WED AM News: Public, private collaboration raises businesses’ international reach; ND Packaging begins production next month in Mount Pleasant

— Collaboration between state government agencies and the private sector have increased Wisconsin businesses’ international reach with virtual guidance and grant distribution. 

The “We’re All In” grant program allocated more than $220 million to 50,000 Wisconsin businesses in the past eight months, said Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes during a virtual Madison International Trade Association conference.

In addition to financial aid, WEDC compiled guidelines for Wisconsin businesses on personal protective equipment, what to do when an employee tests positive for COVID-19, mental health and COVID-19 vaccine distribution. 

But it’s not just businesses who need to follow a set of guidelines, Hughes noted.

“The more that the whole state can participate in stopping the spread of the virus, doing those things that we know we have to do, we will help our businesses recover faster and faster,” she said.

Hughes expressed optimism that the vaccine will be distributed at an accelerated rate, a move she thinks will help WEDC return to its pre-pandemic international operations. In the meantime, the corporation has completed virtual trade missions to Germany, South Korea, and soon to Mexico. 

Read the full story at 

— Wisconsin reported 4,114 new COVID-19 cases as tests dip, according to the Department of Health Services’ most recent update. 

The new cases brought the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases up slightly to 3,876 from 3,871 Monday.

The seven-day average is lower than it was a month ago by more than 1,500 cases per day. 

However, DHS Secretary Andrea Palm attributed the decrease to fewer people getting a COVID-19 test. The seven-day average for daily tests is 29,500; two weeks ago, that average was over 39,000, she said. 

“We … are happy to start to see a decrease. But I think it is a little bit too early to say that we have found maybe everyone who might have been sick after Thanksgiving, and we want to make sure that people continue to go and get a test,” said Traci DeSalvo, acting director of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases.  “While the number of cases is decreasing, we are still seeing significant numbers of cases with the seven-day average near 4,000 cases.”

DeSalvo reflected on mid-July, when the state’s seven-day average approached 1,000, which was “very high.” She said while yesterday’s average is lower than November and late October, it’s still a “very large” number of cases. 

Yesterday’s cases were out of 9,591 total people tested, marking a positive case percentage of 42.9 percent — far above the desired 5 percent threshold. 

“Our current positivity rate remains quite high, which is an indication that we are not testing enough to gain an accurate picture of the prevalence of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” Palm said. “So please, if you need a test, get a test.” 

DHS’ coronavirus dashboard shows the seven-day average of new confirmed cases per total people tested is at 30.5 percent, below the mid-November peak of 37 percent. The average positive test percentage is at 13.1 percent, also below last month’s peak of 18 percent.

The state reports 414,332 cumulative COVID-19 cases.

— Wisconsin also reported 68 new deaths among confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 3,806.

The seven-day average for daily deaths due to the virus is 55 deaths per day, under Monday’s record 61 deaths. One month ago, the average was 38 deaths per day. Two months ago, it was 11.

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— ND Packaging plans to begin corrugated box production next month at its new Mount Pleasant facility, the paper manufacturer tells

The company’s investment represents one of the largest foreign direct investments in Wisconsin in fiscal year 2020, according to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 

ND Packaging is a subsidiary of ND Paper Inc., owned by Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons Paper Holdings Ltd.  It has committed to investing more than $30 million in equipment alone and plans to create 88 jobs. 

ND Paper purchased the 350,000-square-foot facility last year for $15.5 million. It purchased the Catalyst Paper Mill in Biron, from which sources its paper directly, in 2018.

WEDC is providing tax incentives to the company’s projects in both Biron and Sturtevant based on capital investment and job creation.

“We chose Racine County not only because of their established reputation of being a welcoming business community, but also because of the people on the local level and the relationships established,” said ND Packaging General Manager John Parent. “We are excited for the future of the company in this region and the ability to create employment opportunities for the people here.”

Originally production was set to begin at the end of the year. Delays in shipments of materials due to the pandemic have pushed the date to mid-January, according to the Wisconsin Paper Council and ND Paper.

According to WEDC, Wisconsin’s status as the nation’s leader in paper products and proximity to suppliers and markets continue to be a major draw for global corporations.

“Wisconsin is recognized as the national leader in paper production,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “The investments ND Paper has made in Wisconsin, first at the plant in Biron and now at ND Packaging, demonstrate that our state offers unparalleled opportunities for innovation in an industry that is vital to our economy.” 

The Paper Council echoes WEDC’s assessment of Wisconsin’s strong paper making heritage, but President Scott Suder says there’s room for improvement for Wisconsin’s edge in the global, competitive market. 

“We have to be very careful about our regulatory climate here in Wisconsin to make sure that we continue a balance of protecting the environment but also ensuring that our businesses stay here,” he said. “We don’t want our state to become less competitive because of adverse regulatory policies.” 

Suder added that certain sectors of the industry are struggling. Of those are the Verso mills that continue to sit idle in Wisconsin Rapids and Duluth. 

“We need all the assistance that we can get on both the state and federal level, whether its CARES Act money for struggling businesses or support for those workers who have either been laid off or displaced as a result of COVID-19,” he said.

— Execs from Wisconsin’s top pro sports organizations will be featured at a virtual Press Club virtual event set for Tuesday. 

Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin, Milwaukee Admirals President Jon Greenberg, Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy, and Milwaukee Brewers Business Operations President Rick Schlesinger will discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected athletes and their sports.

They will take questions from ESPN sports reporter/host Jen Lada and from the audience.


— The Department of Workforce Development’s unemployment backlog fell to 5.55 percent from 6.04 percent last week.

DWD records show the high was 16.4 percent between March 15 and May 23.

The current backlog is equal to about 60,203 unique claimants held up in adjudication by one or more weeks due to multiple issues. Compared to last week, that’s 5,145 fewer Wisconsinites waiting for a UI check.

Issue resolution is considered timely if completed within 21 days of the date the issue was detected. As of Friday, 50,933 claimants had been waiting for 21 days or more for their claim to be resolved, a decrease of 5,151 from Nov. 27.

The agency continues to focus on reducing the wait time for outstanding claims related to the pandemic, especially now that Wisconsin is experiencing its regular annual increase in seasonal layoffs due to changing weather. 

“States in the north with large numbers of people employed in the construction industry commonly see an increase in claim activity through the winter months, as companies lay off their workers for the winter season,” DWD interim Secretary Amy Pechacek said. “Regardless, our commitment to all UI claimants remains the same — a program that is easier to understand and navigate and that makes timely determinations.”

DWD has paid about 566,265 claimants over $4.84 billion since March 15, an increase of 6,265 claimants and $420 million over last week.

— From a Milwaukee biotech firm to a De Pere restaurant, 231 businesses statewide were selected as winners for the “We’re All Innovating” contest to share $3 million.

The contest was created by the WEDC this fall to recognize and promote the creative ways startups and small businesses are adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Wisconsin is known for its can-do spirit and its big ideas,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired businesses to find new ways … fight the virus, operate their businesses, and meet the needs of our community. After looking at these winning projects, I’m truly in awe of these folks’ ingenuity, imagination, and creativity.”

A team of 182 volunteer judges coordinated by the Wisconsin Technology Council evaluated blind entries from more than 1,226 businesses. Entries were evaluated in part on their progress to date and the potential for the innovation to move forward. The contest drew participants from across the state, including entries and judges from 70 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, and featured a strong showing from minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. Top prizes went to 17 winners.

Milwaukee-based Novir LLC received the top prize for its work developing a test to rapidly detect antibodies found in people who have already contracted COVID-19. The Novir antibody test is undergoing FDA review and is expected to be cleared this month. 

The Abbey Bar in De Pere was recognized for going beyond typical COVID-19 health and safety measures to offer “pay-it-forward” gift cards to customers who are encouraged to give them to front-line health workers or people hard hit by COVID-19. 

See details of the top entries:


Thursday: virtual event: ‘Trade Reset: How a New Washington, D.C., Administration May Change Trade Policy Near and Far’

Midwest trade experts and a top Canadian official examine trade issues during a virtual event. Panelists will discuss the new US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) and how the ongoing China-U.S. trade conflict may change under a new president.

Thursday, Dec. 10, noon to 1 p.m. Central Time


– U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., member of the House Ways and Means Committee. See


– Neal Kemmet, CEO of Ace Ethanol in Stanley, Wisconsin.

– Wayne Robson, acting Consul General Canadian Consulate, Chicago. Previously, regional director of the Vancouver Regional Office responsible for the Pacific Region, director of the International Trade Finance Division in Ottawa and posts in Japan, Australia, South Korea, Mexico and Vietnam.

– Sandi Siegel, president, M.E. Dey & Co., Milwaukee, co-host of “Talking Trade” webcast:

The event is free, but you must register in advance.

Register here:



# Hiring outlook in Milwaukee and Wisconsin improving, but lags behind other states, metros 

# Advocate Aurora Health awards $66M in bonuses for employees’ pandemic efforts

# State Supreme Court hears arguments on Public Health school closure order



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– Milwaukee Art Museum hires new deputy director/chief experience officer 


– United Airlines extends nonstop service between Milwaukee and Florida 


– Farmer Op-Ed: Fall harvest ‘couldn’t have been more perfect’ 


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