WED AM News: WEC Energy Group reports higher 2020 second quarter net income over 2019; Statewide, businesses are cautious in business, personal travel plans

— WEC Energy Group is reporting net income of $241.6 million, or 76 cents per share, for the second quarter of 2020. This is up from $235.7 million, or 74 cents per share, for the second quarter last year.

For the first six months of 2020, the company recorded net income of $694.1 million, or $2.19 per share. Again, this is up from $655.8 million, or $2.07 per share, in the corresponding period a year ago.

According to WEC spokesperson Brendan Conway, the net income increased for a number of reasons, including efficiency measures that reduced operations and maintenance costs and also warmer-than-normal weather.

“Weather certainly impacts how much energy our customers use,” Conway said. “We have numerous tips and resources on our website to help customers manage their energy use throughout the year.”

In addition, WEC recorded a boost  from its investment in American Transmission Company following a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission order earlier this year.

Stay-at-home orders that were in place during much of the reporting period resulted in electricity consumption by small commercial and industrial customers to decline by 8.6 percent. Electricity use by large commercial and industrial customers dropped by 12.9 percent during the second quarter of 2020. But residential electricity use rose by 17.1 percent.

At the end of June, the company was serving approximately 11,000 more electric customers and 27,000 more natural gas customers than at the same time a year ago.

However, consolidated revenues were down from last year totaling $3.7 billion for the first six months of 2020. That is short $310.3 million from revenues for the first half of 2019.

“We delivered solid results despite the significant challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gale Klappa, WEC executive chairman. “Our management team is experienced, resilient and focused on executing the fundamentals of our business. I’m confident we will continue to shine through the challenges ahead.”

According to a company release, WEC is reaffirming its earnings guidance for 2020 in the range of $3.71 to $3.75 per share with an expectation of reaching the top end of the range. This assumes normal weather for the remainder of the year.

See WEC’s quarterly earnings package: 

— The Wisconsin Technology Council’s board of directors voted unanimously yesterday to endorse the “soundness of science” behind mask mandates to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

The resolution cites “strong scientific evidence” that simple masks help to filter most viral particles and, while such masks are not an absolute defense for everyone, they have been shown to broadly reduce serious illness and death.

It reads that widespread mask wearing could “help to avoid the return of the stringent ‘safer at home’ orders” that took place in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In order to speed up the coming of normalcy for Wisconsin’s economy, schools and other institutions, the board voted 37-0 to endorse support for wearing masks under “appropriate conditions.”

The resolution noted it’s “not the role of the Tech Council” to comment on the legality or constitutionality of statutes, regulations or emergency orders, including Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate. 

However, the council adds that “it is a legitimate role of the Tech Council to evaluate the science behind existing and proposed state policies, and to provide its recommendations to the executive and legislative branches on such.”

Read the resolution: 

— Businesses responding to the July COVID-19 Wisconsin Business Impact survey expressed extreme caution in business and personal travel plans.

The Madison Region Economic Partnership, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state’s eight other regional economic development organizations and UW-Oshkosh released results yesterday from its fourth statewide survey.

For the first time, respondents were asked to share their perspectives on business and personal travel during the pandemic, with 65 percent of respondents eliminating all non-essential travel for the remainder of this year, and more than one-third already deciding to do the same in 2021. 

Personal travel has also decreased for 70 percent of respondents.

“We added the travel questions because we’ve been monitoring reports from our partners at Dane County Regional Airport and the numbers are staggering,” said MadREP President Paul Jadin adding that April and May showed declines in passenger travel of more than 90 percent. 

Read the full story at 

— With COVID-19 still a threat to the public, FNA Group, a Pleasant Prairie manufacturer and its pressure washer brand SIMPSON released a new sanitizing mister and pressure washing system for indoor and outdoor use. 

When used with the company’s Vital Oxide, the machine, called SM1200, will disinfect most surfaces. It’s powered by an electric motor and has dual valves to select either the sanitizing mist or pressure washer modes.

“It’s simple to use and perfect for sanitizing homes, schools, churches, hospitals, kitchens, parks and more,” said William Alexander, executive vice president of sales and marketing at the FNA Group.

According to a FNA Group spokesperson Debisree Saha, sales have picked up already for the $999 product.

“We expect this product to sell like hotcakes, especially during the need of the hour,” she said. “The need was born out of the pandemic where we really needed to create something for the safety around us.”

— MARS Solutions Group out of Waukesha announced MARS Returnship, a new program for women looking to restart their careers in technology following a gap in employment. 

MARS Returnship works with partner companies to customize a program design for a highly-trained and cost-effective, yet often overlooked, talent pipeline. The program provides on-the-job training, mentorship and a partnership approach to prepare cohort members to successfully rejoin the workforce. 

Corporate partners benefit from a mid-level candidate pool, with gender, age and cognitive diversity.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping women return to the technology workforce and we’ve designed an effective on-ramp program to ensure success,” said Rashi Khosla, founder and CEO of MARS Solutions Group. “Our exceptional graduates and partner companies enjoy a customized experience to meet the unique technical and interpersonal needs of all involved.”

Khosla has been informally mentoring women in tech to help them return to the workforce for years, said spokesperson Christine Dunbeck. 

“However, with the recent economic downturn due to COVID, the need for familial financial stability has increased,” Dunbeck said. “(This) is an ideal time to formalize the program to expand reach and benefit as many as possible.”

The first cohort begins on Sept. 1, and MARS Returnship is currently accepting applications. 

Cohort and partner company applicants can submit online at: 

Hear more Friday’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast.”

— The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $462 million to modernize critical drinking water and wastewater infrastructure across rural Wisconsin.

USDA is funding 161 projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. These investments will benefit 467,000 residents. The department is also making investments in 43 other states.

“Upgrading the infrastructure that delivers safe drinking water and modern wastewater management facilities will improve public health and drive economic development in our small towns and cities,” Wisconsin State Director Frank Frassetto said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA continues to be a strong partner with rural communities, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

Some beneficiaries of the loans include the City of Cumberland, which will use a $6.1 million loan and a $2.1 million grant to upgrade the city’s gravity sewer system and the Village of Lannon, which will use a $5 million loan and a $3.5 million grant to upgrade its water system. 

— President Trump has extended the federal deployment of National Guard members serving the coronavirus response effort until the end of 2020. States, however, are to cover a quarter of the bill. 

CARES Act funds could be used for costs associated with the Guard activation. Gov. Tony Evers told reporters yesterday that Wisconsin will have to pay approximately $4 million for the Guard’s continued support. 

“That was a disappointment because that’s approximately what we would pay if we used the state authority,” he said. “We’re happy to have the opportunity to have the National Guard be part of our program. We couldn’t be anywhere near where we are today.”

The Guard would have been pulled from the COVID-19 response by Aug. 7 in order to quarantine for two weeks before returning home as federal support had been set to end Aug. 21.

As of Aug. 3, the Wisconsin National Guard collected 317,775 COVID-19 samples as teams continue to operate statewide supporting local health departments and Department of Health Services with testing efforts.

“Thanks to our expanded lab capacity and our partnership with the Wisconsin National Guard, we have been able to stand up community testing sites across our entire state,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.

Information on the Guard testing sites and others is available here: 

See more on the Guard’s coronavirus response efforts: 

— Wisconsin is expanding and increasing the state’s testing capacity in order to prioritize nursing homes — the greatest area of need for response. 

As COVID-19 escalates nationwide and lines grow for states trying to purchase tests, other states will want to purchase tests from Wisconsin labs, explained Willems Van Dijk. The state is working with Wisconsin labs to purchase that testing capacity to make sure that it stays in the state for Wisconsin residents. 

“We must protect this vulnerable population from COVID-19 because they are at such a high risk for severe illness or death,” she said. “That is why we are prioritizing these newly acquired tests for nursing homes with the goal of regularly repeating testing for all employees of skilled nursing facilities along with symptomatic residents.”

Both Evers and Willems Van Dijk touted Wisconsin’s “success story” of testing capacity — going from zero to over 24,000 tests per day since March. 

The state’s private lab partners include Exact Sciences, Marshfield Clinic and Accelerated. 

Wisconsin has 83 active labs and a daily testing capacity of 24,156. 

— President Trump signed an executive order earlier this week to help rural health care providers and permanently extend some telehealth policies that resulted in virtual care’s considerable growth during the pandemic.

Prior to COVID-19, telehealth reimbursements were only allowed when patients received virtual care in approved locations, such as a clinic, hospital or nursing homes. The CARES Act allowed for hospitals to get reimbursed for telehealth even if the patient was at home. 

“The president’s executive order seems to be a good thing from the standpoint of continuing telehealth after COVID in much the same way we are today,” said Chris Meyers, director of virtual health at Marshfield Clinic. “We support maintaining those flexibilities toward delivering care in two-way video and phone. We’ve worked with other health systems and national organizations to make the case for those reimbursements being made permanent.”

Meyers said in an interview with the health system is still watching exactly how those reimbursement flexibilities are made permanent while noting changes are likely. 

“I do think that in a post-COVID world, telehealth will be far more prevalent in your healthcare than it was before,” he said.

— DHS reports 728 new COVID-19 cases after receiving a total of 18,138 tests, bringing the percentage of positive tests per total tests down to 4 percent. 

Health officials have stressed that below 5 percent is where the state needs to be. The percentage of cumulative positive tests per total tests since the start of the pandemic is about 5.7 percent, according to DHS’ figures.

The seven-day average of daily confirmed cases is 840 and on the decline. 

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 56,056 and active cases to 9,709 or 17.3 percent of the state’s total confirmed cases. Active cases are defined as those still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis.

Recovered patients number 45,368, or 81 percent of the state’s total confirmed cases, a rising percentage. Meanwhile 1.7 percent of patients have died. Patients have an 8.5 percent chance of being hospitalized.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— DHS also reports 12 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 961.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (447), Racine (77), Kenosha (58), Waukesha (57), Brown (52), Dane (37), Rock (26), Washington (22), Walworth (21), Winnebago (18), Ozaukee (17), Waupaca (15), Grant (14), Outagamie (13), Clark (7), Marathon (7), Fond du Lac (6), Sheboygan (6), Dodge (5), Jefferson (5), Forest (4) and Richland (4).

Barron, Door, Eau Claire, Marinette and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Kewaunee, Polk, St. Croix and Trempealeau counties report two deaths each.

Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marquette, Monroe, Rusk and Wood counties report one death each.

— Epic’s SlicerDicer, a self-service reporting tool that allows physicians ready access to clinical data, quickly verified that COVID-19 can cause fatal blood clots and was linked to dementia despite it being a respiratory disease.

After several patients at Lee Health in Florida died unexpectedly in the ICU from blood clot complications in April, clinicians pulled up data on all their ICU patients with blood clots using SlicerDicer. They divided patients into two groups — one with COVID-19 and the other without — and checked for risk factors in each group. Clinicians found that otherwise healthy patients with COVID-19 were three times more likely to develop blood clots. 

With this information, Lee Health started encouraging clinicians to prescribe blood thinners for these higher-risk patients, saving lives that might have been lost during a slower investigation.

At Mount Sinai Health System in New York, clinicians using SlicerDicer were among the first in the world to discover a connection between dementia and COVID-19 severity. They found that patients in their 60s and 70s with dementia — who tend to have multiple pre-existing conditions — were more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 than patients in the same age range who don’t have dementia. 

The findings were published so others can use the discovery as a starting point for further research on how to update clinical guidelines to care for elderly patients.

“Clinicians worldwide are using Epic to make important discoveries that are helping all of us write the playbook of best practices and treatments for patients with COVID-19,” said Andrea Noel, a member of Epic’s clinical informatics team. “Epic has an important role in facilitating the discovery process during a fast-moving pandemic.”


# Waukesha County One Of The Latest Wisconsin Suburbs To Be Hit Hard With COVID-19

# Epic Systems plans to bring thousands of workers back to Verona campus

# Haven’t mailed in your absentee ballot yet? Election officials say don’t wait as record numbers are flowing in

# By the numbers: Mass layoffs in Wisconsin attributed to COVID-19



– State COVID-19 Aid Likely Helped Farmers Left Out of Federal Programs 

– June cheese production up 3.5% on year 

– Wisconsin Corn Growers Keep Plugging Along 

– Dairy Cooperative Commends Senators’ Efforts Against Unfair Trade Tactics 


– Ag in the Classroom Awards MORE Grants to Teachers 


– Botanists Identify – And Contain – A New Invasive Grass In Wisconsin 


– Pharmaceutical company signs deal to license UWM Research Foundation intellectual property 

– Number of workplaces in Wisconsin investigated for Covid-19 outbreaks surpasses 600 


– TitletownTech VC fund invests in Appleton-based agtech startup Fork Farms 


– Experts: Slimmer Conservative Majority On Wisconsin Supreme Court Could Unite Justices


– Helgesen cutting 102 jobs in Hartford 


– Rite-Hite acquires site of its future HQ at Reed Street Yards 


– Milwaukee starts enforcing mask ordinance, these nine businesses warned thus far 

– Gov. Evers says business execs believe mask order ‘was the right thing to do’ 


– Marcus Corp. Q2 earnings hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic 

– Pabst Theater Group adjusts to private events business, fights for federal assistance 

– County Clare seeks to increase capacity to drive more hotel, restaurant business 


– Klappa: No plans to close ‘Power the Future’ coal-fired units in Oak Creek 


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

– UW-Madison: Badger Talks video: real estate 

– LGBT Chamber of Commerce: Kat Klawes selected for Economic Recovery Fellowship 

– Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative: Commends senators’ efforts against unfair trade tactics