FRI AM News: State manufacturers say labor shortage is economic inhibitor; ‘WisBusiness: The Podcast’ features Peter Greenberg, ‘The Travel Detective’

— A panel of Wisconsin manufacturing executives agree the workforce shortage needs to be addressed in the next decade to increase the state’s economic competitiveness. 

“It all starts with the people. Having the right workforce, the right training, the right skill set, I believe is going to be one of the biggest assets the state could have long term,” said Mercury Marine President Christopher Drees. “Workforce development and making sure that we have the people with the right skill set is going to be so crucial in helping Wisconsin move forward.”

Ahead of yesterday’s panel, hosted by Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce, President and CEO Kurt Bauer said that pre-pandemic, the U.S. had a shortage of over 600,000 skilled manufacturing workers. He added that there’s a projected shortage of 2.4 million by 2028. 

“That is staggering to me,” said Stoughton Trailers President and CEO Robert Wahlin. “When we talk about our challenges of manufacturing self-sufficiency for the U.S., onshoring and all that, and all the national security benefits that come along with that. Without good people … it’s just not going to happen. It’s absolutely critical that we build that workforce, we build that skillset and after all, it is the heart of manufacturing and that’s the people.”

Nexus Pharmaceuticals, an Illinois-based manufacturer of generic and specialty injectable pharmaceuticals, is bringing a new manufacturing plant to Pleasant Prairie to come online in the next few months. Phase one of the project included a $100 million investment in Wisconsin. Phase two of the project, underway right now, will result in another $100 million investment and about 150 jobs, Nexus Chief Strategy Officer Omair Ahmed said. 

Read the full story at 

— In the latest “WisBusiness: The Podcast,” travel news journalist Peter Greenberg said Wisconsin lent itself well to the “one-tank trip” trend of the pandemic.

Greenberg, a respected investigative journalist and UW-Madison alumnus, explained COVID-19 has led Americans to rediscover their own country. Wisconsin tourism in particular has ramped up marketing vacations within driving distance.

“I’m a big fan of that because we take so much for granted and there’s so much in our own backyard,” said Greenberg, who currently resides in Manhattan. When travel comes back, he said people are going to be looking for great stories. “Travel is nothing without great stories and Wisconsin has so many of them.” 

“The Travel Detective” said his biggest challenge during the pandemic is to get the news media, his audience and travelers to realize the important economic and political components of travel. Travel spurs one of every 10 jobs and just a year ago, it was one of every five new jobs, he said. 

In the next three months, Greenberg expects more widespread vaccine distribution coupled with more reliable, rapid testing. There’s also a lot of pent-up demand for travel. 

“By let’s say April 30, you’re going to see a measurable increase in domestic travel … if people will travel responsibly,” he said. “World travel is going to take a little bit longer because we’re dealing with each country acting as its own guardian, its own regulations.” 

Greenberg said the development of a universally acceptable and readable document to serve as proof of vaccination will predicate travel’s recovery. He predicts that the “vaccine passport” will soon be required for grocery stores, cruise ships, movie theatres or airplanes. 

Listen to the whole podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— Over 10 percent of white Wisconsinites have gotten at least one dose of the two-dose vaccination series.

But only about 3 percent of Black Wisconsinites, 5 percent of Asian residents and just over 7 percent of Native Americans have gotten the shot.

Systemic barriers and social factors including lack of access to quality health care, housing, transportation, and job opportunities, contribute to disparities in vaccine rates for communities of color in Wisconsin, according to DHS.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk added that the disparities also bring attention to structural racism and the barriers to a diversified workforce. Health care workers and first responders were among the first groups to be eligible for the vaccine.

“Health care workers tend to be predominantly Caucasian, and it is contributing to the fact that we’re seeing more white people vaccinated than … other racial groups,” she said. “And I think it leads to a question, which is: What can we do to better diversify our health care workforce or our police workforce or our fire workforce. What are the barriers to people of color for becoming health care workers?”

The department recently updated its vaccine data dashboard with new visualizations regarding doses administered by gender, age, county and race.

To address inequities, DHS is prioritizing vaccine orders for its tribal partners, community health clinics, and federally qualified health centers — all of which provide services for socially vulnerable people in Wisconsin. In addition, DHS will allocate $6 million in grants to support community-based stakeholders in their targeted outreach and vaccine education efforts. And through the mobile vaccination teams, community-based vaccination clinics and Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, the agency is also able to close gaps in vaccine access.

The DHS vaccine dashboard here updates daily at 2 p.m.: 

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— DWD announced a new emergency rule to continue waiving work search requirements for those who apply for unemployment benefits.

The requirement was originally waived last spring at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of an order by Gov. Tony Evers. Since then, the administration had worked with lawmakers on an emergency rule that had been extended several times. The latest extension ended this month.

But at a forum in December, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, indicated he believed the requirement should go back into effect early this year.

Under state law, anyone applying for unemployment must look for a suitable job while receiving the benefits and provide information to DWD detailing at least four work search actions they have taken each week.

In announcing the new emergency rule, DWD said it received more than 174,000 weekly claims for unemployment for the week that ended Jan. 2. Without a waiver, all of those applicants would’ve been required to perform the four searches a week to qualify.

See the release: 

— Jack Link’s Protein Snacks says founder, John “Jack” Link, has been inducted to the Meat Industry Hall of Fame.

Prior to serving as Jack Link’s chairman, Link served as CEO since founding the family-owned company in 1985. Jack Link’s is now the global meat snack category leader, and the No. 4 brand in the U.S. overall snack category.

“I’m so thankful for this honor, and truly humbled to join so many great leaders in our industry.” Link said. “We are proud of everything we’ve built at Jack Link’s Protein Snacks, which was born and bred in Wisconsin.”

— Horlick High School in Racine and SME Education Foundation are joining forces to create STEM opportunities for students, including in manufacturing and engineering.

The partnership, through SME’s Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education schools initiative, was made possible through funding from Haribo of America and the Racine Community Foundation. 

The initiative directly addresses the manufacturing and engineering talent shortage by partnering with industry to provide modern equipment, a tailored curriculum and hands-on training to high schools across the country. The program works with local manufacturers to develop and access a pool of skilled local talent who have been trained — and often certified — to fill specific roles at their respective companies.

Horlick joins two other Racine high schools in implementing the program. The Racine Unified School District is the fifth-largest school district in the state with nearly 17,000 students.

— Generac Power Systems is expanding to South Carolina to support increased demand for generators and serve as a distribution center to the southeastern U.S.

The Trenton, S.C. facility also has access to a local labor force capable of helping Waukesha-based Generac meet growing demand, said President and CEO Aaron Jagdfeld. 

“With significant demand for Generac products across the country, we’re excited to expand our operational capacity to accommodate the increased interest in residential power systems,” he said. 


# ‘For the Love of Cheese’ creates huge publicity for Wisconsin’s signature product 

# SC Johnson donates $5.5 million for Gateway Technical College scholarships 

# DOJ, health care leaders unveil proposals to overhaul emergency detentions in Wisconsin 



– Crop input prices sharply up, with frequent changes 

– Wisconsin’s corn, vegetable groups select new leaders 

– Alice in Dairyland Welcomes Students to Her Farm (Virtually) 

– Cattlemen Support Labelling 


– Why Horicon Bank is expanding into the Milwaukee market 


– Market & Johnson selected as construction manager of new county highway facility 


– Brown County sales tax increased $1 million despite a pandemic. Here’s why. 


– Teachers union caught off guard by MMSD reopening plan

– University president reveals what’s upcoming at Marquette 


– Wisconsin’s top sturgeon expert charged with lying about caviar scheme

– Judge Orders DNR To Begin February Wolf Hunt 


– Precautions necessary to prevent new surge: Wisconsin Hospital Association 

– ‘Fear and anxiety’ at Aurora Grafton hospital as former pharmacist awaits sentencing 

– HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital names new president-CEO 


– Einhorns’ VC firm taps investment industry veteran to help lead venture fund 


– Worker Shortage At Wisconsin Prisons Leaves 40 Percent Of Jobs Unfilled At Waupun


– Generac thinks it could exceed $3 billion in revenue this year

– Molson Coors sales decline primarily driven by European challenges with the U.S. actually increasing 


– Preservationists hoping to save more Soldiers Home buildings 

– How apartment prices in Milwaukee compare with other cities 

– Loomis Crossing redevelopment in Greenfield could seek $25 million in city help 


– The Pandemic Has Upended Events, But Thousands Are Heading Up North To Ski The Birkie


– Confidence in safety key to return of indoor events in downtown Milwaukee 

– Wisconsin Center tentatively schedules RV show, volleyball tourneys, dance competitions

– Eau Claire County snowmobile trails open for season 


– Murals, lighting aim to ‘brighten’ downtown Milwaukee corridor underneath I-794 

– Trucking Through The Pandemic


– Economic metrics chart Wisconsin progress, or lack of it, since 2000 


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

– Marquette University: Announces President’s Challenge—Racial Justice and Equity Response

– Dept. of Transportation: Seeking public input on project for US 51 and County B/County AB intersection

– National Association of the Remodeling Industry Milwaukee: Announces May dates for spring home improvement show

– National Federation of Independent Business: Thanks Committee for standing up for struggling Wisconsin small businesses