FRI AM News: Madison-area mayors ready for recovery; ‘WisBusiness: The Podcast’ features Fetch Rewards CEO

— Dane County’s mayors see positive marketing as the way to boost economic recovery coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce hosted six Dane County-area mayors for a webinar about post-pandemic recovery.  

“When it comes to economic development, one of the things I’d like to see is we market Dane County as a whole region,” Stoughton Mayor Tim Swadley said. “We have great opportunities for children and families for things.”

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway cautioned against the “Amazon-ification” of the economy. She suggested local governments could do more to assist small and local businesses during the pandemic, adding consumers favor online services, such as Amazon, over mom-and-pop stores.

“Some businesses were not all impacted by the pandemic, but it’s the businesses who rely on face-to-face contact,” Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser explained. He said consumers need to feel confident going back into the business community, adding that activity is ramping up in Sun Prairie.

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— Beginning Wednesday, Dane County businesses will be allowed to increase capacity to 75 percent.

“Because our COVID-19 vaccination rates are among the highest in the state and the number of cases we’ve seen each day have stabilized, we are increasing gathering and capacity limits for all businesses,” said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. 

*Indoor dine-in capacity for restaurants and taverns may be up to 75 percent seating capacity with physical distancing. That’s up from 50 percent for restaurants and 25 percent for taverns.

*Businesses, including office settings, must limit the number of individuals inside their establishment to 75 percent of approved capacity levels indoors, up from 50 percent.

*Water parks, swimming pools, aquariums, zoos, museums, bowling alleys, golf courses, theaters and music halls will also be at 75 percent capacity, up from 50 percent. 

*Indoor gathering limits with food or drinks will jump to 350 people from 150. Without food is limited to 500 people, up from 350. 

“Increasing gathering and capacity limits, while still ensuring safety measures are in place for employees and customers, will set our local businesses up for success and allow customers to shop, dine, and enjoy their experience with more confidence,” Rhodes-Conway said.

See the emergency order: 

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— The latest “WisBusiness: The Podcast” episode features Wes Schroll, the founder and CEO of Fetch Rewards.

Fetch Rewards allows shoppers to scan receipts and get points that add up to become gift cards or coupons. The company has recently achieved “unicorn” status after securing a $210 million investment which pushed the company’s total valuation to $1 billion.

“It is a nod to how much is still left in front of us,” Schroll said. “It’s now time for us to make sure to prove everyone right who just made that investment that this is just the beginning for where we can take this business.”

With the money, the company will invest in getting its brand in front of more people. Fetch Rewards will also work to expand from grocery to more verticals, such as restaurants or apparel. The company is looking to expand internationally, currently making sure the system is ready to go by 2022. 

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— A recent report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum shows the Badger State shed fewer jobs than its neighbors during the first six months of the pandemic.

Between September 2019 and September 2020, Wisconsin lost more than 150,000 jobs. Businesses that depended on face-to-face interaction with customers, such as in hospitality and tourism, were especially hard-hit. 

But the sizable blow to employment in Wisconsin was less severe than its four bordering states and the nation as a whole. Wisconsin’s 5.2 percent loss in jobs was lower than Iowa’s (5.3), Minnesota’s (7.4), Illinois’ (7.8) and Michigan’s (7.9). Only Iowa joined Wisconsin under the national average job loss of 6.8 percent. 

Policy Forum researcher Mark Sommerhauser explained that more research needs to be done to pinpoint why Wisconsin fared better than many other states in minimizing job losses during that time.

Last month, Department of Workforce Development economist Dennis Winters attributed Wisconsin’s better-than-average unemployment rates to the state’s industry mix — growth in some sectors, such as manufacturing, balanced loss in others, such as hospitality.

Wisconsin’s loss percentage was lower than its neighbors in nearly all industries, including hospitality, manufacturing, health, construction and transportation, among others. 

See the report: 

— The state is seeking ideas from the forest products industry, conservationists, recreation enthusiasts and residents for the future of the sector.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the Wisconsin Council on Forestry will host two virtual listening sessions — Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and May 11 from 6 to 8 p.m.

The state will use the feedback to set new goals for diversifying Wisconsin’s more than $24 billion forest products industry and for sustainably managing the state’s more than 17 million acres of forests. That plan will allow Wisconsin to seek federal money and assistance for the industry that provides more than 63,000 jobs statewide.

“This process will allow Wisconsin to set clear goals to grow and diversify our forest products industry, to sustainably manage our amazing forests that draw valuable tourism dollars here and to access federal resources when needed,” WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said.


— Under the DSPS secretary’s direction, the Commercial Building Code Council is updating Wisconsin’s code for more expansive use of mass timber.

The Department of Safety and Professional Services expects increasing specification of mass timber components in commercial buildings. That will likely drive demand for the products. Wisconsin’s robust timber industry has ample supply.

However, the state’s current commercial building code limits the use of mass timber to four-story buildings unless the architect and building owner pursue a variance. That adds time and cost to the building schedule and plan. 

It is possible to build a mass timber high-rise in Wisconsin — Milwaukee’s own 25-story residential tower Ascent is on track to be the tallest mass timber building once complete. But it is not normal, according to DSPS.

“Updating our codes would be good not only for the environment, but also for the economy,” DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim said. “This would result in jobs creation, particularly in rural parts of the state where forests, mills, and most other related manufacturing facilities are located.”

Michaela Harms, vice president of strategic initiatives at Madison-based WholeTrees, says Wisconsin is well situated to be a factor in the regional and national mass timber industry with its existing forests and mills. 

“We see greater demand in states that have adopted more current mass timber code provisions,” Harms said. “When you eliminate the need for variances, wood products become more competitive — both in terms of price and time — with concrete and steel.”   


# Tony Evers hasn’t met with Republican lawmakers to discuss $91 billion budget proposal

# A Third Of Wisconsinites Are Vaccinated Against COVID-19

# Biden’s free community college plan could steer more students to Wisconsin tech colleges



– Conservative legal group sues Biden administration over farmer loan program

– Dairy Industry Split Over Proposed Changes To Federal Milk Pricing System


– Madison School District completes phased-in return to in-person instruction


– Wisconsin regulators approve 1,400-acre Grant County solar farm, acknowledge land use concerns

– Report Finds 100 Wolf Packs May Lose Pups From February Hunt That Did Little To Resolve Conflicts


– Proposal Would Make Vaccine Tampering, Destruction A Felony In Wisconsin


– Judge Blocks Republicans Lawmakers From Hiring Outside Lawyers For Redistricting


– Warehouse automation company to hire 100 employees for its Wauwatosa office 


– Wisconsin to remove up to 188,000 from voter rolls because they have not voted in 4 years

– Evers says he’s listening to the people, not GOP lawmakers


– Red hot real estate market sees dozens of offers for some homes


– Dane County to increase capacity for bars and restaurants


– Search for Barry Alvarez’s successor as Wisconsin athletic director advances to next phase


– OSHA cites water technology company for injury at Pewaukee facility 


– Wisconsin State Fair to return this summer 


– 10 Milwaukee parks are getting free Wi-Fi, providing access to internet in more neighborhoods in the city


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

– Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation: Local filmmaker looks to make waves with ‘Rising Tides’

– Racine Health Dept.: Updates Safer Racine ordinance

– BBB: Awards $25,000 in scholarships to Wisconsin high school seniors

– M3 Insurance: New division serves distinct needs of small businesses and individuals

– MobCraft Beer and 414 Flowers: To team up for pop up beer garden at 414 Flowers new Walker’s Point location