WED AM News: High consumer demand puts potatoes in a good spot; Milwaukee business leaders offer solutions to racial prosperity gaps

— Wisconsin spuds had a shaky start to the COVID-19 pandemic, but high consumer demand has put potatoes in a good spot, says the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.

America’s Dairyland ranks third in the nation for potato production, behind Idaho and Wahsington. And about 20 percent of the crop goes to McCain Foods in Plover to be made into frozen products, such as french fries and tater tots.

Before COVID-19, WPVGA growers agreed to terms on the 2020-2021 crop year potato contracts with McCain Foods. But because of the uncertainty that comes with a pandemic, McCain Foods had to cut the contract by 25 percent in volume. While there were no changes to the terms on price, “a 25 percent cut in volume is very significant,” Executive Director Tamas Houlihan said in a Regional Leadership Conference webinar. 

That cut represents up to 1.5 million hundredweight of potatoes or a 15 million dollar loss, he said.

After food service closures, there was a huge reduction in demand for potato products, said Houlihan. In addition, there was still half of a million hundredweight of potatoes from the crop before that had to be dealt with. 

“Fortunately, Wisconsin has a very robust fresh market,” said Houlihan. About 45 percent of potatoes are bagged for the store, otherwise known as table stock potatoes. Some of those stored potatoes could be diverted to grocery stores.

Read the full story at 

— The state Department of Revenue is forecasting Wisconsin to lose 620,000 jobs between the first and third quarters of 2020.

That’s more than three times the number of jobs lost during the first two years of the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

DOR’s latest economic forecast predicts “a good share” of those job losses will be temporary. Almost one-third of those jobs will return during the first two quarters of the recovery with the state back at pre-COVID-19 employment levels by the end of 2023. That’s slightly behind the U.S. as a whole with a recovery predicted by mid-2023.

The agency is also predicting personal income in Wisconsin to grow 0.2 percent in 2020 and 1.6 percent in 2021. The state’s personal income grew 4 percent in 2019, behind the 4.4 percent growth seen nationwide. DOR is projecting total personal income will recover its pre-COVID-19 level by the second quarter of 2021.

According to the report, the leisure and hospitality services have been the hardest hit sector, shedding close to half the jobs in those industries in the matter of weeks. Meanwhile, manufacturing and construction are expected to lose 114,000 jobs in the second and third quarters of 2020 before starting to add jobs by year’s end and to continue growth through 2021.

Read the report:

— The 2020 Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference is Thursday. 

This year’s virtual event, put on by the Wisconsin Technology Council, will focus on COVID-19 economics survival, recovery and prosperity for young companies during a ‘new normal.’ 

It will still allow for one-on-one meetings, six panels, workshops and a keynote address. This year’s keynoter is Brian Pinkerton, chief architect for Apple’s artificial intelligence, otherwise known as Siri, and a UW-Madison alumnus. 

The winner of the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest will also be announced. See student stories featuring the finalists: 

Listen to a podcast with conference panelist Buckley Brinkman, executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity:

Listen to a podcast with conference panelist Deb Archer, president and CEO of Destination Madison:

— Compared to its peers, Milwaukee ranks last in African American and Hispanic prosperity, and has the largest racial prosperity gaps.

In response to a survey that identified racial disparity as the biggest challenge facing the Milwaukee region, MMAC assembled data to see how Milwaukee ranked. 

Using seven indicators ranging from housing to education to unemployment, MMAC ranked 21 cities on a one to 21 scale, 21 being the worst. Points were given based on each indicator, so the best a region could do would be seven, most likely giving the city a number one ranking. 

Milwaukee was put up against Minneapolis, Raleigh, Baltimore, Chicago, San Jose, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Kansas City, st.Louis, Nashville, Memphis, Orlando, Portland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Oklahoma City. 

Milwaukee ranked sixth for white prosperity.  

And it ranked dead last for African American prosperity and Hispanic prosperity. The city also had the largest prosperity gaps between the white and African American population and the white and Hispanic population. 

— MMAC hosted a conversation yesterday with business leaders from areas of the city most impacted by the recent protests and unrest. Panelists agreed a lack of opportunity in the region for black professionals makes it difficult to retain that workforce. 

The featured panelists included Nicole Robbins, executive director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp.; Clifton Phelps, vice president of business development at JCP Construction; and Kevin Newell, president and CEO of Royal Capital Group LLC.

Robbins suggested one solution to the low retention of black professionals is to “meet people where they are, figure out where that pain, where that trauma, where those barriers are created.”

“How can you relate as a human being and have empathy for that so you can address those issues to move forward to then build that bridge to provide that kind of opportunity,” she offered. “How can you provide resources to these community organizations that are actually servicing?”

Both Newell and Phelps agreed that investing in businesses owned by African Americans is another solution.

“We’ve got to find a way to continue to invest into these small businesses so they can continue to one, employ… but also to inspire, because something about this city is that we need black inspiration,” said Newell. “We’ve got to get vested into creating, developing and investing in the longevity of black businesses.”

And now, Robbins said that what is working in Milwaukee is dialogue, “people are more open to have a discussion that’s hard really on all sides of demographics.”

She said having a dialogue allows for connectivity between different backgrounds to resolve institutional and systemic issues.

But Phelps argued that there still “are a lot of deals done in Milwaukee when we’re not at the table.”

He questioned how the city would want to be diverse without having people of color’s voices figuring out how Milwaukee can be diverse as well as a better and safer place for everyone to live. 

“People have to understand that there has to be a diverse group of people to look at a strategic plan to figure out how Milwaukee needs to get better,” Phelps said. 

— DHS reports the state’s COVID-19 death toll at 607 — up 12, all in southeastern Wisconsin.

Milwaukee County had 10 new deaths while Racine and Washington counties each had one more. The spike in today’s deaths continues the up and down trend the state has been seeing.

The state’s number of confirmed cases also rose — by 374  — bringing the cumulative case count to 18,917 and the positive tests as a percentage of total tests to 3.6 percent.

An estimated 64 percent of those who tested positive have recovered from COVID-19, while 3 percent of patients have died. Thirty-three percent are still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (309), Racine (41), Brown (37), Kenosha (30), Waukesha (30), Dane (29), Rock (19), Walworth (17), Grant (12), Ozaukee (12), Outagamie (8), Washington (8), Winnebago (7), Fond du Lac (5), Clark (4) and Richland (4).

Door, Jefferson, Sauk and Sheboygan counties report three deaths each. Dodge, Forest and Marinette counties report two deaths each.

Adams, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Columbia, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, Polk, Waupaca and Wood counties report one death each.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates:

— The Wisconsin National Guard has ongoing COVID-19 testing sites statewide, helping administer more than 92,000 tests so far.

The state’s daily lab capacity is at 15,115, the most it’s been on any day. But 10,522 total tests were recorded today, shy of the state’s capabilities. More than 282,000 tests have been done since the state started testing. 

Community-based testing sites are located at the Adams-Friendship High School in Adams County, the Alliant Energy Center in Dane County, the Door County Justice Center, Central High School in Kenosha County, United Migrant Opportunity Services and Custer Stadium in Milwaukee County, Mt. Pleasant in Racine County, Washington County Fairgrounds and Marshfield Fairgrounds in Wood County. 

The Guard is conducting site-based testing in Clyman in Dodge County and at the Red Granite Correctional Institution in Waushara County.

— COVID-19 hospital patients statewide have declined to 388 with nearly 74 percent of those patients — 286 — in southeastern Wisconsin.

But Dr. John Raymond, president of the Medical College of Wisconsin, told an Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce briefing that the number of patients are “stable.”

According to data from the Wisconsin Hospital Association, total COVID patients are trending down, while the state’s COVID-19 inpatients pending tests and ICU patients remain level at 209 and 139, respectively.

Of the state’s 18,917 confirmed cases, 14 percent have been hospitalized and 3 percent have received intensive care, according to DHS.

The department also reports that 52 or fewer patients are in each of the six other public health regions of the state.

WHA data reports that statewide, Wisconsin seems to have an adequate supply of beds and ventilators. Hospitals have a total of 1,274 ventilators and 336 ventilated patients, “stable and adequate,” according to Raymond.

ICU beds immediately available in the state number 376 out of 1,474 total in Wisconsin; intermediate care beds — 204 out of 874; surgical beds — 1,392 out of 7,218; and isolation beds — beds in negative pressure rooms meant for isolating patients — 1,069 out of 2,003.

But according to data from DHS, southeastern Wisconsin only has 20 percent of its beds available.

Hospitals continue to lack PPE. The WHA data shows that 31 hospitals have a seven day or less supply of face shields, 43 have a limited supply of goggles, 31 have limited N95 masks, 38 have a limited supply of gowns and 30 hospitals have limited paper medical masks.

Raymond noted that the most critical need is gowns.


# Milwaukee officials pass out PPE to protestors, invites them to get tested for Covid-19

# Protesting In A Pandemic: Gatherings Against Police Violence Strain Social Distancing, Public Health Measures

# Group shuts down Beltline to protest George Floyd’s death and others

# ‘I’m feeling violated and angry’: Downtown Madison businesses bearing brunt of community outrage

# The Latest: Minneapolis School Board ends police contract 



– Nutrition and recreation: Local fruit growers are key cog in region’s agritourism 

– Dairy Markets Continue to Rise, But Can It Last? 

– Ag Groups Strongly Support Romanski as Ag Secretary 


– PNC’s planned branch closures include Milwaukee location


– People And Bicycles Crowd Streets During Stay-At-Home, What Does That Mean For Future City Planning?


– State triggers extended program to provide more benefits to Wisconsin’s unemployed


– Frontdesk CEO Weatherly among new UW Board of Regents appointees


– PPP tracker: A look at loan cancellations

– Community Foundation of Chippewa County provides COVID-19 grants 

– Wisconsin renters can now be evicted but can soon apply for rent aid


– Milwaukee-area hospital admissions plummeted in April — A breakout by hospital

– Hospital price increases will boost revenue at Froedtert, Ascension hospitals


– Milwaukee Tool buys land for West Bend manufacturing plant

– With bars and restaurants closed, off-premise sales for Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy on the rise

– Renaissance Manufacturing Group to close Waukesha foundry


– NBC15 photojournalist, reporter attacked live on-air during morning show 


– Protests continue throughout Milwaukee

– Protesters gather at City Deck for silent vigil in wake of George Floyd killing 


– No curfew in Milwaukee for Tuesday night — so far

– State Will Weigh Combined Environmental Impacts When Permitting New High-Capacity Wells

– Madison City Council to condemn Minneapolis killing, pursue local police oversight


– Covid-19 leads Lands’ End to $20.6 million net loss in first quarter


– Mars Cheese Castle adds ‘I can’t breathe’ to iconic sign 


– Wisconsin Badgers football team allowed to train on campus June 8

– Packers postpone media interviews in support of #BlackoutTuesday 


– Irish Fest bringing its entertainment virtually this year

– Kapco to host live concerts in its Grafton lot

– Exploring Tourism In Lake Geneva After Crowds Visit Area


– River levels allow favorable barge movement compared to 2019


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

– American Lung Association: Applauds Oneida Nation, Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Indians for going tobacco* free, protecting health of workers

– DBA: Congratulates Romanski on appointment as DATCP secretary

– SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin: Express solidarity with protesters demanding racial justice

– REALTORS: Support peaceful protests against racial injustice