s steady leadership. 

Anne Sayers, the agency’s deputy secretary, will lead Tourism on an interim basis following Meaney’s departure.

“Wisconsin tourism has a strong future ahead, under future leadership,” Meaney wrote. “I am confident that Anne Sayers will serve you well as Acting Secretary until Governor Evers names my replacement.”

See the release:

See Meaney’s LinkedIn post: 

— The entertainment industry has increasingly become “on-demand” with movie, television and music streaming services. But in the business world, people still rely on real-time communication and meetings.

Madison entrepreneur Jason Weaver found it difficult to align schedules with business contacts to have a live Zoom meeting or phone call to review documents or presentations. Sending presentations over email without narration also lacks a layer of communication, he found, especially in our on-demand world.

To solve this problem, Weaver developed AirDeck in March 2019. 

“Companies spend countless hours going back and forth reviewing documents and presentations,” Weaver said. “So much valuable time is wasted by needing to have Zoom meetings or phone calls to make edits and suggested changes to documents or to walk through a sales presentation.” 

Weaver is an experienced technology entrepreneur. Prior to starting AirDeck, Weaver founded and successfully exited from two technology companies: Shoutlet, a leading social media management platform, and Spendsetter, a mobile loyalty platform. 

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Read more stories authored by graduating students in UW-Madison’s Department of Life Sciences Communication, highlighting various early-stage businesses in Wisconsin and their founders:


# ‘They’re still sacrificing’: One Madison veteran remembered as death toll climbs to 42 at King veterans home

# Microsoft, gener8tor will offer job skills program to more locations nationally after success of northeastern Wisconsin pilot

# Paper Company’s ‘Pause’ On Mill Sale Leaves Laid-Off Workers In Limbo



– Wisconsin Corn Growers Expected To Bring In Record Yields 

– Maple Leaf Cooperative Launches Go Fund Me to Help Pay Winter Bills at the Factory 

– Dairy Innovation Hub holds first Dairy Summit 


– U.S. Bank closing more Twin Cities-area branches 


– Record-setting bitcoin faces test after volatile week 


– Rockwell touts its role helping suppliers to AstraZeneca, others scale up for Covid-19 vaccines 


– Need for the new Milwaukee Parks Foundation highlighted by 2020 


– Microbrewery planned in West Allis across from City Hall 

– Milwaukee Tool southeast Wisconsin expansions march ahead with two buildings in the works 

– Generac among bright spots in uneven recovery for area manufacturers 


– New Lawsuit Asks State Supreme Court To Toss Nov. 3 Election Results 


– Mandel Group moving forward with more apartments, commercial buildings next to West Allis Farmers Market 


– Digital first-timers fuel Black Friday ecommerce surge 

– Kroger shuffles tech jobs as it enacts ‘transformative’ changes 

– Wausau Mall Would Be Razed For Public Market, Retail Development Under Plan 

– Wisconsin Musician Creates Special Masks For Brass, Woodwind Players 


– NFL teams lowering attendance expectation, bracing for local revenue shortfall 


– Avalon, Rosebud, Times owner — struggling with just one cinema open — has message for Hollywood 

– Milwaukee hotel occupancy drops below 30% 


– Waves or ripples? Too early to tell what’s next for trade 


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