WED AM News: Panelists call for greater investments in creative industries; Wisconsin ranked in bottom half of states for contribution of immigrants

— Panelists at a recent discussion hosted by the Wisconsin Technology Council called for greater investments in the arts and creative industries.

“We need to get more creators and entrepreneurs to realize that they have the potential to make money,” said Max Fergus, chief executive officer and co-founder of LUM streaming service. “If we’re not fostering that creativity in the schools like MATC, area high school or UW-Madison, there’s nowhere for that money to go.”

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Department of Commerce found the creative industry had an economic impact of $804 billion last year in the United States, according to Anne Katz, executive director of Arts Wisconsin.  

In Wisconsin, the industry impact for 2019 was $9.7 billion. And the state gained 94,000 creative jobs — more than the beer, biotech, and papermaking industries, she added.

“We need angel investors in the arts to invest in creative industries,” she said.

Tom Still, president of the Tech Council, explained the concept of “creative lens investing” falls under the umbrella of social impact investing, which typically aims to create social or environmental change. 

“Part of the way to add more startups in this realm is to showcase some of the ones that we have,” Still said. 

Scott Mosley is the chief operating officer of CODAworx, a global online community that showcases commissioned art. He said opportunities to land equity investments exist in the arts but added: “if you’re stuck only in equity, you’ll have some challenges.” 

“If you can expand capital structure and think about ways to engage in the community outside of equity, I see returns that are pretty interesting,” he said. 

See more: 

— Wisconsin has been ranked in the bottom half of U.S. states for the economic contribution of immigrants in a recent report by Wallethub. 

The report ranks Wisconsin 29th among U.S. states for this measure, which incorporates four factors: the share of immigrants in the workforce, the socioeconomic contribution of immigrants, the number of international students, and “brain gain” and innovation. 

Wisconsin was ranked 40th for the share of immigrants in the workforce, 34th for the contribution of immigrants, and 32nd for the number of international students. Still, the state was ranked 19th in the innovation category, giving a nod to the role immigrants play in Wisconsin’s startup scene. 

See the full report: 

— The Trump administration recently announced new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum products including wires, staples, nails and many others. 

Large manufacturers in Wisconsin have already been feeling the impact of existing tariffs on steel and aluminum, with Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson estimating related costs of up to $120 million for 2019. And the Molson Coors Beverage Co. — formerly known as MillerCoors — has derided the tariffs as damaging for the beer industry, which relies heavily on aluminum for cans. 

A proclamation from the White House shows the new tariffs will go into effect Feb. 8. Imports of steel and aluminum have declined since the metals tariffs were enacted in early 2018, but President Trump says imports of aluminum and steel derivative products have “significantly increased” over the same period. 

As imports of these products have risen, the administration says the customer base for U.S. producers of aluminum and steel has been eroded, undermining the original purpose of the tariffs. 

In a release, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind said the newly announced tariffs illustrate that the administration’s current trade strategy isn’t working. 

“Instead, they are doubling down on yet another example of unneeded trade escalation that will only result in more taxes on Wisconsin’s businesses, farmers, workers, and families,” Kind, D-La Crosse, said in a statement. 

See the release from Kind’s office: 

See the proclamation: 

— The state Assembly and Senate have formally gaveled in Gov. Tony Evers’ special session to address the dairy industry and rural Wisconsin.

Dem lawmakers yesterday called on their GOP colleagues to act on the package.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has been critical of the guv’s proposals, saying they do more to grow the size of government than to help rural communities.

The package of farm bills Evers announced in his State of the State last week includes an effort to increase the state’s dairy exports to 20 percent of the nation’s milk supply for 2024. Other bills would improve access to mental health services for farmers and create a program to help connect them and the food they produce with universities, hospitals and local businesses across Wisconsin.

“This is not bureaucracy in Madison. This is taking what we have to offer in resources, in research and taking it to the farmers in their community, getting it closer to the farm,” said state Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo.

— The state Department of Transportation is requesting public input on a plan to spend $10 million to build electric vehicle charging stations across the state. 

The money comes from the state’s portion of the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Environmental Mitigation Trust, which was established after the car manufacturer violated the Clean Air Act and was forced to pay more than $2.9 billion in damages. Wisconsin is getting $67.1 million from that fund over a 10-year period. 

Under Gov. Tony Evers, the state Department of Administration has set aside $10 million for the new charging stations. DOA Secretary Joel Brennan says establishing a statewide network of these stations will “support the growing number of [electric vehicle] owners residing in and visiting Wisconsin.” 

The agency has set a deadline of Feb. 17 for public comments on the plan. 

See the release: 

— Researchers at UW-Madison have discovered a method for synthesizing acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, from renewable biomass. This potentially improves the economics for this common painkiller. 

According to an info sheet from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the current process for producing acetaminophen uses chemicals from coal tar. The new method relies on a compound that’s “easily isolated” from lignin, the structural organic polymer that gives many plants their wood-like rigidity. 

The info sheet shows the new, less costly production method could be incorporated into the biorefinery process to add value to this form of alternative energy production. Plus, acetaminophen and similar chemicals can also be used to make plastics and fuels. WARF is seeking commercial partners to help develop the new method for producing the chemical. 

Acetaminophen is the most commonly used medicine for pain and fever in the United States and is on the World Health Organization’s official list of essential medicines. 

See more in the info sheet provided by WARF: 

— A Green Bay-based provider of autism therapy services called Caravel Autism Health is opening four new treatment centers in Minnesota. 

According to Jackie Vick, the company’s vice president of Minnesota clinical operations, the state has higher rates of autism than the country overall. One in 42 children in Minnesota has autism, compared to one in 59 across the United States. 

“Local families have encountered significant wait times for securing treatment for their children,” Vick said in a release. “These new centers will reduce that wait time and provide access to specialists who can provide the life-changing treatment these children need.” 

After one of the new centers opened in Mankato yesterday, the company now has two locations in Minnesota. And three more locations will open over the next three months in Plymouth, Woodbury and White Bear Lake. 

The company also has five locations in Wisconsin, with facilities in Madison, Milwaukee, Wausau and Green Bay. 

These care centers provide diagnostic services as well as personalized treatment for children with autism. Specialists at Caravel create treatment plans on an individual basis focused on building social skills and confidence. 

Autism can be “reliably diagnosed” in children as young as 14 months, according to Vick. She says the sooner that therapy can be started, “the better-positioned children are to make the greatest gains possible.” 

See the release: 

— More female entrepreneurs have been entering the Governor’s Business Plan Contest in recent years, according to a release from the Wisconsin Technology Council. 

About 30 percent of entries over the past six years have come from women, the release shows. During that time, 79 percent of the contest’s 300 semi-finalists and about a third of the finalists have been women. 

“There is still a way to go before women are starting companies at the same rate as men, but the rise of women who enter and perform well in the Business Plan Contest is a healthy sign,” said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council. 

Women-led startups have taken home the grand prize several times in recent years, including Patricia Woolridge and Brent Brenner of GrowthChart Records last year, Katie Brenner of bluDiagnostics in 2015, and Laura King of Elucent Medical in 2014. 

The Tech Council is still accepting applications for this year’s contest until the end of the month. 

See the release: 


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– Irgens terminates contract with Findorff on BMO Tower

– Irgens fires lead contractor on BMO Tower, names replacement


– UW-Green Bay waiving application fee for technical college transfers

– Conservative think tank says more private school vouchers would give Wisconsin an economic boost


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– Wizard Works Brewing sets opening date in Milwaukee’s 3rd Ward


– Wisconsin tests 6 for possible coronavirus


– Former Kohl’s president Sona Chawla takes new role at Chicagoland company


– A.O. Smith reports sales decline in 2019 driven by weaker demand in China


– Vos convening special session on state dairy crisis


– Marathon County reports first CWD case

– Housing co-op receives city approval to remodel three-unit Hancock Street property


– Yelich, Rodgers, Milwaukee Bucks’ Alex Lasry react to Kobe Bryant tragedy


– Vos: Agriculture should be a bipartisan priority

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