WED AM News: Abacus uses innovative digital tools to streamline portfolio; Evers allocates $10M in CARES money for nonprofits

— As client preferences change and the pandemic’s future remains unknown, Wisconsin-based Abacus Architects is using innovative digital tools to streamline its portfolio.

The 23-person architecture firm works on around 100 projects per year nationwide across a range of markets, including multi-family, health care, senior living, corporate and industrial. 

Eric Halbur, senior designer at Abacus, said there’s been a lot of talk for more office spaces in residential housing as a result of the pandemic. In apartment complexes, he said there’s been an uptick in requests for a two-bedroom for couples with the second bedroom being used as an office space. 

“It’s one of those hot topics right now where everyone is trying to jump on the situation and reinvent the wheel as far as how offices should be,” Halbur said. “I think it’s something that we have to try to understand, but I also feel that there’s always trends in what happens in design and things always end up coming full circle.”

He said it used to be people wanted an office, and then it went to wanting open workspaces, and now people are shifting back to private offices. 

“It’s all part of the lifecycle of design where things just kind of naturally change back and forth over time as preferences change,” he said.

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— Gov. Tony Evers announced a $10 million investment for nonprofit health care, housing and adult education organizations.

The money in the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Nonprofit Grant Program will go to organizations providing critical services to Wisconsinites during COVID-19. The funding comes from the state’s share of the federal CARES Act.

“Our nonprofit organizations have been there every step of the way, answering the call to serve by providing critical and diverse services to Wisconsinites who are facing significant challenges,” Evers said. “The economic stability of our nonprofits is key to ensuring they are able to continue this good work for people and families across Wisconsin.”

Administered by the Department of Administration, grant applications are now being accepted through Nov. 9 at 2 p.m.

Additional details regarding the grant and the application are available here:  

— Election Day in Wisconsin marked a record single-day coronavirus case count, record positive case percentages and a climbing death toll.

“Basically, it’s a bad situation that we’re seeing in Wisconsin right now,” said Dr. Ben Weston, associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, adding that both the person positivity rate and test positivity rates are trending unfavorably.

The seven-day average of new confirmed cases per total people tested is at a record 30.8 percent. In terms of total tests collected, the average positive test percentage is at a record 15.6 percent, according to the Department of Health Services’ coronavirus dashboard.

“We don’t seem to see any flattening going on with our percent positivity,” he said. Weston noted that the increase is a “troubling sign” because as more people get tested, the percent positive should be going down.

Wisconsin reported a record 5,771 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, which brought the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases to a record 4,536. 

Fifty-two new deaths among confirmed cases of COVID-19 brought the death toll to 2,102. Menominee County reported its first death yesterday.

For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

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— Two Wisconsin congressional leaders co-led a bipartisan letter calling on the Trump administration to protect common food and wine terms.

U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, and Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, underscore concerns that the European Union misuses protections meant for geographic indicators to enact trade barriers to block American exports.

The letter, signed by over 100 members of Congress, advocates for a consistent trade policy that prioritizes specific market access assurances for these products in all trade-related discussions for Wisconsin farmers, workers and businesses.

“The European Union has used GIs to raise trade barriers for products labeled with common food terms, as well as traditional wine terms. Examples include, but are not limited to, bologna, parmesan, chateau, and feta. We urge the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Department of Agriculture to draw upon the type of precedents and commitments established in the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement to further strengthen protections for U.S. producers by negotiating agricultural market access safeguards for products marketed using specific common food terms, traditional terms, or legitimate plant and grape varietals in all future U.S. trade negotiations, particularly those of importance to U.S. cheese, meat, and wine producers,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association Executive Director John Umhoefer said keeping common cheese names available around the world is crucial to the growth of Wisconsin’s $46 billion dairy farming and manufacturing industry. 

“Generations of Wisconsin cheesemakers craft cheese styles that rival or best European cheeses in international competitions,” he said. “Cheese styles and names in use for decades, if not centuries, should not be taken away from America’s dairy industry as we build successful trade in global markets.”

U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua, and Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, also signed the letter.

Read the letter here: 

— Tim Keane will be inducted into the Wisconsin Technology Council’s “George Mosher Memorial Investor Hall of Fame” during the virtual Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium.

Keane, president of Keane Consultants and founder of Golden Angels Investors LLC, has mentored scores of young companies while building one of Wisconsin’s oldest and largest angel networks. 

He’ll be honored Monday at a dinner with fellow investors from across Wisconsin, the Upper Midwest and beyond.

Also at the Nov. 9-11 symposium, social media and viral expert Jon Jacques will share his secrets for entrepreneurial success. 

With COVID-19 crimping most forms of face-to-face marketing, Jacques will offer his expertise as a social media influencer for clients large and small onTuesday. 

Jacques has worked with firms such as Disney, Kate Spade, Sony, Starwood, AT&T and Anheuser-Busch to increase revenues. He has been featured by “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,’’ BuzzFeed, TechCrunch and Mashable.

General registration is open here: 

— Sargento Foods CEO Louie Gentine is the most recent addition to a list of speakers headlining the annual Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Future Wisconsin Summit. 

The event is a culmination of a year of work developing solutions that can be implemented by business, government and education to address long-term, systemic economic challenges. 

Gentine will join WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer, Brakebush Brothers Vice President of Operations Support Rusty Schieber, Bank of America Managing Director & Senior Investment Strategist Marci McGregor, and WMC Foundation Executive Director Wade Goodsell in giving remarks on Tuesday. 

Register here: 

— About one in four people in the U.S. lives in an area served by cellular phone towers at risk of an outage caused by wildfires, according to UW-Madison researchers.

The threat will only grow as climate change makes many areas more prone to fire, and as more Americans make their homes near the cusp of both wilderness and civilization.

Six states — California, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina — each have at least 5,000 transceivers in high-risk areas.

Wisconsin isn’t on that list, but other extreme weather events and catastrophes resulting from changing weather patterns will have an impact on internet infrastructure, including cellular infrastructure, said graduate student Scott Anderson.

Anderson was the first author of the study that found more than 430,000 cell network transceivers covering approximately 85 million people are in areas the U.S. Forest Service considers at moderate or high wildfire risk. The research suggests ways to make the sites more fire-hardy.

“This research only considered threats to cellular infrastructure from wildfires,” he said. “However, we continue to conduct research into more effects from climate change.”

One possible threat to cellular infrastructure in Wisconsin would be from flooding, Anderson continued.

“Although we have not quantified this threat to cellular infrastructure in Wisconsin in our research, we’ve seen many documented instances of cellular service disruptions as a result of flooding, both in coastal areas and inland areas along flood plains,” he said. 

The study also documented how reliant cellular infrastructure is on commercial power. Other disasters such as flooding, tornadoes and blizzards can also disrupt the ability of power utilities to distribute electricity, which could in turn affect cell service, according to Anderson.

“Unpredictable and extreme weather patterns resulting from climate change can definitely affect cellular infrastructure, especially if cell service providers do not account for physical threats to infrastructure,” he said.

— See election results and analysis at


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