WED AM News: Midwest ski resorts planning for upcoming (COVID) season; WisBusiness: The Podcast features Lisa Johnson, BioForward Wisconsin

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— From the Baraboo Hills to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and beyond, things will be different at regional ski resorts this winter as they adjust to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

That will mean fewer people allowed in lodges and on the slopes during peak periods, reduced lesson offerings, limitations on chairlift capacities and mask requirements in lift lines, among others.

The changes also mean resorts will take a financial hit, though no figures are available at this point.

In an effort to even out visits, resorts are encouraging guests to ski, snowboard and go tubing during midweek when possible because numbers are usually much lower than busy weekends.

“We’re making lots of alterations to keep our customers and employees safe,” said Joe Vittengl, who has worked at Devil’s Head near Baraboo for more than three decades and is now the four-season resort’s general manager.

Read the full story at 

— This week’s episode of WisBusiness: The Podcast features Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward Wisconsin.

Bioforward Wisconsin represents over 220 members in the state’s biohealth industry that includes diagnostics, research, therapeutics, clinics and medical devices. 

“With COVID, we’ve obviously had a wide range of initiatives to impact COVID,” Johnson said. She noted personal protective equipment from health manufacturers and testing from reagent developers were two huge things. Before the vaccine conversation, Wisconsin companies were also involved in therapeutics. 

AstraZeneca, which with the University of Oxford has a vaccine that prevents coronavirus with an average 70 percent efficacy, had done its clinical trials at UW Health in Madison.

“A broad range of companies in Wisconsin have had an impact anywhere from PPE to testing to therapeutics and now to vaccines,” she said. “Even though we don’t have large pharmaceuticals here, that have their corporate offices here, our companies are participating in many different ways.”

The biohealth industry in Wisconsin and internationally took part in “unbelievable” collaborations due to the pandemic. With technology such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data, research institutions decoded the coronavirus in two weeks versus decades, Johnson said. 

“I hope we all learn from this is that collaboration works and we can address major issues globally when we all come together and work together,” she said. “I’m not saying we can’t ever be competitors … but it just showed you that the pandemic has brought people together in a way that hasn’t happened very often in our history and that I’m very proud of.” 

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— The Department of Health Services’ latest update shows the state adding over 100 COVID-19 deaths.

The record 104 single-day deaths comes after zero deaths on Sunday and six deaths on Monday.

DHS Secretary Andrea Palm and the state’s chief medical officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard disclosed that the people may not have all died in the 24-hour span covered by the report. DHS reports the information in real-time that they receive from the main surveillance system. But it takes two to three days to process that real-time information. 

Nov. 17 was the previous record for single-day COVID-19 deaths at 92. DHS’ coronavirus dashboard website includes statewide and county-by-county visuals that have deaths by the date of actual death. Preliminary data now read that 38 residents died Nov. 17 after the deaths were spread out to the correct days.

Palm said regardless of what day the deaths occurred, it’s 104 deaths that were preventable. 

The new deaths today bring the state’s death toll to 3,115.

The seven-day average for daily deaths due to the virus is 53 deaths per day. One month ago, the average was 28 deaths per day. Two months ago, it was six.

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— Many farmers used the recent warm spell to wrap up field work and put equipment away for the winter, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

In a few areas of northern Wisconsin, this meant snowmelt and mud, but much of the state had favorable soil moistures for bringing in the last of the corn. 

Corn for grain harvest was 92 percent complete, more than four weeks ahead of last year and 17 days ahead of the five-year average. The moisture content of corn harvested for grain was reported at 17 percent. 

Fall tillage and manure spreading continued well ahead of schedule. Fall tillage was reported as 79 percent complete, more than four weeks ahead of last year and more than a week ahead of the average. 

Ninety-six percent of winter wheat had emerged, more than four weeks ahead of last year and three days ahead of the average. Winter wheat condition rated 84 percent good to excellent statewide, up two percentage points from last week.

— The Department of Workforce Development’s unemployment backlog fell to 6.45 percent from 6.72 percent last week.

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

That’s equal to about 70,070 unique claimants held up in adjudication by one or more weeks due to multiple issues. And 3,900 Wisconsinites have received their UI checks in the last seven days.

DWD has paid about 555,700 claimants over $4.38 billion since March 15.

See the release: 

— The State of Wisconsin Investment Board exceeded its one-year and five-year benchmarks as of December 2019 for its Variable and Core funds, according to a biennial audit.

The investment return for the five-year period ending in December 2019 was 7.8 percent for the Core Fund and 9.8 percent for the Variable Fund. However, the Core Fund’s 20-year investment return has not met the return assumption since 2015. The Core Fund’s five-year investment return ranked fifth among 10 large public pension plans reviewed by the Legislative Audit Bureau.

The nonpartisan LAB released its biennial management audit of SWIB yesterday.

SWIB invests assets for the Wisconsin Retirement System, the State Investment Fund and four other funds. As of last December, assets managed by SWIB totaled $128.8 billion, 90.5 percent of which were assets of the Core Fund and Variable Fund of the WRS. 

LAB also found SWIB’s annual expenses increased by 48.3 percent from 2015 to 2019, attributing it to an increase in management fees paid for external investment management expertise. SWIB indicated its goal is to increase the percentage of assets managed internally. But the audit found the percentage of assets externally managed increased by more than 10 points from December 2017 to 2019 to 46.5 percent. Finally, SWIB had savings of approximately 10 cents per $100 of assets managed in 2013, but the level of savings has been trending downward since that year and was approximately 5 cents per $100 of assets managed in 2018.

“While this audit doesn’t ring any alarm bells, it does illustrate the importance of keeping a consistent eye on multiple components of SWIB reporting and benchmarks,” said Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem Lakes. “The increase in costs underscores the importance of transparency in netting out all costs. Also, being mindful of potential future pressure to increase contributions, the broadening of stress-testing needs to be considered.”

LAB made several recommendations including that SWIB expand on the manner in which it reports investment returns. LAB also noted the Legislature could consider creating a statutory requirement for SWIB related to performing and reporting the results of stress tests of the WRS.

See the release: 

— At the end of an assembly line might be a finished product, but there is still one crucial task that remains — the examination. Sure, a product like a pretzel is straightforward to inspect, but what about an iPhone?

Smaller industrial lines often use people, but those people have a lot of responsibility when inspecting complex components. Could such invaluable eyes and attention to detail be possible for a robot to do? 

Solving these puzzles is like an interesting game. At least, that is how co-founder and CEO of Qobotix, Egor Korneev, thinks about it. Qobotix is a developer of collaborative robots known as “cobots,” short for collaborative robots.

Qobotix creates cobots that are smaller, cheaper than cobots currently on the market. And Qobotix cobots have a universal operating system that can support a platform for any automation application. The company is based in California with a research and development office in Madison.

Read the full story at  

Read more stories authored by graduating students in UW-Madison’s Department of Life Sciences Communication, highlighting various early-stage businesses in Wisconsin and their founders: 

— The Dec. 2 virtual WOMEN reception will assess the progress female angel and venture capital investors are making in the early stage economy.

Women Opportunities Mentors Entrepreneurship Networking, produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council, will begin at 9:30 a.m. with virtual breakout networking sessions with the presentation following from 10-11 a.m. The reception is open to men and women. 

Panelists: Andrea Dlugos, co-manager of Wisconsin Investment Partners; Dana Guthrie, managing partner of Gateway Capital Partners; and Richelle Martin, managing director of the Winnow Fund. 

The trio will describe their funds or networks as well as what they see in Wisconsin, the region and beyond.

Register here: 

— Ahead of Thanksgiving, Spectrum is partnering with the East Madison Community Center to distribute kits to local residents during the holiday season. 

These kits, available on a first-come, first served basis, contain easy-to-install and -use products, such as a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide tester, weather stripping and first aid kit. Spectrum also donated $2,500 to the East Madison Community Center’s food program.

“Being able to enhance the safety of homes through the kits, as well as put food on the table during the holidays through Spectrum’s contribution to our food program provides relief for people who are struggling during these difficult times,” said Tom Moen, executive director of the East Madison Community Center.


# Gov. Evers asks consumers to adhere to Covid safety during busy shopping weekend

# Illinois health care packaging company headquarters to bring 300 jobs to Pleasant Prairie

# Wisconsin-Minnesota Game Canceled Due To COVID-19



– FSA director expects more Dairy Margin Coverage signups 

– Egg Production Rises 4% in October 


– First Federal Bank of Wisconsin to complete Mitchell Bank acquisition 


– Wisconsin nursing homes see spike in COVID-19-related deaths

– Mayo Clinic: COVID-19 Positive Test Rate Is Dropping At Midwest Hospitals, Except In Southwest Wisconsin 

– Officials: High Coronavirus Community Spread Remains Greatest Threat To Wisconsin Veterans Homes 


– Zywave acquires Texas-based insurtech company 


– Wisconsin Supreme Court will take on question at center of capacity limit lawsuit 


– Legacy Briggs & Stratton Corp. to pay nearly $34 million in decade-long patent lawsuit 


– Milwaukee recount staff discover nearly 400 unopened absentee ballots, add them to vote totals

– Drug touted by Trump may not alleviate pandemic’s toll on the poor


– Milwaukee Common Council approves higher penalties for Covid-19 violations 


– As customers move online, so does the holiday shopping season 


– Small businesses hit with another PPP tax change. Here’s what it means. 


– After Promising Season Cut Short By Pandemic, UW Women’s Hockey Prepares To Return 

– Wisconsin Hunters Harvest Over 95,000 Deer Opening Weekend 


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