FRI AM News: Panel: Wisconsin should seize esports industry; ‘WisBusiness: The Podcast’ features Lauren Weber, KHN

— Proponents of esports see the competitive video gaming industry as poised for expansion in the state of Wisconsin. 

“We don’t think of kids playing video games — we think of esports as a growing economic sector and a fast economic sector,” said Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce Governmental Affairs Senior Vice President Steve Baas.

Esports is competitive, organized video gaming. Like sports, players can get involved in structured clubs to compete with others, but in video games. 

Baas was a panelist yesterday during Rep. Tip McGuire’s public discussion on esports’ potential impact on Wisconsin’s economic growth. The industry, Baas cited, has a $10 billion valuation. 

“You’re either on the bus or you’re left behind,” he said. 

Ahead of the event, McGuire, D-Somers, noted that esports is a rapidly growing field that has the potential to bring a host of benefits to Wisconsin. 

Read the full story at 

— The new episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Kaiser Health News Midwest correspondent Lauren Weber.

As cases slowly tick up in Wisconsin, some of its neighbors are leading the nation for cases per population. Weber said COVID-19 variants are to blame for the spikes Michigan and Minnesota are seeing. The increase among Midwestern states also has some political undertones.

“It’s also somewhat tied to some loosening. Folks want to be back to normal. In the Midwest too, you have slightly different attitudes about COVID in some areas,” she said. “I think you don’t have to look any further than how COVID has hit rural America to understand too why things are so much different when you see this explosion in these Midwestern states.”

Weber also touched on a story she published this week highlighting the second Trump administration official to join a company looking to capitalize on coronavirus. Former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has joined Big Ass Fans, a company selling $9,450 fans with a technology it claims kills the coronavirus.

Weber joked she wishes she had a clone to cover the vast territory of health news. She said readers can look forward to stories coming out soon regarding the public health system. 

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— For the third month in a row, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate remains at 3.8 percent. 

The Department of Workforce Development yesterday released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary employment estimates for the month of March. 

The data show that Wisconsin’s total non-farm jobs increased by 12,900 over the month, while private-sector jobs increased by 11,100 over the same period. 

The Badger State’s unemployment rate remains well below the national rate of 6 percent.

— Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International Airport will rehabilitate several terminal area access roads and the terminal canopy with a nearly $4 million grant.

The grant comes from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program. This year, the program gave out more than 400 grants to 390 airports in 39 states. 

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Allouez, said he’s thrilled that the airport got the money for the renovation. He said the updates will help the airport meet demand and expand operations.

“Austin Straubel is one of the country’s fastest growing airports and plays a critical role in supporting our economy in Northeast Wisconsin,” he said.

— Drexel Building Supply Inc. is expanding its facility in New Berlin — an $11 million project expected to create 50 jobs over the next three years.

The company is planning to develop a large showroom and distribution center in New Berlin to keep up with increased demand for construction and home improvement materials. The new seven-building, 128,000-square-foot complex will be located on a vacant 92-acre parcel in the New Berlin Industrial Park.

WEDC is supporting the project with up to $250,000 in state income tax credits over the next three years. The actual amount of tax credits Drexel Building Supply will receive is contingent upon the number of jobs created during that period.

The first phase of the project — two new buildings for cabinetry and flooring — will transfer 75 employees from the Brookfield facility, which the company has outgrown. The second phase includes the completion of five lumberyard buildings. 

Drexel expects to create 100 full-time jobs across the company’s nine locations in Wisconsin. Of the 100, 50 will be created at the New Berlin facility, with the remaining 50 created at other locations. All the current Brookfield employees will be offered their same positions at the expanded New Berlin location.

— Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu says he doesn’t back legalizing medical marijuana in Wisconsin without FDA approval.

During a luncheon, LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said if the FDA approves medical use, marijuana should then be treated like any other prescription drug.

“If the federal government delists it and it goes through FDA testing, then it should be treated like any other drug,” LeMahieu said. “If there’s advantages to it, if it helps out people, I have no problem with it as long as a doctor’s prescribing it.

“But I think that discussion needs to be done at the federal level and not have some rogue state doing it without actual science behind it.”

He also said there’s not enough support within his caucus for medical or recreational marijuana, which Gov. Tony Evers has proposed legalizing in his state budget plan.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has voiced support for medical marijuana, but said it should be taken up as standalone legislation.

In April 2019, the last time the question was posed to registered voters, the Marquette University Law School Poll found 83 percent backed the use of marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor’s prescription, while 12 percent were opposed.

— The state DOT will begin a study on the possible environmental impacts of expanding the I-94 east-west corridor in western Milwaukee County.

DOT Secretary Craig Thompson said the effort will enable the agency to win final federal approval for the project sometime in late 2022. But that’s about a year later than DOT officials had previously expected.

Opponents have been working to kill the project that would expand the interstate to eight lanes from the current six. Among other things, opponents have argued the $1 billion project isn’t needed with changes in traffic patterns following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It will also help us make certain that our efforts to ensure racial equity with this project are comprehensive and aligned with federal priorities,” Thompson said of the study.


# Milwaukee entrepreneur launches social connection app with COVID scale

# New report on farmer attitudes toward nitrate contamination of ground water 

# Mayors of Madison, Milwaukee join letter supporting Amtrak expansion in Wisconsin



– 32nd District Ag Town Hall shows confidence in budget, extends call for conservation efforts 


– Associated Bank increases community commitment plan by 40% to $3.37 billion 


– Madison residents sue over financial aid program limited to college students of color

– Fiveable grows beyond high school AP to embrace community 


– Members Of Wisconsin DNR’s Policy-Setting Board Object To Agency’s Stance On Wolf Population

– Fish Consumption Advisory Issued For Silver Creek In Monroe County Due To PFAS 


– Cases of worrisome COVID-19 variant double in Wisconsin in a week

– Former GE Healthcare exec forms Novir to assist groups in rapid Covid testing 


– State Crime Lab Slowly Reducing Case Backlog


– Milwaukee Tool agrees to $15 wage in Milwaukee downtown office, labor groups seek more 


– New Wisconsin Senate leader acknowledges ‘rocky start’


– State Senate leader slams the door on legalized marijuana in Wisconsin


– Milwaukee Brewers and Fairway Independent Mortgage launch partnership 


– Zywave makes fifth acquisition in less than two years 

– Talimer aims to revolutionize tech freelance marketplace 


– End Of Utility Shutoff Moratorium Means Tens Of Thousands Of Wisconsinites Have Bills Coming Due 


– InsideWis: Attracting ‘OPM’ from elsewhere will help Wisconsin companies grow 

– Pandemic effect on tech jobs measured by Cyberstates report 

– An investment in broadband is an investment in our future 


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

– Job Center Now Open Inside Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center

– Marquette University: IWL Pay Equity Series to discuss paid family and medical leave April 20

– Prospera Credit Union: Opens doors in Grand Chute

– BLS Data: Wisconsin adds 12,900 total non-farm, 11,100 private-sector jobs in March