THU AM News: Report outlines rural Wisconsin’s economic threats, opportunities; experts: hospitality comeback relies on consumer confidence, vaccine

— Workforce limitations, broadband gaps, housing shortages, health care affordability and industry stress are the economic challenges facing rural Wisconsin, according to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

WMC Foundation’s Future Wisconsin Project released its “Revitalizing Rural Wisconsin” report yesterday in an effort to bring attention to policies and ideas that can promote economic growth and workforce development in rural Wisconsin. 

“While the challenges facing rural Wisconsin may not be new, that does not diminish the need for action,” said WMC Foundation Executive Director Wade Goodsell.

The report also details a number of best practices and strategies — “Ideas that Work” — aimed at putting rural Wisconsin on a prosperous path.

This includes West Virginia’s Simulated Workplace program, which transforms career and technical education classrooms into authentic workplace environments. From 2010 to 2016, the number of high school seniors completing the program more than doubled, according to WMC’s report. 

Another example is the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education program, which promotes training that leads to an advanced manufacturing technician degree. It’s currently active in 13 states.

Read the full story at 

— A full hospitality industry comeback relies on consumer confidence in both businesses and the effectiveness of new COVID-19 vaccines, experts told a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce virtual event. 

A panel of hospitality industry leaders said they have been working to hold on to as many resources as they can throughout the pandemic in preparation for an effective vaccine, but almost every sector of the tourism and hospitality industry has suffered. 

Without assistance from federal and state governments soon, many businesses and artists will close their doors before guests, patrons and fans can return en masse, said VISIT Milwaukee President and CEO Peggy Williams-Smith.

Brewers President of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger added that most of the population must have some form of immunity to COVID-19 before a full comeback happens. 

“In terms of the overall economy, until we have maybe 70 percent of the population that either because they have been infected or they have been vaccinated, have immunity and we have a very low burden of COVID-19 in the community, it’s going to be hard to get back to normal,” he said. 

Schlesinger said the impact on the local and state economies from the pandemic’s drastic reduction in fans was obvious from the start. 

Read the full story at 

— The Department of Workforce Development’s unemployment backlog fell to 6.04 percent from 6.45 percent last week.

DWD records show the high was 16.4 percent between March 15 and May 23.

The current backlog is equal to about 65,348 unique claimants held up in adjudication by one or more weeks due to multiple issues. Compared to last week, that’s 4,722 fewer Wisconsinites waiting for a UI check.

Issue resolution is considered timely if completed within 21 days of the date the issue was detected. As of Friday, 56,084 claimants had been waiting for 21 days or more for their claim to be resolved. The agency continues to focus its efforts on reducing the wait time for outstanding claims related to the pandemic, especially ahead of its annual busy season.

“With the colder weather in Wisconsin come seasonal layoffs, which typically means an increase of about 100% in UI weekly claims filed,” DWD interim Secretary Amy Pechacek said. “While that number seems minimal compared with the 862% increase in weekly claims we’ve seen this year when compared to the same period in 2019, the Department is determined to resolve the older claims so that we can provide timelier resolutions for these annual filers.”

DWD has paid about 560,000 claimants over $4.42 billion since March 15. 

See the release: 

— Wisconsin residents who have exhausted their regular Unemployment Insurance benefits and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation may now apply for Extended Benefits.

EB provides up to 13 additional weeks of payments to individuals who have exhausted 26 weeks of regular UI benefits and 13 weeks of PEUC. The EB program does not apply to individuals collecting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

The payment amount is equivalent to the individual’s regular UI benefit amount. The first payable week is retroactive to the week ending May 23 of this year or the week after an individual has exhausted their regular UI and PEUC, whichever is later. The last payable week is the week ending Nov. 7. 

See details:

— The Wisconsin Institute for Discovery is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. 

On the UW-Madison campus, WID was created to explore new ways of generating innovation in science and engineering. Its research programs have generated more than 500 publications in diverse fields.

Since opening in 2010, the institute has been awarded and administered more than $22 million in grant funding from a variety of foundations and agencies. It also benefits from the state of Wisconsin’s initial investment in the Discovery Building and ongoing operational support.

Visit the website: 

— Assembly Republicans are proposing sweeping legislation to deal with COVID-19 that would place new restrictions on the closures that local officials can order to deal with the pandemic.

The bill also includes a provision requiring the administration to eliminate the backlog in unemployment claims. If certain benchmarks weren’t met, the Joint Finance Committee would have the power to cut the salaries of the Workforce Development secretary, deputy secretary and unemployment division administrator.

The 23-page summary of the bill from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau includes a host of changes that would address GOP complaints about some steps Gov. Tony Evers and local officials have taken during the pandemic. It also would give lawmakers oversight of the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the full story at 

— The Department of Health Services is conducting over 3,500 investigations in facilities across the state.

Workplaces outside the health care industry account for 1,008 of the investigations as of yesterday.

Long-term care facilities make up 883 of the investigations. Those facilities are reporting 925 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 26 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 11 — a figure that keeps climbing.

The state has 321 active nursing home investigations. About 91 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have died in the state were age 60 or older. 

Educational facilities account for 792 of the investigations.

The state is also conducting 453 investigations in “other settings,” which according to DHS include adult day care centers, restaurants, event spaces and religious settings.

Two hundred and fourteen of the investigations are in group housing facilities, including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 93 COVID-19 deaths or 3 percent of the state’s total. 

DHS marks 1,680 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 163 investigations in health care facilities.

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

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— Women in Wisconsin’s investing space are making strides, but there’s still more to do to expand their presence, according to a panel of industry leaders.

The Wisconsin Technology Council hosted a virtual Wisconsin WOMEN reception yesterday to discuss the growing role of women in angel investment, venture capital and entrepreneurship. WOMEN stands for Women Opportunities Mentors Entrepreneurs Networking.

The panel included Andrea Dlugos, co-manager of Wisconsin Investment Partners; Richelle Martin, managing director of the Winnow Fund; and Dana Guthrie, managing partner of Gateway Capital Partners.

“I think we are making strides in the right direction but we still have work to do,” Dlugos said. “Providing visibility to women in the investment world is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Wisconsin currently has 13 funds with female managers and five funds that have been founded by women, said Tech Council President Tom Still. He added the funds span the state from Milwaukee to the Northwoods and Madison to Green Bay. 

“There also appears to be a growing ‘youth movement’ that is attracting more women,” he said.

At Wisconsin Investment Partners, 20 of 82 active members are women — a number Dlugos is always looking to add to. 

In her role at the Winnow Fund, under the Badger Fund of Funds umbrella, Martin focuses on pre-seed stage investment in innovations coming from college and university campuses. She said the Badger Fund increased the number of women fund managers by 100 percent, including Guthrie. 

Both Guthrie and Dlugos said women offer a different perspective on investments, opening up more opportunities.

“Having any type of differing background or experience allows you to bring a different perspective to the table,” Guthrie said. “When you are looking at deals, you have an ability to connect and empathize that someone without that experience may not.”

Dlugos, Martin and Guthrie have felt welcomed and supported as members of the Wisconsin investment community, but being the only women in the room can be uncomfortable, they said.

“My approach to that is to just keep showing up until it is not weird anymore. Across the board, it is becoming normal for women to be a part of these events,” Martin said. “Wisconsin has been a great place for me to enter this ecosystem.”

The cure to unfamiliarity, Guthrie said, is having more women get involved in the space.


# Unemployment Payments Weeks Late in Nearly Every State

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– Foxconn’s incentive talks with state officials remain unresolved, but continue 


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– Region’s manufacturing sector continues growth, but production lost to COVID-19 

– Molson Coors investments in main Milwaukee brewery are boosting production 


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– City of Milwaukee tightens some Covid-19 capacity restrictions for restaurants, bars 

– Dane County Considers More Pandemic Restrictions As GOP Lawmakers Try To Limit Them 


– The Grocery Workers On The Front Lines Of The Pandemic 


– SBA approved 11 Wisconsin firms for a combined $110M in PPP loans. Another 91 were OK’d for $5M or more. 


– Wisconsin golf courses saw biggest increase in activity of 2020 season in October 

– Will fans take a Covid-19 test before attending a pro sporting event? 

– More Deer Harvested During 2020 Gun Season 


– Milwaukee Art Museum loses an estimated $10,000 per day being closed during pandemic 


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

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– Acuity: Named top employer for new graduates

– Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance, The Nature Conservancy: Lafayette County farms make progress on conservation

– The New North: UW Oshkosh COVID-19 impact survey shows Wisconsin businesses wrestle with making short versus long term changes to operations