TUE AM News: Pandemic has lower impact on June home sales as economy improves; KPS acquiring Briggs & Stratton to save hundreds of jobs, USW says

— Wisconsin’s housing market performed far better than expected in June in part because of low mortgage rates, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

Existing home sales were down just 4.5 percent compared to the same time last year, and median prices rose 3.6 percent to $222,000 over the same 12-month period. On a year-to-date basis, home sales for the first half of 2020 were 4.9 percent lower than the first six months of 2019, and median prices were up 7.6 percent to $209,900.

“This is better than we expected given the COVID-induced slide in sales we saw last month,” said WRA Chairman Steve Beers.

Sales slid sharply in May, dropping 24.3 percent compared to May 2019, making the 4.5 percent drop a big improvement. Beers qualified the comparison by noting that sales in June last year were actually somewhat weak, dropping 7.7 percent from June 2018. 

“It’s important to remember that we’re comparing closed sales with the same month a year earlier, so the weak performance in June 2019 makes this past month’s drop in sales smaller,” he said.

Read the full story at WisBusiness.com: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/pandemic-has-lower-impact-on-june-home-sales-as-economy-improves/ 

— Wisconsin’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment rose by 104,600 total jobs between May and June, nearly all of which are in the service sector. However, this still leaves Wisconsin’s total nonfarm employment down by 294,300 jobs over the past 12 months. 

The economic lockdown required to contain the pandemic generated a 5 percent reduction in real GDP in the first quarter. And although the second quarter figures have not yet been released, projections suggest a much bigger contraction in the second quarter. 

“After massive job losses as a result of the economic lockdown in April and May, we saw a nice bounce in June,” said David Clark, Marquette University economist and consultant to the Wisconsin Realtors Association. “The big question is whether we see recovery in the third quarter, and on that front, economists appear to be more optimistic.”

The Survey of Professional Forecasters conducted by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve

Bank suggests the economy will begin to expand in the third quarter and will continue to grow

for the next four quarters, according to the WRA’s release. 

“There is still a lot of uncertainty, but at least there are some promising signals looking at the second half of 2020 and beyond,” said Clark, noting that the state economy should continue to improve if the recession is short-lived.

— The week ending July 19 was another excellent week for crop growth with plenty of moisture and heat in Wisconsin, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

High humidity and frequent thunderstorms made it a great for pollinating corn and soybeans. Corn silking was 34 percent, 11 days ahead of last year. And corn condition was rated 81 percent good to excellent statewide, unchanged from last week. 

Soybean blooming was 73 percent, 22 days ahead of last year; setting pods, 32 percent, 17 days ahead of last year; and condition, 83 percent good to excellent, unchanged from last week. 

Oats headed was 97 percent, 16 days ahead of last year; coloring was 72 percent, 15 days ahead of last year; and condition was rated 84 percent good to excellent, up one percentage point from last week. 

Winter wheat turning color was 97 percent, 15 days ahead of last year; harvested for grain was 9 percent, eight days ahead of last year; and condition was rated 80 percent good to excellent, up two percentage points from last week. 

High humidity and frequent thunderstorms made it a poor week for drying hay. Second cutting of alfalfa was reported as 76 percent complete, eight days ahead of last year; and all hay condition was reported 77 percent good to excellent statewide, up 1 percentage point from last week. 

Potato condition was rated 94 percent good to excellent, down 1 percentage point from last week. Small grains were ripening while harvest was just beginning — drier weather is needed to facilitate combining. Green peas for processing were being harvested, and the cranberry bloom was nearing completion in central Wisconsin. 

— Sponsors continue to support the local jazz community after Jazz at Five, a free public event in Madison, canceled its 2020 Performance Series.

 It’s the first year since 1993 without jazz on the corner of State Street and the Capitol Square. 

In recognition of the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on the performing arts community, the Jazz at Five board reached out to all of its 2019 sponsors and asked for support to compensate local performers and youth jazz organizations despite the cancelation.

MG&E, Saiki Designs, Kegonsa Capital Partners and Inventure Capital maintained full sponsorship levels at $2,500 to $5,000. Associated Bank, Oregon Community Bank, McGrath Property Group, the Concourse Hotel, Foley Law, Semba Biosciences and the Mendota Group all contributed half-sponsorships of $325 to $1,000.

“We continued our support for Jazz at Five because we wanted to support our local community artists, who are being devastated economically by the pandemic; and we wanted to ensure that Jazz at Five could continue to operate in the future once the world returns to some semblance of normalcy,” said Michael Thorson, co-founder and managing director of Inventure Capital, which donated $5,000. 

With the support, Jazz at Five can pay its local performers and youth performance groups 50 percent of their 2020 performance fees.

“Our support, and that of many other generous sponsors, enables Jazz at Five to survive and thrive for future seasons, bringing crowds back to State Street businesses and positive energy to the Square,” Thorson said. “It was the right thing to do.”

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/jazz-at-five-cancels-the-2020-performance-series-but-sponsors-continue-to-support-the-local-jazz-community/ 

— The United Steelworkers says KPS Capital Partners’ acquisition of Briggs & Stratton will save hundreds of jobs at the bankrupt engine maker’s Milwaukee manufacturing facility.

USW International President Tom Conway said KPS, a private equity firm, has a proven track record of investing in manufacturing facilities and operating them profitably and sustainably.

“KPS brings experience and a long-term business plan geared toward keeping our plant viable and employment secure,” Conway said.

USW District 2 Director Michael Bolton praised the union workers for standing together and keeping focused on working safely throughout Briggs & Stratton’s recent financial struggles.

“Our union is committed to working with KPS to ensure that the proud tradition of engine-making is preserved for future generations of USW members here in Milwaukee,” Bolton said. “As long as workers remain united in solidarity, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.”

A union spokeswoman told WisBusiness.com there are approximately 300 USW members at Briggs and Stratton in Milwaukee.

— The Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority’s 2020 Fiscal Year in Review for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 indicates WHEFA saved Wisconsin nonprofit institutions nearly $70.6 million.

This was done by refinancing outstanding debt and completing 21 financings for such institutions totaling more than $1.1 billion. WHEFA financings during this fiscal year will help create an estimated 369 new jobs and maintain 1,054 jobs, while an estimated 2,485 construction jobs will be created for new capital projects.

“Closing this fiscal year marks another successful year assisting a variety of nonprofits throughout the state and we look forward to continuing our mission to finance and refinance critical infrastructure projects for Wisconsin nonprofits,” said Executive Director Dennis Reilly. 

Highlights from the fiscal year include 19 different nonprofit borrowers at 39 Wisconsin locations benefited from bond proceeds during the fiscal year 2020, including five long-term care organizations, nine acute-care organizations, three private schools, and two other nonprofit facilities. These Wisconsin nonprofit organizations employ more than 38,000 people.

“After 41 years, WHEFA continues to deliver access to capital at the lowest cost to the state’s nonprofit organizations,” said Gov. Tony Evers in a release. “Most, if not all, of the Wisconsin’s nonprofit acute care hospitals, senior care and educational facilities are impacted by the current pandemic, and continued access to capital is vital to these important institutions in the short-and long-term.”

See the report: https://whefa.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020-FY-in-Review-for-Website.pdf 

— The state has hit a new record in its seven-day average for daily COVID-19 cases at 868.

The state reported 703 new cases yesterday. This follows a record on Saturday at 978 new cases and Sunday’s 830 cases. 

The Food and Drug Administration has also given its first emergency use authorization for pooled coronavirus testing, an approach that combines test samples in batches instead of running them individually, speeding up the process. The people in the sample are only tested individually if the batch comes back positive. 

Wisconsin is not doing pooled testing, according to the Department of Health Services. Pooled testing is most helpful when positivity rates are very low; Wisconsin’s rates are not low. It’s also a strategy to extend limited testing capacity, and Wisconsin does not have limited testing capacity. 

The percentage of positive tests per total tests is 10.1 percent, a slight decline from 10.3 percent Sunday, according to DHS figures. 

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 43,081 and active cases to 9,037.

The number of recovered patients number 33,130 or 77 percent, while 2 percent of patients have died. Active cases are defined as those still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis and account for 21 percent of the confirmed cases, a figure that continues to rise.

The state received 6,992 total tests yesterday; Wisconsin has a capacity for 24,162 tests per day.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: https://wispolitics.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c540e35869d1ba4ca61b4228e&id=f32f4e6d0f&e=63cd46885a 

— About two weeks after Wisconsin saw consecutive record case days, COVID-19 hospitalizations number 367. That’s the highest the patient count has been since June 2. 

COVID-19 inpatients with pending tests number 146, and COVID-19 ICU patients number 110. Both figures are up from last week, according to data from the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

DHS reports about 66 percent of Wisconsin’s total patients — 242 — are in southeastern Wisconsin. That’s also the highest patient count since early June.

The department reports 49 or fewer patients in each of the six other public health regions of the state.

Wisconsin hospitals appear to have an adequate supply of ventilators and beds. Hospitals have a total of 1,271 ventilators and 291 ventilated patients.

ICU beds immediately available in the state number 400 out of 1,464 total in Wisconsin; intermediate care beds — 151 out of 838; surgical beds — 1,372 out of 7,192; and isolation beds — beds in negative pressure rooms meant for isolating patients — 982 out of 1,895.

Health care workers account for about 9 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 3,661, 401 more than last Monday.

See the WHA hospital dashboard here: https://wispolitics.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c540e35869d1ba4ca61b4228e&id=0b07ee1bdc&e=63cd46885a 

— DHS reports two more COVID-19 deaths in the state, bringing the total to 846.

Dodge and Marathon counties each reported a new death.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (411), Racine (66), Kenosha (47), Brown (46), Waukesha (40), Dane (33), Rock (24), Washington (19), Walworth (18), Ozaukee (16), Grant (14), Winnebago (14), Waupaca (13), Outagamie (10), Clark (7), Dodge (6), Fond du Lac (6), Jefferson (4), Richland (4) and Sheboygan (4).

Door, Forest, Marathon, Marinette and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Eau Claire, Polk and St. Croix counties report two deaths each.

Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, LaCrosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marquette, Monroe, Rusk, Trempealeau and Wood counties report one death each.

— Federal funding of the National Guard in the state’s coronavirus response efforts ends Aug. 7. The Evers administration continues to request an extension of that date.

When the federal declaration ends, the state will incur the costs associated with the Guard activation, through CARES Act funds could be used, according to a spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers.

She said Evers’ priority continues to be advocating for the federal government to extend the declaration to the end of the calendar year. 

The guv’s most recent letter to the Trump administration regarding the Guard was June 23. 

“FEMA is authorized to increase the federal cost-share to 100 percent for emergency work, including Direct Federal Assistance ‘if warranted by the needs of the disaster,’” Evers wrote. “I believe that the unprecedented size, scale, and duration of COVID-19 impacts far exceed the response capabilities of the State of Wisconsin and warrants the full force and support of the federal government.”

To date, the state has collected 780,209 tests, of which more than 256,000 have been collected by the Wisconsin National Guard. 

See a map of community-based testing sites here: https://wispolitics.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c540e35869d1ba4ca61b4228e&id=f2d09e32dc&e=63cd46885a 

See more on the Guard’s COVID-19 response: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/wisconsin-national-guard-surpasses-250000-specimens-collected-for-covid-testing-statewide-testing-continues-this-week/

— Wisconsin is now seeing “generalized community spread” of COVID-19 with local hot spots developing, said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable diseases at DHS.

“There’s a slow burn that’s heating up in many areas of the state,” Westergaard told “UpFront,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.

“We’re really seeing now generalized community spread and people becoming infected in communities that don’t really have a specific risk factor or exposed to a specific person who had symptoms,” he said.

Westergaard also said there is a “strong uptick” in COVID-19 cases in young adults, adolescents and children.

He said mask mandates, recommendations and advisories can help slow the spread of the virus.

“The science is pretty clear that if we can really scale up how many people are wearing masks, we could expect it to have a pretty significant decrease on the number, the amount of transmission in communities,” he said.

“Masks have really emerged as one of our most important tools, and the closer we can get to, say, 90 percent or higher in public places, I think we could really see a big difference,” Westergaard said.

— A coalition of advocacy groups is releasing a public service announcement urging Wisconsinites to wear masks, wash their hands and social distance in public spaces.

The spot features the backing of the state Hospital Association, Restaurant Association and Grocers Association, among others.

See the PSA:  https://wispolitics.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c540e35869d1ba4ca61b4228e&id=15c835d10a&e=63cd46885a 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/broad-wisconsin-coalition-advocates-for-public-economic-health-amid-pandemic/ 


# Board OKs restoring Capitol statues, launching money drive 

# Wisconsin adds 703 COVID-19 cases, setting another Monday record 


# Judge Doyle Square development progresses amid pandemic 


# White House Hints At Federal Response To Protests In Milwaukee 




– Farmers Can Apply for COVID Food Assistance Program Online http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-state.php?Id=776&yr=2020 

– Fair Food Drive-Thru Happening This Week https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/07/20/fair-food-drive-thru-happening-this-week/ 

– Guidance for the Prevention of COVID on Dairy Farms Now Available https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/07/20/guidance-for-the-prevention-of-covid-on-dairy-farms-now-available/ 


– State’s 5 Largest Teachers Unions Call For Online School https://www.wpr.org/states-5-largest-teachers-unions-call-online-school 

– New Medical School Grant Aims To Recruit Hmong Applicants, Rural Students https://www.wpr.org/new-medical-school-grant-aims-recruit-hmong-applicants-rural-students 


– Did PPP shut out minority entrepreneurs? Here’s why SBA can’t say. http://click.bizjournals.com/Y0PD5bT8y00pT0i2xWU07Yr 

– Here’s how much money Wisconsin businesses obtained in EIDL advances https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/20/heres-how-much-money-wisconsin-businesses-obtaine.html

– PayPal among growing supporters for blanket PPP loan forgiveness https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/20/sba-ppp-paypal-support-blanket-loan-forgiveness.html 


– Research On Personalized Medicine May Help COVID-19 Treatments https://www.wpr.org/research-personalized-medicine-may-help-covid-19-treatments 


– Briggs & Stratton enters into $550M sales agreement with KPS Capital, files Chapter 11 reorganization https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/20/briggs-stratton-enters-into-sales-agreement-with.html

– Four Wisconsin firms among top 30 unsecured Briggs & Stratton creditors http://click.bizjournals.com/ACig0DUW208Pryp00x0XbTY 

– Briggs says it’s business as usual for suppliers, customers and employees, but retirees are losing some benefits https://biztimes.com/briggs-says-its-business-as-usual-for-suppliers-customers-and-employees-but-retirees-are-losing-some-benefits/ 


– Democrats: Carpenter’s treatment of Madison candidate Nada Elmikashfi ‘crossed the line’ https://madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/democrats-carpenters-treatment-of-madison-candidate-nada-elmikashfi-crossed-the-line/article_cfa5a71e-1099-5e32-a7e7-b098a09e2a9b.html

– Milwaukee, Madison Workers Join Nationwide Protests Over Racial Injustice, Labor Issues https://www.wpr.org/milwaukee-madison-workers-join-nationwide-protests-over-racial-injustice-labor-issues 


– Milwaukee’s restaurant reopening program sees limited interest https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/20/citys-restaurant-reopening-program-sees-limited-i.html 


– Google promises privacy with virus app but can still track location https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/20/google-privacy-promise-virus-app-tracking-location.html 


– Progressive Groups, Madison’s Mayor Ask Regulators To Extend Moratorium On Utility Shutoffs https://www.wpr.org/progressive-groups-madisons-mayor-ask-regulators-extend-moratorium-utility-shutoffs 


<i>See these and other press releases: 

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