WED AM News: Eau Claire startup taking the audio-visual industry wireless; WMC slams Evers’ approach to turning the dial on economy

— Wisconsin craft brewers are demonstrating a strong will to survive the pandemic, despite their uncertainty about Wisconsin’s economy coming out of COVID-19.

“Our brewers are entrepreneurs by nature, so they’ve been able to come up with some creative ways to just keep things going as best they can,” said Mark Garthwaite, president of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild.

“Circumstances are different for everyone depending on size and what their business model looks like, so I would say brew pubs that are also restaurants are in a more difficult position than most production breweries,” said Garthwaite. “Breweries that package in bottles and cans at least are still able to maintain some level of product and sales, but that’s obviously not great. But they’re hanging on the best they can just like everyone else has.”

Before Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order, New Glarus Brewing had already broken up shifts into rotations to start physical distancing, measures that “impacted our ability to make beer,” said Deb Carey, founder and president.

She said New Glarus Brewing will hold on as long as it takes, even if the pandemic and stay-at-home orders continue for the next few years. 

“I started the brewery from nothing… and we’ll stay here and fight and we’ll figure it out,” she said. 

According to Carey, New Glarus Brewing’s largest priority is to get masks so employees can work closer together. She’s also looking to state elected officials to work together. 

“I’m very appreciative of Gov. Evers leadership and his calm and thoughtful response to not only the closure but how he lined out how he would reopen,” she said. “I’m really disappointed that he’s had to deal with several Supreme Court challenges while he’s doing that; it doesn’t seem very cooperative to me. That’s the big thing that I would hope for is a little less politics and a little more cooperation.”

See more: 

— The state’s largest business group is slamming Gov. Tony Evers’ approach to “turning the dial” on the economy after an order was signed allowing small retailers to reopen with restrictions. 

“Wisconsin businesses are increasingly confused and frustrated by the slow, piecemeal and seemingly arbitrary approach the governor is adopting to reopen the economy,” said Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce President and CEO Kurt Bauer in a statement. 

Bauer points to WMC”s “Back to Business” plan, which lays out a strategy for reopening the economy regionally based on public health metrics. 

“With the unemployment rate now predicted to be 21 percent — roughly the same rate as during the Great Depression and more than twice as high as during the worst days of the Great Recession — Wisconsin’s economy needs a plan to open starting now,” Bauer said. 

But at the same time, other industry groups are cheering the news that their members will be able to get back to business. Aside from opening up retailers in the state, the latest order also allows drive-in movie theaters to reopen under certain restrictions. 

The National Association of Theatre Owners of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan says the move signals a return to “a semblance of normalcy.” 

“It’s important to understand that even when the ‘safer-at-home’ order is relaxed, we anticipate that the movie theatre industry will need an extended period of recovery over the subsequent weeks and months,” said George Rouman, president of NATO-WI&UP and owner of Rouman Cinema in Rhinelander. 

The group has also submitted a set of guidelines to state regulators aimed at getting indoor movie theaters reopened in the same phase as restaurants — once the stay-at-home order is relaxed further. 

Meanwhile, NFIB Wisconsin is highlighting recent survey results showing small business owners in the state want a full reopening of the economy now. Bill Smith, state director for NFIB Wisconsin, says the results “clearly show” that the small business community is anxious and eager for a return to normal. In an interview, he acknowledged the guv’s latest move turns the dial in the right direction but added that many small businesses feel the order is too restrictive. 

The NFIB survey got responses from 320 small business leaders in Wisconsin. About 73 percent said they think restrictions on businesses and residents in Wisconsin should be lifted immediately, and another 15 percent say they should be lifted in the next 30 days. 

And 87 percent of respondents said the state’s non-essential business closure is too restrictive. 

“Small business owners and their employees want to get to work,” Smith said in a statement. “The reopening of our economy is critical to the survival of thousands of small Main Street businesses located in communities throughout our state.”

See the theater group’s response: 

See more on the small business outlook from NFIB: 

— As Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is estimated to exceed 20 percent based on initial unemployment claims, rural northern parts of the state are seeing a larger impact. 

Noah Williams, director for UW-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, said during a UW Now webinar yesterday that Menomonee County has seen 27 percent of its labor force file for unemployment in the last six weeks. That’s on top of an existing 26 percent poverty rate from 2019. 

He noted the state’s unemployment rate was around 3 percent in early March, with businesses’ main concern over the past several years being the available workforce. Now, mass unemployment presents a different set of challenges for the economy. 

“Lower paid sectors are facing higher unemployment, also poorer areas tend to be facing harder economic times,” he said. “This is consistent with what we often see in recessions … [they] often hit hardest on those who are least able to deal with the crisis.” 

Ananth Seshadri, a UW-Madison professor and a chair in the university’s economics department, said COVID-19 represents “an extremely large shock” to supply and demand. 

“It’s going to induce a recession as a consequence the likes of which we’ve never seen,” he said during yesterday’s webinar, noting that the current pandemic is different from the types of recessions and economic shocks seen in the past. 

Crucially, he said the expected COVID-19 recession won’t be the result of “organic decisions” made by individuals. Instead, he noted the virus represents an “external shock” on the global economy. 

Because of this disruption, many consumers are “hunkered down” due to increased economic uncertainty. And both Williams and Seshadri noted that the government response to shut down certain businesses can only account for a piece of the overall economic downturn. Rather, they said a large part of the economic impact was “voluntary” as consumer confidence plummeted. 

Brad Tank, chief investment officer and managing director of Neuberger Berman Funds, said the current quarter is expected to be the worst financially of 2020. After an initial larger contraction, he said analysts predict the U.S. economy to end up about 5 or 6 percent smaller in 2020 than it was in 2019. 

“Our forecast at Neuberger Berman has the recovery continuing into 2021 and probably takes until about 2022 to get the U.S. economy back to where it was,” Tank said. 

See earlier recordings of UW Now episodes: 

— Five goals of Gov. Tony Evers’ Badger Bounce Back plan were met as DHS reports the state’s COVID-19 death toll at 418 — up nine people from the previous count.

Five of the six gating criteria for Evers’ plan were met as of yesterday afternoon, according to the state Department of Health Services. 

This includes: a two-week downward trajectory of COVID-like cases reported; a downward trend of positive tests as a percent of total tests; 95 percent of hospitals affirming they can treat all patients without crisis standards of care and have arranged for testing for all symptomatic clinical staff; and a downward trend of COVID-cases among health care workers calculated weekly.  

The only criterion not currently met is a downward trajectory of flu-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period. It had been met near the end of last week, but the color-coded indicator has since shifted from green back to red. 

Two weeks ago, 6.9 percent of total COVID-19 tests in the state came back positive; a week ago today it was 8.6, and the rate has since declined to 3.9 percent today. 

See the dashboard: 

— The state’s number of confirmed cases rose 193 since the latest count, bringing the cumulative confirmed case count to 10,611. 

An estimated 51 percent have recovered from COVID-19. That’s based on the number of confirmed cases who have at least documentation of resolved symptoms, documentation of release from public health isolation or 30 days since symptom onset or diagnosis. Forty-five percent of patients are still in that 30-day period.

DHS’s hospital dashboard also reports 333 COVID patients in hospitals statewide, seven less than Monday, but five more than last Tuesday’s number of 328 patients.

Of the state’s confirmed cases, 18 percent were hospitalized, 4 percent received intensive care and 4 percent have died, according to DHS.

Counties reporting deaths include Milwaukee (235), Waukesha (23), Dane (22), Brown (20), Racine (17), Kenosha (16), Rock (13), Walworth (11), Ozaukee (10), Grant (9), Clark (4) and Washington (4). 

Door, Fond du Lac and Sauk counties report three deaths each.

Jefferson, Outagamie, Richland and Sheboygan counties report two deaths each.

Adams, Bayfield, Buffalo, Calumet, Columbia, Dodge, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Monroe, Waupaca and Winnebago counties report one death each.

Sixty-eight of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have confirmed cases. 

Click here for coronavirus resources and information:

— The state’s total testing capacity is 13,795 tests per day. However, only about 4,908 tests came back yesterday with results.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said closing that gap and reaching the state’s testing capacity will depend on additional tests from community testing sites, long-term care facilities, outbreak locations and hospitals. 

“Slowly, but surely, we will get there,” she said, noting that a few weeks ago, testing was averaging 1,500-2,000 tests per day and now close to 4,500-5,000. 

Willems Van Dijk anticipates an average of 7,000 per day in the near future from the Wisconsin National Guard’s work in ramping up testing.

The Guard is currently supporting 16 testing sites with 21 teams to close that gap. In the last 24 hours, they’ve collected 4,000 specimens, which will show up in the testing data in about two days. 

Today, the Guard will have 25 teams running tests.

While escalation efforts are working to reach the state’s testing capacity, Willems Van Dijk also noted that “testing without tracing is ineffective.”

Testing enables public health to know where the disease is in the state and who has it. But tracing is essential to box infected individuals in by having contact tracers remind them why it’s so important to stay home and isolated, she said. 

And Wisconsin appears to have an adequate supply of beds and ventilators.

ICU beds immediately available in the state number 423 out of 1,431 total in Wisconsin; intermediate care beds — 196 out of 873; surgical beds — 1,776 out of 7,233; and isolation beds — beds in negative pressure rooms meant for isolating patients — 1,117 out of 1,978.

Statewide, hospitals have a total of 1,261 ventilators and are using 320 of those for patients.

But PPE supplies are still lagging. Thirty-one hospitals in the state have a seven days or less supply of N95 masks, 41 have limited supply of gowns and 30 hospitals have limited paper medical masks.

— An Eau Claire startup called UpStream AV is helping the audio-visual industry go wireless.

The Eau Claire company, founded in 2019, has developed the hardware and software necessary to create the next generation of AV products. These AV products will have no need for wires due to the ability to rely on pre-existing infrastructure and Wi-Fi networks. That will help events and conferences create a more seamless set-up.

UpStream’s solution is a mobile device-controlled application that uses pre-existing audiovisual equipment with a “firmwave” attachment to connect over Wi-Fi. It is backed through the internet cloud. 

The company was founded by a team of software and electrical engineers with experience in the AV industry, allowing for a deep understanding of the needs of the current system – where the “pain points” are and how to make it less complicated and less expensive.

UpStream is “solving AV’s most pressing problems to put the AV professional’s time where it is most valuable spent – on creating great systems for our customers,” according to Jim McDougall, the CEO of UpStream and former software engineer at JAMF Software of Eau Claire.

UpStream’s solution is more flexible than current AV solutions that require hardwiring, allowing it to be easier to use and faster to install, according to McDougall. The solution utilizes paired hardware and software, thus eliminating the need to wire AV equipment together.

See more:

— Arch Electric, Inc. has a new Madison solar branch office and warehouse and is seeking solar installers to join its team. 

According to a release from the Plymouth electric company, the expansion is a result of a fast-growing client base and a heightened general public interest in solar energy in southwestern and south central Wisconsin. 

“The opportunity to help grow one of Wisconsin’s most respected and well-rooted solar contractors is exciting, and it’s more important than ever,” said Stanley Minnick, Madison branch manager.

Arch Electric has over 19 megawatts of solar installations in over 800 projects that include battery, ground and rooftop systems from residential to commercial properties.

“It’s an honor to help create meaningful careers for folks in this area while serving the homeowners, farmers, and others who call this part of our state home,” said Minnick.

See the release: 

— Economic development groups in the state are again accepting responses to a statewide business survey, seeking to build on results gathered earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The survey is from the Madison Region Economic Partnership, WEDC, UW-Oshkosh and eight other regional economic development organizations spread across Wisconsin. It’s meant to capture the various economic hardships companies are experiencing, and will accept responses until May 16. 

“Participation by all types of Wisconsin businesses is vital to ensuring our future efforts offer the most appropriate support,” said MadREP President Paul Jadin. “The surveys have also been translated to engage our state’s Spanish-speaking and Hmong populations.”

In the first survey, conducted between April 1 and April 10, results showed 8,795 jobs were lost by respondents. Meanwhile, 35 percent of those who took the survey said they’d have to close if current conditions continued for more than three months. That first survey got responses from 2,538 businesses in Wisconsin. 

See the results of the earlier survey here: 

Businesses that took the first survey are being asked to participate through this link: 

Companies that weren’t involved the first time around can take the survey here: 


# ‘3 times more likely to die’: Coronavirus ravages Milwaukee’s African American community

# reportedly considers delivery center in Yorkville

# Support slips for Evers’ ‘Safer at Home’ order, but majority still say it’s appropriate, MU Law poll finds

# Decision on La Crosse’s Oktoberfest coming later this summer



– Nearly perfect week for planting in Wisconsin

– Wisconsinites elected as NAMA officers


– North Shore Bank plans to construct new Pewaukee branch


– Milwaukee Rep pushes back start of season, prepares for audiences’ return

– Milwaukee Repertory Theater delays its 2020-’21 season


– Lowlands Group reopening all restaurants for carryout, delivery this weekend


– Ascension Wisconsin resumes non-urgent procedures, primary care appointments

– Advocate Aurora CEO Skogsbergh takes 50% salary cut

– Amid COVID-19 crisis, Republicans object to expanding meningitis vaccine requirement


– Lori Richards named board chair of TEMPO Milwaukee


– Todd Adams to become chair of Rexnord board in July


– Marquette poll finds majority still approves of Tony Evers’ ‘safer at home’ order, but support has dropped

– Poll: Smaller majority backs Wisconsin ‘safer at home’ order


– Zilber planning its fourth industrial building in Germantown industrial park

– Area real estate execs, architects offer key Covid-19 steps to reopen your workplace


– May 31 is the deadline for elk hunting applications

– State Agricultural Chemical Cleanup Program fees to be waived through 2021

– Kaul allows DNR to consider high-capacity wells’ effects


– Pick ‘n Save, Kroger Health to offer free COVID-19 testing at former Bradley Center site


– Milwaukee Admirals named AHL champs after season cut short by coronavirus


– 12 out of 42 jobs elicit single bids in May letting


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

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