FRI AM News: ‘WisBusiness: The Podcast’ features Jason Fields of MadREP; Wisconsin’s unemployment rate rises to 5.5 percent

The state’s medical advisory committee put a special emphasis on teachers when passing its recommendations for the second phase of COVID-19 vaccinations. 

“I think schools play such a part of our social fabric, that they are a bit different than just making it one more cog in kind of a long chain,” said State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee Chair Dr. Azita Hamedani of UW Health. “They do allow a vulnerable population — minors, kids — to be able to go as quickly back to any sense of normalcy as possible.”

About two-thirds of SDMAC’s 14 members in attendance yesterday approved putting teachers ahead of the rest of the second phase. The members in the minority argued that subdividing the second phase to prioritize teachers would take away from the other groups in the second phase.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer, suggested the committee note a priority consideration for teachers and child care workers in the recommendations. That way, if vaccine supply is constrained, vaccinators can sub-prioritize the eligible populations. That consideration also includes Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, people with low socioeconomic status and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer or asthma. 

The group decided to accept Westergaard’s idea as a compromise.

“Because we’re not needing the sub-prioritization to be a stopgap for others, it’s kind of a nod to do the right thing by that group,” Hamedani said. 

Read the full story at 

— Health expert Doug Voegeli says the COVID-19 vaccination rollout is “painstakingly slow” due to the limited supply of vaccine doses coming to the state and the county. 

Voegeli, Dane County’s environmental health director, told a virtual Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce event that 41,000 doses have been administered in the county since the state started vaccinating in mid-December. Dane County receives about 1,100 doses per week. 

“We just don’t get enough vaccine doses to be able to handle all the people that are signing up and are in tier 1a,” he said.

Voegeli noted the second phase will add roughly 187,000 people to the list of Dane County residents eligible for the COVID-19 shot. He said that figure should take roughly six to eight weeks to finish. If Dane County continues to receive a limited supply, he said that period could extend “quite some time.”

“We don’t have the accompanying supply to meet that demand, so all it is really doing is making more people eligible, but that doesn’t equal availability,” he explained.

Voegeli added that reaching herd immunity by the second quarter of 2021 at the current vaccine supply rate is unlikely. He predicted the county could immunize around 70 percent of its population by the end of June with more vaccine availability.

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— The latest WisBusiness: The Podcast episode features Jason Fields, president and CEO of the Madison Region Economic Partnership. 

The former state representative started with MadREP earlier this year. Prior to that, Fields co-chaired the Tech Caucus within the Legislature. The Tech Caucus was developed in partnership with the Wisconsin Technology Council in order to advise elected officials about developments within technology industries. Four lawmakers chair the group.

While Fields no longer serves on the Tech Caucus, he expects the team to take up trends around workforce development and education. He added those issues will also be on the agenda for economic development agencies, such as MadREP.  

“Our strategies are really to advance that 2.0 strategy which was laid out and to continue to build on the momentum that I think Paul Jadin has left behind and the board in addressing these issues,” he said. 

MadREP’s 2.0 strategy focuses on economic competitiveness and having diversity, equity and inclusion in its policies and initiatives. That fueled the organization’s partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks and The Lonely Entrepreneur aimed at lifting Black entrepreneurs.

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— Wisconsin’s unemployment rate rose in December to 5.5 percent. 

November’s rate was 5.3 percent, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate fell in November from 6 percent in October. Unemployment peaked in April at 13.6 percent — a result of the COVID-19 economic shutdown.

The state gained 15,100 total non-farm jobs and 19,200 private-sector jobs in December, the Department of Workforce Development released this week. November’s labor force participation rate was 66.7 percent, higher than the national rate of 61.5 percent.

The Badger State continues to have a lower unemployment rate than the national average by over a percentage point. The national unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in December.

— Gov. Tony Evers says investing in high-speed internet access for rural communities and working with farmers to address pollution are crucial to a strong Wisconsin. 

“High-speed internet is a necessity these days and we have to make sure it is reliable, affordable and accessible for everyone,” he told the audience of a virtual Dairy Strong event yesterday.

He said he plans to help rural communities by working with the state Task Force on Climate Change to empower farmers to address pollution and advance better conservation practices. Evers also said he plans to add $150 million to the Broadband Expansion Grant Program and spend $40 million on helping low-income families gain access to high-speed internet. 

Evers added that he looks forward to expanding the state’s dairy industry as a way to boost the overall economy and strengthen communities. 

— The Public Service Commission announced that grants funded through the federal CARES Act provided new or improved broadband service to 20,000 locations statewide. 

Evers authorized the broadband expansion money in September and the PSC awarded $5.3 million to 12 projects who applied for the funding in October. 

“I’m thrilled that we were able to work so quickly with our internet service providers and public partners to get thousands more homes and businesses connected by the end of 2020,” said PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq. “These projects will make a real impact for students attending school virtually, those who are working from home, businesses who need to be connected with customers, and patients who need to schedule telehealth visits with their doctors during the pandemic.”

Evers declared 2021 the Year of Broadband Access and is calling for roughly $200 million in the state budget for broadband investment.

— Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. House members released a joint statement slamming one of the Biden administration’s first moves — stopping construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline project was halted by the Obama administration and resumed by the Trump administration, providing 11,000 jobs across the country, according to the joint statement from U.S. Reps. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah; Mike Gallagher, R-Allouez; Bryan Steil, R-Janesville; Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua and Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. Biden on Wednesday revoked a key cross-border presidential permit needed to complete the pipeline.

While Tiffany, Grothman and Steil didn’t explicitly comment on the events surrounding the inauguration process, they said the president’s first moves in office aren’t unifying them.

“So much for unifying the American people. In his first hours in office, President Biden has destroyed thousands of good-paying jobs, including many in Wisconsin, by halting the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” Steil said in the statement.

Grothman said Biden broke his promise to govern as a moderate politician on his first day in office. “With the stroke of his pen, he has stifled 11,000 high-paying jobs, further reduced the amount of oil imported into the U.S. and has canceled the hope of gas prices going down at the pump,” he said in the statement.

Tiffany added the decision was “a rejection of bipartisanship” and “a slap in the face to Wisconsin employers and workers who rely on this project for their livelihoods, and our friends in Canada, particularly their indigenous community.”

See the statement:

— gener8tor’s second annual, three-day CommUNITY Growth Summit will kick off March 30. 

The event aims to connect key stakeholders in the economic development space to highlight innovations that are improving communities, the leaders making such innovations possible, and how new technologies and business models will reshape economic development. The upcoming summit will offer keynote presentations focused on economy-building solutions.

The summit originated last year in partnership with the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee. 

“We are thrilled to host the highly anticipated return of the CommUNITY Growth Summit,” said

Charmyse Tillman, gener8tor associate director of business development and events. “This Summit will facilitate important conversations about evolving local communities,

with the goal of forming a pathway for the future of work and culture across the nation.”

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– Researchers use milk proteins for 3D printing 

– Virtual Wisconsin Ag Outlook Forum is Next Week 

– Hemp stakeholder survey helps identify crop research priorities 


– Phil Flynn to retire as Associated Bank president and chief executive officer 


– Natural Resources Board Members Weigh Law, Science Ahead Of Special Meeting On Wolf Hunt


– Wisconsin has single-day record for Covid-19 vaccinations 


– Winnow Fund holds final close, raises $10.2 million 


– Third of Wisconsin police in survey report no body cameras


– Johnson Controls CEO to chair Business Roundtable committee 


– Now’s the time to request your absentee ballot; Madison clerk prepares for spring primary, election

– New session brings historic level of Black representation to Wisconsin Legislature


– More companies touring South Milwaukee Bucyrus campus 

– Milwaukee Native Looks To Modernize City’s Affordable Housing Options 


– Former Packers GM Ted Thompson, who drafted Aaron Rodgers, dies at 68 


– Marcus Hotels’ Flack sees value in new role during Covid-19 recovery 

– Milwaukee hotel occupancy stays low, but 2021 outlook has some return to travel 


– Schneider National invests in fully driverless truck-hauling company 


– InsideWis: California and bust? For those fleeing Golden State, Wisconsin offers silver lining 


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

Enlighten Digital Technologies launches in Oshkosh

DBA: Partnerships move dairy community forward on environmental goals

DHS: Releases enhancements to COVID-19 Data Disease Activity Dashboard

PSC: Thousands more have broadband access thanks to CARES Act funding