TUE AM News: July home sales hit a new record, driving up median price; UW-Oshkosh and the WPC team up to develop framework for paper industry’s future

— Wisconsin’s existing home sales hit a new record for the month of July, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

A total of 9,649 homes were sold in July, the most homes sold during a July since the WRA revamped its data collection methods in 2005. The previous record was July 2019, when 8,969 home sales closed.

David Clark, Marquette University economist and consultant to the WRA, told WisBusiness.com that prior to 2005, it’s likely that July home sales had never exceeded the current record.

Sales of existing homes rose 7.6 percent in July relative to July 2019, and the median price rose to $226,400, which is 10.4 percent higher than July 2019.

On a year-to-date basis, sales are now only slightly lower than this time last year. Sales in the first seven months of 2020 were just 1.9 percent below the same period of 2019, and prices are up 8.4 percent to $213,000.

Clark said in an interview that June is the strongest month for home sales, followed by July, August and May. This is because the summer season is a more convenient time to move — for both the buyer and the seller: kids’ schooling isn’t disrupted, and there are no issues with cold weather.

“July was a remarkably robust month for home sales, given what we’ve been through the past four months,” said WRA Chairman Steve Beers. “What makes this record even more impressive is that it happened in an environment of extraordinarily tight inventories.”

Read the full story at WisBusiness.com: https://www.wisbusiness.com/?p=1454416 

— While Theo said Wisconsin can’t expect record sales every month given the supply crunch, record-low mortgage rates will fuel demand for the late summer and fall sales season. 

Clark said he expects improvements in the second half of the year, although acknowledges there will be mixed economic signals in the months ahead.

“Consumer confidence fell in July due in part to the resurgence of COVID-19 in some regions of the country, but nationally, workers continue to return to work,” he said. 

In August, unemployment claims in the U.S. fell below 1 million for the first time since the national emergency was declared in March. Clark said that the trend “should continue now that the federal $600 enhancement to weekly unemployment benefits has expired.”

“That should help alleviate some of the labor shortages that emerged in the summer,” he said.

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/wisconsin-realtors-association-record-july-home-sales-push-prices-up/ 

— UW-Oshkosh’s Center for Customized Research and Services and the Wisconsin Paper Council have teamed up to launch a yearlong project to develop a strategic framework for the future of Wisconsin’s paper industry.

The project will be focused primarily on workforce development challenges and future needs of the papermaking and forestry industries. The collaborative effort is funded through a $50,000 grant awarded under the WiSys Ignite Grant Program, meant to give UW System faculty, staff and students opportunities to apply their knowledge to build the state’s economy. 

“The Wisconsin Paper Council is excited about this opportunity to partner with UW-Oshkosh on this important workforce development study,” said Scott Suder, president of WPC. “The paper and forestry industries are key drivers for Wisconsin’s economy, and this comprehensive analysis of our business sectors’ workforce development challenges and future needs will be an invaluable resource for both our stakeholders and for policymakers.”

According to a WPC release, the timing of this project comes at a critical time for the council and its membership. Decreasing demand for converted paper products has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic as the industry also adapts to changing workplace needs. 

Verso Corporation announced in June its indefinite stop in production at its paper mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Duluth. This was to offset market decline in graphic paper demand and print advertising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Verso laid off more than 1,000 workers.

However, Jeffrey Sachse, CCRS’s interim director, said Wisconsin’s paper and pulp industries have proven resilient throughout the state’s history, representing both a success story and part of the state’s legacy. 

“The breadth and depth of the industries’ economic footprint also provides substantial opportunities for innovation and growth,” he said. “This project affords us the chance to gain insight from industry leaders and develop new collaborative strategies.”

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/wisconsin-paper-council-wpc-uw-oshkosh-receive-50k-wysis-grant-to-study-workforce-development-issues-in-the-papermaking-forestry-industries/ 

— Ten companies and nonprofit organizations have been selected as finalists for the 2020 Wisconsin Innovation Awards. The winners will be announced on Oct. 13 at a virtual awards ceremony.

The 10 finalists are: Arbre Technologies, Inc. of Stevens Point; Ledsens, LLC of Oconomowoc; Match Grade Medical of Neenah; Motivo, Inc. of Burlington; Safeli, LLC of Shorewood; Strong Microbials of Milwaukee; and Madison-based companies: OnLume Surgical; Pinpoint Software Inc.: Date Check Pro; Pyran; and Madison Reading Project. 

In total, over 380 businesses, products and services from around the state were nominated. The finalists were determined by a panel of 30 statewide industry experts. The WIA aims to connect and showcase innovators in a wide array of industries, locations and sizes. 

Details on the program and event are available at: www.wisconsininnovationawards.com  

— Travel and social distancing requirements have changed the way many industries conduct business, including finance and banking. 

Through remote support, Brookfield-based Fiserv, Inc. assisted more than 20 financial institutions nationwide complete remote core conversions to advance digital engagement during the pandemic. 

One of which was Mechanics Bank, an $18-billion bank headquartered in the San Francisco area. When Mechanics acquired much larger Rabobank, it made the strategic decision to upgrade its commercial cash management and online account opening capabilities with Fiserv technologies.

“Over our 20-year relationship, Fiserv has proven themselves to deliver what they say they will, and they delivered an excellent conversion under challenging conditions,” said Chris Pierce, executive vice president and COO of Mechanics Bank.

Other notable partnerships included Investors Bank, a $26-billion institution with locations in New York and New Jersey; Family 1st of Texas FCU; Hoboken School Employees FCU; and Allegacy Federal Credit Union.

“COVID-19 has compelled us to work in new ways, and our clients and associates have come together, not missing a beat as we have completed these mission-critical conversion projects,” said Todd Horvath, group president of account processing at Fiserv. “We will continue to leverage our expertise in remote operations and help financial institutions advance their strategic objectives.”

In addition to the remote core conversions, Fiserv has completed remote migrations for more than a dozen financial institutions who have chosen to move from in-house account processing to a software-as-a-service model (SaaS), where software is licensed on a subscription basis and centrally hosted.

In a release, Fiserv noted that many organizations have found the challenges of COVID-19 to underscore the value of outsourcing IT functions to a partner with scale and robust resources, such as Fiserv.

— Millennium, a nationwide distributor of fiber optic network materials out of Delavan, has announced the addition of a Missouri Warehouse to its portfolio.  

The company marks the entrance to the St. Louis market as a strategic move to bring telecomm materials closer to its clients, resulting in faster distribution and one-day service to the region. The Missouri location will focus on helping contractors and broadband providers with materials needed to deploy broadband networks.

“We’ve seen businesses and communities in Missouri continue to expand, requiring faster speeds and a more reliable connection to the Internet,” said Millennium Founder and CEO James Kyle. “Millennium has been supporting broadband construction efforts in the Region for education, healthcare, deploying 5G and fiber to the business and home. The time is right to bring the products and services closer to the contractors and network providers we are serving by making additional investments into the St Louis area.”

— Wisconsin’s seven-day average of daily confirmed cases dropped to 734 after bringing in 455 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest number of new cases in over two weeks.

However, the state only received a total of 5,962 tests, so the daily percentage of positive tests per total tests is still above the desired 5 percent at 7.2 percent. That is down from Sunday’s 11.2 percent.

The seven-day average for percent positive tests has been between 7.7 and 7.8 percent since Friday, the highest it’s been since early May.

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 66,196. Meanwhile, 1.6 percent of patients have died and 8 percent have been hospitalized, a figure that continues to decline.

In seven days, individuals ages 20-29 accounted for 1,197 of new COVID-19 cases, now numbering 16,545 cumulatively or 25 percent of the state’s confirmed cases. This is followed by people ages 30-39 at 17 percent. 

Two percent of the 20-29 age group and 4 percent of the 30-39 age group cases have been hospitalized. But each group accounts for under 1 percent of the state’s death toll at eight and 10 deaths, respectively. Neither age group added deaths in the past seven days. 

The southeastern part of the state accounts for 56 percent of Wisconsin’s total cases followed by northeast Wisconsin at 18 percent. The regions also account for 71 percent and 13 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths, respectively. 

Over 1.1 million Wisconsinites have been tested. The state has collected even more specimens as some people have been tested multiple times. DHS’ data is based on people tested and excludes multiple tests.

The state has a capacity for 27,898 tests per day, an increase of 4,000 over the weekend, and has ramped up specimen collection as the capacity has increased. The state collected the most specimens on July 29 at 24,135, but recorded 14,980 people tested.

As of Aug. 17, Wisconsin National Guard teams have collected 374,368 specimens statewide. In addition, approximately 30 troops are working at a call center that informs people of their COVID-19 test results.

Click here for a list of community testing sites: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/testing.htm

See more on the Guard’s coronavirus response efforts in releases below.

— The state’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 1,039.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (466), Racine (81), Waukesha (65), Kenosha (60), Brown (55), Dane (39), Rock (26), Walworth (25), Washington (23), Winnebago (19), Ozaukee (18), Grant (16), Waupaca (16), Outagamie (14), Marathon (12), Clark (8), Fond du Lac (8), Sheboygan (8), St. Croix (6), Dodge (5), Jefferson (5), Marinette (5), Eau Claire (4), Forest (4), Pierce (4) and Richland (4).

Barron, Door and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Columbia, Kewaunee, Monroe, Polk, Taylor, Trempealeau and Wood counties report two deaths each.

Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marquette, Oconto, Rusk and Waushara counties report one death each.

People ages 70-79 and 80-89 with confirmed cases together account for over half of the state’s deaths at 274 and 279 deaths, respectively. The age groups had an increase of 15 and 16 deaths over the past seven days.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: https://www.wispolitics.com/wisconsin-coronavirus-resources/ 

— As the state and nation continue to face an opioid epidemic, UW-Madison researchers found that people taking painkillers for chronic back pain produced antibodies that could hinder an anti-opioid vaccine.

Study lead Cody Wenthur, a professor in the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy, and Wenthur lab postdoctoral researcher Jillian Kyzer discovered antibodies in 10 of 19 patients who took opioids to treat chronic lower back pain. Those who took higher doses of opioids had a stronger antibody response. 

These antibodies are relatively weak, according to the release. The patients with the antibody response are least likely to benefit from a potential anti-opioid vaccine because it reduces the ability to generate stronger antibodies.

A control group of three patients who did not take opioids for their back pain had only very low levels of anti-opioid antibodies.

For this study, Wenthur’s team could only identify three patients with chronic pain who had not previously taken opioids, even after a months-long radio and print recruiting campaign. 

According to the release, this challenge was an indication of the ubiquity of opioids, despite evidence that they are riskier options than non-opioid painkillers for treating chronic pain.

“Opioid use disorder and opioid overdoses continue to be a major epidemic in this country,” says Wenthur. “A relatively new therapeutic approach entering clinical trials is what in shorthand we call an opioid vaccine, where the immune system generates a response against the drugs. But for this approach to be successful, we need to identify the people who would benefit from that approach.”

The Wenthur lab worked with collaborators at the Scripps Research Institute and Scripps Health in San Diego. Kyzer announced the team’s findings yesterday at the American Chemical Society Fall 2020 virtual meeting.


# Day one of virtual DNC features heavy security, quiet streets in downtown Milwaukee 

# Wisconsin Democrats lay blame on Trump at convention’s start 


# For some in Wisconsin, Trump vs. Biden echoes Walker vs. Evers in 2018 https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/08/17/trump-vs-biden-has-echoes-scott-walker-vs-tony-evers-2018/5590072002/



– Multi-state study proves soybean yields increase with artificial drainage https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/multi-state-study-proves-soybean-yields-increase-with-artificial-drainage/ 

– Wisconsin farmer concerned about dry crops https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/wisconsin-farmer-concerned-about-dry-crops/ 

– Equalized Value of Residential, Ag Properties on the Rise http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=880&yr=2020 

– Tracking What Pays On The Farm https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/08/17/tracking-what-pays-on-the-farm/ 

– Wisconsin Wool Works Website Makes The Connection https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/08/17/wisconsin-wool-works-website-makes-the-connection/ 


– Firefighting Foam Regulations Delayed After Industry Intervention https://www.wpr.org/firefighting-foam-regulations-delayed-after-industry-intervention 


– Small businesses that took PPP face huge, unexpected tax hits https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/ppp-small-business-face-irs-taxes-congress-help.html 


– Advocate Aurora’s merger partner in Michigan delays board vote https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/advocate-auroras-merger-partner-in-michigan-delay.html 

– Nursing homes with safety problems deploy Trump-connected lobbyists https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/nursing-homes-with-safety-problems-deploy-trump-co.html 

– Spike In COVID-19 Cases At Wisconsin Veterans Home Spurs Request For Federal Aid https://www.wpr.org/spike-covid-19-cases-wisconsin-veterans-home-spurs-request-federal-aid 


– Supporting Milwaukee’s growing Hispanic population requires strategy and alliances, leaders say https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/solutions-for-supporting-milwaukees-hispanics.html 


– Retired CEOs Stratton, Shiely among former execs seeking to protect pensions in Briggs bankruptcy https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/stratton-shiely-seeking-to-protect-pensions-from.html 


– President Trump Touts Economic Success At Wisconsin Visit Monday https://www.wpr.org/president-trump-touts-economic-success-wisconsin-visit-monday 

– Challenge Would Drop Green Party From Wisconsin Presidential Ballot https://www.wpr.org/challenge-would-drop-green-party-wisconsin-presidential-ballot


– Luxury high-rise with 350 apartments proposed in Wauwatosa https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/luxury-high-rise-with-350-apartments-proposed-in-w.html 


– Milwaukee police chief says his department can handle DNC security without outside help https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/milwaukee-police-chief-says-his-department-can-han.html 


– Ally’s Bistro opening second location, in Wauwatosa at former power house building https://biztimes.com/allys-bistro-opening-second-location-in-wauwatosa-in-former-power-house-building/ 

– ‘All about a recovery’: What analysts are looking for in Kohl’s earnings https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/what-analysts-are-looking-for-in-kohls-earnings.html 


– No sports at Marquette University this fall as Big East postpones competitions https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/no-sports-at-marquette-university-this-fall.html 


– Few Milwaukee hotels see positive impact from DNC https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/few-milwaukee-hotels-see-positive-impact-from-dnc.html 

– Visit Milwaukee remains engaged during mostly virtual DNC https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/08/17/visit-milwaukee-remains-engaged-during-mostly-virt.html 


<i>See these and other press releases: 

http://wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Content=82 </i>

– Wisconsin National Guard: 17 August update: Continues statewide COVID-19 testing this week https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/wisconsin-national-guard-17-august-update-continues-statewide-covid-19-testing-this-week/