TUE AM News: Internet companies seeing increased demand during pandemic; Foxconn to produce ventilators at Wisconsin factory

— Internet companies are adjusting to the increase in demand as more Wisconsinites work, learn and play “safer at home.”

“Every day in this COVID-19 world is a new day for us,” said AT&T Plains States President Scott VanderSanden.

So it is with other telecom companies, large and small.

Northern Telephone and Data, a provider in the Fox Valley region for about 27 years, has seen an increase of at least 35 percent in residential bandwidth use.

“Where we are not having any problems is where our new fiber optic network is,” William Miller, president of NTD, told WisBusiness.com. He added that the fiber optic network is only at about 30 percent-40 percent capacity. 

“Where we’re struggling is in our older copper networks that are rural customers,” he said. “Those networks are getting stressed upwards 80-90 percent of capacity.”

He said that while nobody is without service, NTD is seeing some customers struggle in rural areas. 

“The copper technology just doesn’t allow the greater bandwidth, so people are maxing out those systems.” 

But Miller said massive improvements are underway in rural areas across the state.

See more: http://www.wisbusiness.com/?p=1451156 

— Foxconn will be producing ventilators at its Wisconsin factory in partnership with Medtronic, according to Omar Ishrak, CEO of the medical device company. 

Speaking on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” Ishrak explained Medtronic has published an open-source initiative with the ventilator design, and had over 70,000 individual downloads. Plus, he said “some major players” have engaged with the effort, including Foxconn. 

He said Medtronic and Foxconn will be collaborating to produce ventilators in Wisconsin over the next four to six weeks. He said U.S. hospitals will be prioritized, as that’s where the greatest need is at the moment. 

“Exact numbers on those, we don’t know yet but we will be rolling into production,” he said yesterday. “We’re doing everything we can, working 24/7 with Foxconn to bring this up to the factory in Wisconsin.” 

A Foxconn spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Watch the video here: http://www.cnbc.com/video/2020/04/06/medtronic-ceo-omar-ishrak-on-ramping-up-ventilator-production.html 

— Farm groups in the state are contesting the classification of hemp product retailers as non-essential under Gov. Tony Evers stay-at-home order. 

In a letter sent to the guv, leaders of the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and Wisconsin Hemp Farmers and Manufacturers Association say WEDC has informed a retailer that the sale of hemp and hemp-related products is non-essential. 

“While we certainly appreciate and understand the enormous and unprecedented challenges Wisconsin is facing right now, we believe WEDC is misguided in its opinion and that hemp businesses are essential and therefore must not be required to close,” they wrote. 

This follows reports that several CBD stores around the state were shut down by local police after initially staying open days past Evers’ order to close took effect. 

WEDC has the ability to provide additional essential business designations outside of what’s spelled out in the guv’s order. But the agency has yet to use that power. As of yesterday, WEDC had received 3,918 inquiries about essential business status and had answered all but 19 of them. 

The letter notes that many questions remain unanswered for producers of hemp crops in the state. The ag group leaders express uncertainty about purchasing seeds and clones for planting and cultivation going into this year’s outdoor growing season. Plus they say they’re not sure if transportation of fertilizers, farm equipment and employees related to hemp production is considered non-essential. 

“Does hemp greenhouse production have to shut down? Can growers sell and transport hemp fiber bales to processors? WEDC’s opinion has many people asking these questions,” they wrote. 

See the letter: http://www.wisbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/GOV-Hemp-Products-4-1-3.pdf 

— A group of 40 GOP lawmakers is urging Gov. Tony Evers to reopen golf courses as outdoor recreation for people during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a letter to Evers, the group said golf could be a popular activity for people’s mental health during the pandemic, so long as courses use certain safety guidelines.

The letter’s recommendations include: clubhouses and dining remains closed; a four-person limit per hole; a one person per golf cart limit; and standard social distancing.

Evers’ stay-at-home order asks people to only leave the house for essentials like groceries and doctor’s appointments, but it also suggests walking the dog, visiting state parks or exercise like running or biking are okay with social distancing practices.

A spokeswoman for the guv didn’t respond to a request for comment.

See the letter:


— The latest report from RentCafe shows the pandemic is beginning to impact rental prices in Wisconsin, with apartment search numbers falling in the state across the country. 

Still, many of Wisconsin’s largest cities still had positive change in rents, though growth is largely lower than the same period last year. 

The average rent in Madison reached $1,269 in March for an increase of 2.3 percent over the year, which was “noticeably slower” than the previous year-over-year increase. 

Meanwhile, the average rent in Milwaukee kept the same growth rate of 1.8 percent, reaching $1,197 in March. The report shows rental costs were expected to “pick up speed” last month in line with typical trends, but the economic instability caused by the pandemic is taking its toll. 

Average rent decreased 0.1 percent in Wauwatosa, reaching $1,345 in March. And Greenfield also saw average rent fall, reaching $1,040 for a decrease of 0.9 percent. 

As in previous months, Racine is the least expensive city to rent in Wisconsin with $844 in average rent, and Brookfield is the most expensive, with $1,498. Racine had 4.6 percent growth and Brookfield 1.5 percent growth, the report shows. 

Brookfield is the only Wisconsin city included in the report where the average rent is higher than the national average of $1,474. 

See the report:  http://www.rentcafe.com/blog/rental-market/local-rent-reports/wisconsin-rent-report-march-2020/ 

— The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports 77 deaths due to COVID-19 and 2,440 confirmed cases. 

Milwaukee County reports 40 deaths. Washington and Ozaukee counties report nine deaths total. Dane County reports nine deaths. 

Waukesha County reports four deaths.

Fond du Lac, Rock, Racine and Sauk counties each report two deaths. 

Buffalo, Iron, Kenosha, Outagamie, Sheboygan, Waupaca and Winnebago counties each report one death. 

Fifty-nine counties report at least one confirmed case. Twenty-seven percent of confirmed cases have been hospitalized. 

There are 12 active labs that have the capacity to run about 3,563 tests per day. But according to DHS Secretary Andrea Palm, labs are not yet receiving enough samples to reach that capacity. Palm said DHS is looking at the next “targeted tranche” of people to test to meet that capacity, such as nursing home residents.

Click here for coronavirus resources and information: http://www.wispolitics.com/wisconsin-coronavirus-resources/ 

— Wisconsin is getting its share of personal protective equipment, better known as PPE, but Palm says there is still a shortage. 

DHS has distributed 104,695 respirators, 260,840 surgical masks, 48,168 face shields and 140,750 pairs of gloves from the strategic national stockpile for medical health professionals.

“However, what we have received from the strategic national stockpile barely begins to meet the need or the request of the Wisconsin health care system,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm during the webinar with the guv. 

From the buyback and donation program launched by Gov. Tony Evers, Palm said DHS distributed 15,195 respirators and 24,200 surgical masks to public safety staff such as police and fire departments. 

Palm cited a general nationwide shortage of PPE, but gave no specific number for how much Wisconsin health facilities need.

According to Palm, the federal stockpile is metered out to states based on population size. 

“We have gotten two of the three allocations that we will receive from the stockpile,” she said. “In addition to metering that out to local healthcare, long term care, hospitals, etc., we have started this buy-back and procurement program. And our goal is to supplement what we get from the strategic national stockpile to meet needs.”

DHS is also awaiting delivery on purchased supplies that will also be distributed to communities around the state. 

“We have also made all of these requests to FEMA so that we can continue to encourage our federal partners to help meet the needs we have here in Wisconsin,” said Palm.

— Evers and Palm also signed two orders to relax administrative rules for DHS to address staffing needs in Wiscosnin’s health care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first order addresses staffing needs and license renewals deadlines among other relaxed criterias. 

The other allows health provider licenses that would have expired during the health emergency to stay valid for 30 days.

“This order reduces regulatory burdens on facilities and emergency services and allows them to meet the critical needs of their residents and patients during this public health emergency,” said Palm. “We are all in this together, and this order provides the flexibility needed to ensure that we get through this together.”

See the release: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/news/releases/040620.htm 

— Dane County is boosting funding for a small business grant program after getting more than 800 applications in the first day after it was announced. 

The Small Business Pandemic Support Grant Program was announced Wednesday with $250,000 in funding, but County Executive Joe Parisi announced yesterday the program would be expanded to $800,000. 

“We want local businesses to know we stand with them and support them. We encourage small business owners throughout Dane County to apply for this funding to help retain employees and cover expenses,” he said in a statement. 

Applications will be accepted through June 15. 

See more program details: http://www.danebuylocal.com/ 

See the release: http://www.wispolitics.com/2020/dane-county-increases-funding-for-small-business-pandemic-support-grant-program-to-800000-following-overwhelming-community-interest/ 

— StartingBlock Madison is looking for a new executive director, the organization announced recently. 

Current Executive Director and founding member Chandra Miller Fienen will be stepping down from the role that she has held since 2017, when she took over for Hardin Design and Development COO Scott Resnick.

“I am honored to have served as StartingBlock’s second executive director, leading StartingBlock through construction and its critical first two years of operations,” Miller Fienen said in a blog post. “I am excited to see what the StartingBlock community becomes.”

According to the job description, duties include building relationships and connections to drive organization evolution and sales for both StartingBlock and the entire Madison startup ecosystem on the local, regional and national levels.

The search, which is being led by Board Chair Forrest Woolworth and Transition Team leader Mark Richardson, is expected to be done by early summer.

Since it was built in 2018, StartingBlock Madison has housed 69 early-stage companies that cumulatively had $18.3 million in revenue in 2019 and provided nearly 1,000 hours of programming to more than 4,700 participants.

For more information and how to apply, click here: http://www.startingblockmadison.org/interested-in-leading-startingblock-as-its-next-executive-director/ 

See more at Madison Startups: http://www.madisonstartups.com/startingblock-hiring-next-executive-director/ 


# Authorities close Stevens Point store, recommend charges, saying it didn’t follow rules to stem spread of coronavirus


# Filmanowicz: DNC’s local host committee is ‘full steam ahead’

# ‘They all have this superpower’: Researchers want plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients


# Virus outbreak threatens old-school business in Dells



– DATCP, WEDC notify farmers of Paycheck Protection Program


– Webinar on landspreading milk to be held on Tuesday



– Developers scale back massive multi-family project in Kenosha

– ProHealth delays work on $55M Mukwonago hospital amid outbreak


– See how Wisconsin unemployment claims compare with other Midwest states 



– Former UW-Platteville ag prof, Fred Oomens, passes



– Foxconn to begin producing ventilators in Wisconsin in 4-6 weeks, Medtronic CEO says



– Ascension vows to protect employee pay during COVID-19 pandemic

– Sixteenth Street buys Badger Mutual HQ building for $2.6 million


– Wisconsin hospitals sued patients during public health emergency, and 2 are now dismissing some suits


– DHS: 2,440 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin


– Stevens Point nonprofit’s 3D printers now make protective gear for health workers


– COVID-19 found in 11 residents and workers at Oakwood Village’s nursing home on Madison’s West Side



– Allen Edmonds temporarily furloughs employees, closes some production until end of month



– Green Bay convenience store owners sue Costco over gas price violations, sek $2.6 million in fines http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/money/2020/04/06/costco-sued-green-bay-convenience-stores-over-gasoline-prices/2944526001/


– Joel Quadracci: ‘Be willing to pull big levers very quickly’

– Quad furloughs employees and suspends some manufacturing; CEO’s salary cut 50%


– Snap-on temporarily closes Milwaukee facility after a third employee tests positive for COVID-19



– DNC’s date change creates logistical challenge

– Congressional delegation asks USDA for dairy farm aid



– Apartment developer acquires vacant lot at First and Pittsburgh in Walker’s Point


– Pick ‘n Save parent Kroger to limit number of shoppers in all stores



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