FRI AM News: Business Plan Contest benefits all applicants from all sectors; ‘WisBusiness: The Podcast’ features Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp

— The Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest is an opportunity for startups of all sectors and sizes to experience the business plan process, gain exposure and win prizes, said contest veteran Jackie Hind of Plumb Pharmaceuticals.

The Madison-based health technology startup won the contest last year.

The deadline to enter the contest is 5 p.m. Sunday. It’s designed to help entrepreneurs write business plans, prepare them to launch a company, get feedback from mentors, and interact with investors and other professionals. 

For their initial entries, contestants submit 250-word idea abstracts. Contestants who advance to subsequent contest rounds will have the opportunity to expand their plan in stages. About 80 judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research and technology sectors across Wisconsin score the entries and provide feedback on submissions.

Plumb Pharmaceuticals won a “fabulous amount of money,” Hind said. “It really did help us to improve the technology that we’re working on.”

It also won space at StartingBlock, a hub for entrepreneurs, and the space is large enough for social distancing among team members, she added.

Read the full story at 

— In this week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast,” the Wisconsin National Guard leader, Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, highlights his troops’ historic role in the state’s COVID-19 response.

The Guard has fulfilled a variety of roles across the state since its response to the COVID-19 pandemic began after a March 12 public health emergency declaration from Gov. Tony Evers. This is the largest civil response by the Wisconsin National Guard in its history.

It began with transporting Wisconsin residents from a cruise ship with a COVID-19 outbreak back to their homes. From there, the Guard shipped personal protective equipment, ran self-isolation facilities, assisted with mortuary affairs, staffed a senior living facility, served as poll workers and collected over 1 million COVID-19 tests statewide.

Now, soldiers are embarking on another task: vaccinating Wisconsinites. The state has its mobile vaccination clinics in motion statewide made up of Guard members and vaccinators. The Guard has been approved to administer vaccines and is preparing to ramp up the mobile sites, said Knapp, the state’s adjutant general. He added the Guard is also ready to assist at mass vaccination sites.

While the Wisconsin National Guard takes on vaccinating, it continues to test statewide. 

“We scaled back a little bit after the first of the year just because testing demand has gone down across the state,” he said. “We’re available and out there across most counties across the state and so if someone needs a COVID test … then definitely look for a site in your area and go out there and get tested because really we need to continue to keep stopping the spread as we ramp up our vaccination program.”

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

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— A legislative measure aims to align state law with federal statutes on the treatment of assistance businesses received through federal COVID-19 programs, which would cut their taxes by $457 million through 2023-24.

Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, said it’s imperative to make the change to avoid hitting 90,000 businesses with an unexpected tax bill as they try to emerge from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This isn’t money we have. It’s imperative that we don’t take a half-billion dollars of the backs of these struggling small businesses,” Roth said.The amendment he’s circulating is to SB 2, which includes a host of updates and other changes to tax codes that lawmakers negotiated with the Department of Revenue. 

The nearly half-billion-dollar tax increase stems from the Paycheck Protection Program that allowed employers to pay workers while their businesses had to be closed during the shutdown. 

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce said that Congress intended for the funds to be tax-free, but the IRS claimed revenue from the funds would not be deductible. Congress acted late last year to reverse the decision by the IRS, but similar action has not been passed at the state level. DOR recently announced it would follow the IRS decision. 

“Congress never intended for these loans to be taxable. There is no evidence the state legislature did either,” said Cory Fish, WMC’s director of tax, transportation and legal affairs. “Policymakers should not allow DOR to ‘sleep walk’ into a tax increase that no one ever intended to be enacted.”

— Revenue Secretary Peter Barca said the administration believes the agency would need legislative action to have state policies follow the new federal standard. 

He said Gov. Tony Evers hasn’t closed the door to the proposed change. Still, Barca said the guv has asked for ideas that would better focus any changes on the businesses that need it most.

Barca said aligning state law to the federal statute would mean three-fourths of the benefit would go to about 14 percent of businesses that qualify. He also pointed out that businesses that didn’t turn a profit in 2020 won’t pay a corporate tax and the administration would prefer to help businesses most in need rather than a blanket approach that would also cut taxes for those that prospered during the pandemic.

“Our only point would be let’s target it as much as we possibly can to make sure whatever we pass — whether it be in tax cuts or grants, things of that sort — let’s make sure it’s going to be the businesses that most need it,” Barca said.

Read the amendment: 

— Speaker Robin Vos said the Assembly will put off voting to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ public health declaration to give lawmakers additional time to understand the fiscal impact of the move.

The Assembly had been scheduled to vote yesterday morning on the resolution, which cleared the Senate on Tuesday. But since then, GOP lawmakers have realized overturning it would jeopardize enhanced federal funds for food stamps.

Vos told reporters he believes an amendment the Senate added to the COVID-19 bill would address the issue, but “I don’t know that for sure.” The Rochester Republican said his Senate colleagues “didn’t necessarily do the same due diligence.”

“We do not want to repeat that mistake, which is why we are not going to be taking up SJR3 today,” Vos said.

— Senate Republicans amended a COVID-19 bill in an attempt to spare the state from losing millions in enhanced food stamp funding after their vote to overturn Evers’ public health declaration put the funding at risk.

The amendment from Sen. Steve Nass, who co-authored the joint resolution to overturn Evers’ emergency order, would allow the guv to issue another declaration “solely for the purpose of receiving emergency or other allotments under the federal Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Act of 2020.” The public health declaration now in place also serves as the foundation for the statewide mask mandate Evers issued.

Yesterday’s move came after Republicans realized the state only qualifies for the enhanced FoodShare funding if there’s a public health declaration in place. According to the Department of Health Services, the enhanced benefit means more than $49.3 million for 242,507 households in January alone.

Between May and December, low-income families received more than $260 million via the enhanced benefits.

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— Sierra Club and Vote Solar filed a lawsuit appealing Madison Gas & Electric’s utility rates and challenging the fixed charges on utility bills. 

The groups argue the fixed charges make it harder for families and businesses to take control of their energy bills and discourage investments in conservation and clean power, such as rooftop solar. The lawsuit argues the Public Service Commission’s approval of the rates in December violated several laws, including the Energy Priorities Law, which requires maximizing energy conservation and solar generation. 

“In the fight against climate change and the inequities in our existing utility system, we need to be moving forward,” said Sierra Club Wisconsin Chapter Director Elizabeth Ward. “We’ve all seen that the climate crisis and undeniable economic disparities require us to reevaluate our systems and how we operate our society. MGE’s inequitable rates undermine the progress we need.”

MGE spokesman Steve Schultz said PSC’s approval of the agreement proactively addressed issues in a rate case in collaboration with customers and organizations that represent the public interest, including the Citizens Utility Board, RENEW Wisconsin, UW System Board of Regents and others. He added the agreement also freezes customer rates during a pandemic.

See the lawsuit: 

— The PSC announced it received 108 applications requesting more than $24 million for this year’s energy innovation program. 

The PSC will award $7 million for energy-related projects that will reduce energy consumption and increase clean energy. During application evaluation, the PSC will consider energy savings, economic impact, equitable distribution of projects and benefits, among other factors. It will announce grant recipients in the spring.

Applications were made available in October and closed Jan. 22. The PSC had increased the 2021 grant program budget by $2 million and broadened the eligibility qualifications due to the influx of applications in 2018.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented interest in these grants and a real desire to participate in the clean energy economy,” said Commissioner Tyler Huebner. “By investing in these ideas and turning them into reality, local economies will grow, in-state jobs will be created, and Wisconsinites will benefit from greater energy efficiency and a cleaner environment.”

— Appleton Airport welcomed 380,154 passengers in 2020 — a 48 percent decrease from the previous year due to the global pandemic, but better than the national average of a 61 percent drop.

Allegiant Air reported the smallest passenger decrease of 10 percent this past year compared to the rest of the airlines in Appleton. Appleton Airport says that’s due to Allegiant offering nonstop flights to warm weather and outdoor spaces, which makes them a favorite of northeastern Wisconsin residents. 

In November, Appleton Airport added daily nonstop service to Charlotte on American Airlines, which has been popular with people seeking a connecting flight to Florida, the Caribbean or other vacation spots.

“We are optimistic that the aviation industry will bounce back from this health crisis as passengers regain the confidence to fly and get back to traveling for business or leisure,” said Appleton Airport Director Abe Weber. “Our top priority is the health and well-being of travelers and staff, and we’re ready whenever travelers are ready to reconnect with the world.”


# UW Health resumes plan for $348 million clinic on Madison’s Far East Side

# Economist says food box program good for dairy, expects more boxes 

# With Milwaukee hotel occupancy under 30%, what will it take to rebuild the tourism industry?



– Peninsula Pride Farms Reduces Risk to Water Quality 


– With Teachers Up Next For Vaccines, Communities Wonder When School Will Resume In Person


– Ahl Appointed to Compeer Financial Board of Directors 


– Over 83K Wisconsinites complete COVID-19 vaccination series as 7-day positivity rate remains below 20%


– Harley-Davidson to give investors scoop on year-end performance, five-year plan 


– Rep. Pocan says Biden Administration starting off quickly to combat COVID-19


– Wisconsin Legislature Hits Pause On Repealing Statewide Mask Mandate


– People make Milwaukee market attractive for Festival Foods, CEO says 


– Brewers’ Minor League Hitting Coordinator Is First Woman For The Job 


– Baird invests in Idaho software company that protects brands from digital infringement 


– Milwaukee Public Museum names architect, construction firm for new $100M+ building 

– State Fair Announces Two Cream Puff Flavors for Curbside Pickup 


– InsideWis: As businesses grapple with vaccine mandates, at least vaccine safety isn’t a concern 


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

– Public Service Commission: 108 applications received requesting more than $24 million for energy innovation grants

– State LGBT Chamber of Commerce: 27 members score perfect 100 on Human Rights campaign’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index

– Marquette University: Bobby Seale keynote headlines Black History Month events

– Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty: Milwaukee Public Schools’ policy pays public employees to work for teachers unions