FRI AM News: UW System officials stepping up efforts to reach underrepresented groups; WisBusiness: the Podcast with Kyle LaFond of American Provenance

— Officials are ramping up efforts to reach minority and other underrepresented high school graduates and get them to enroll at UW System schools. 

A recent report from the UW Office of Policy Analysis and Research shows the percentage of Wisconsin high school graduates enrolling in UW System schools right after graduation — known as the participation rate — has begun to decrease after holding steady for decades. 

While the participation rate had been close to 32 percent since the early 1980s, the report shows it’s begun to recently dip, reaching 28.6 percent in 2019. That’s the lowest it’s been since 1982. 

“It’s a drop of about 10 percent, which is pretty sharp, that occurred in a two- or three-year period,” said David Ward, a former UW System and campus administrator and president of NorthStar Analytics, which has done a number of economic impact studies for UW schools. 

But at the same time, new fall freshman applications for UW System schools have seen a 30 percent increase over each of the last two years. Officials note that applications from in-state residents, first-generation students and underrepresented minorities have also risen. 

“In general, first-generation, underrepresented minority, and low-income students have historically been less likely to attend a UW institution, and these groups now represent a higher proportion of high school students,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson in an emailed statement. 

He explained the UW System is taking a number of approaches to boost applications for these groups, including waiving application fees, creating an easier electronic application process, allowing applicants to apply to multiple universities with one application, and suspending the ACT requirement. And the UW System’s summer program for incoming high school students is being expanded, he added. 

Still, the UW Office of Policy Analysis and Research report shows the issue of declining participation is “particularly noteworthy among the populations that [have] historically been less likely to attend and populations that have proven more vulnerable to economic and social factors.” That includes minority groups as well as students from low-income families. 

See more: 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” features Kyle LaFond, the founder of Mt. Horeb-based American Provenance. 

This growing business makes personal care products with natural ingredients, and was first started on LaFond’s fourth-generation family farm. In the podcast, he describes how he got to where he is today after coming up with the idea for the company while working as a middle-school science teacher. 

LaFond also discusses his company’s focus on environmental sustainability and how he’s had to balance that with customer and consumer preferences. 

“We’re trying to do what we can to give back,” he said. “As a small organization, that’s very important to us, and it’s a part of who we are.” 

Listen to the podcast here: 

See a full list of WisBusiness podcasts: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced more than $140 million in American Rescue Plan Act grants for tourism and entertainment businesses.

The largest sum, $75 million, will go to lodging in an effort to aid the tourism industry’s recovery from pandemic-related restrictions. The grants will also support live event venues, movie theaters, summer camps and minor league sports, along with additional tourism marketing support and historical site reopenings.

The Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association praised the announcement.

“We are grateful for the Governor’s focus on the tourism and hospitality industry with these grant funds, as they will play a big role in helping us navigate through our recovery from the terrible situation that COVID-19 put us in,” said Bill Elliott, President and CEO of the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association.

He added that the lodging industry lost $1 billion in revenue in 2020.

“While we’re starting to see leisure travel make a strong comeback in many markets, the business and corporate travel that so many lodging facilities depend on for survival will take some time to rebound,” he said.

George Rouman, president of the National Association of Theater Owners of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan, thanked Evers for aiding movie theaters in their recovery, which he says will take much longer than for other businesses.

“After suffering nearly complete closure for most of 2020 with little to no revenue, this boost will help movie theaters survive in Wisconsin,” said Rouman, who owns a theater in Rhinelander.

See the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association statement:

See the National Association of Theater Owners of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan release:

— Nolato Contour will be expanding its precision molding facility in Baldwin with a $5 million project, WEDC says. 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has approved up to $225,000 in state income tax credits for the project, which can be earned by the company over the next three years depending on the number of jobs it creates and the amount of capital it invests in the project. WEDC expects the project will create 75 jobs over that period.

The 60,000-square-foot expansion is being undertaken to meet demand for medical products. 

Aside from the jobs the project is expected to create directly, WEDC cites an economic modeling study to estimate the project could indirectly generate another 37 jobs in the area for a total of 112 new jobs. 

See the release: 

— Wisconsin’s network of “peer recovery centers” for people experiencing mental health or substance abuse issues is expanding to 11 locations with new grant funding from the state Department of Health Services. 

These peer recovery centers aim to help people with these issues by connecting them with community members who’ve lived through similar circumstances and can relate to their experience. 

According to a DHS release, eight organizations will receive yearly grants of $30,000 over the next five years to operate centers meant to help people with mental health challenges. And three others will receive the same amount for centers aimed at supporting those with substance abuse issues. 

“By offering opportunities to connect with others in the community who are all seeking the same goal of wellness, peer recovery centers can help those who are struggling see that recovery is possible,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. 

See the list of grant recipients: 

— The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has announced the results of this year’s Wisconsin Potato Industry Board election. 

According to a DATCP release, the board is made up of nine producers across three state districts, and oversees the $1.7 million in assessment fees that potato growers in the state pay. 

See the new board members in a release: 


# Summerfest lands $10M venue grant, joining 37 Wisconsin organizations getting SBA money. Others still waiting.

# Environmental advocates push for increased investment in state’s electric car infrastructure

# Wisconsin DNR moves ahead with PFAS pollution rules



– Application period open for Organic Cost Share Program


– 360: The debate over Critical Race Theory legislation in Wisconsin


– Devil’s Lake 220-acre land purchase approved

– After devastating floods, officials hope changes have made a Lake Superior harbor more resilient


– Gov. Evers names Emily Hynek as Jackson County district attorney


– In a sign he may run for governor, Bill McCoshen calls for a state constitutional amendment on elections

– Bill asks WisDOT to study Mississippi River bridge Cassville residents have sought for a century


– MLG Capital sells Frederick Lofts in The Brewery


– Wisconsin DNR moves ahead with PFAS pollution rules


– Blain’s Farm & Fleet to open Grafton store in former Shopko building


– Spirit Airlines launches in Milwaukee and announces new nonstop service from Mitchell International

– Madison unveils state-of-the-art Fleet facility


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

Spirit Airlines: Nearly triples Milwaukee service in celebration of first flights taking to the sky

Associated Banc-Corp: To announce second quarter 2021 earnings and hold conference call on July 22, 2021

WEDC: Nolato Contour Inc. expands operations in Baldwin