— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Brad Bodden, co-manager for Wisconsin Investment Partners.
This angel investor network was founded in 2000 and currently includes more than 100 investors. Members have collectively invested in more than 75 companies, and have invested between $3.5 million and $4 million annually in the past five years.
Bodden discusses the Investor Intros track at the upcoming Early Stage Symposium, being held Nov. 3-4 in Madison. The annual event is hosted by the Wisconsin Technology Council and gives entrepreneurs several opportunities to pitch their ideas and meet with potential investors.
“We generally invest at the pre-seed or seed-stage rounds to start with, and the Investor Intros are very beneficial for us,” he said. “A lot of these intros that are done are for companies that quite frankly are not ready to be invested in yet, but that direct contact makes a difference for them, so that we can help them prepare for that time when they are ready to be invested in.”
He also gives his perspective on how the pandemic has impacted the state’s investment ecosystem, with a focus on early-stage angel investment. He explained that particularly in the early stages of the pandemic, many entrepreneurs were coming up with ways to address secondary impacts of the pandemic such as enabling touchless interfaces and other innovations.
“It wasn’t always the direct impact of the consumer, but ways that entrepreneurs have figured out that we need to adjust our lifestyles right now,” he said. “To see them work as quick as they did and put things in place, it’s just an impressive environment.”
See the full list of WisBusiness podcasts: https://www.wisbusiness.com/category/podcast/
See more on the Early Stage Symposium: https://wisconsintechnologycouncil.com/early-stage-symposium/
— As part of its Returning Citizens initiative, Advocate Aurora Health has hired 22 formerly incarcerated individuals in the past year and provided tailored support to help them adapt to the workplace.
Kim Quetschke, a talent sourcing specialist with the health system, described the program’s outcomes during a webinar hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. It was launched in August 2020.
“Health care is a very welcoming place to returning citizens,” she said yesterday. “There are actually very few convictions that would prevent someone from working in health care.”
She explained the program aims to give people equal access to employment opportunities and hire individuals that “reflect the communities we serve.” She noted that only 55 percent of formerly incarcerated people find employment within one year of release.
When the pilot first began, the health system set a goal of hiring seven people who had gone through the criminal justice system by the fourth quarter of last year. The program exceeded that goal and placed workers in roles including certified nursing assistant, community health worker, housekeeping, patient transporter, food and nutrition specialists and other positions.
“We provide training to hiring leaders so they can provide extra support needed for returning citizens,” Quetschke said. “And it’s different with everybody. Does the team member need a little extra help with technology, computer skills, or with signing up for benefits?”
She noted the program helps reduce recidivism among participants and boosts their household income. Other participants in the webinar spoke to the community benefits and economic factors for hiring formerly incarcerated individuals.
Frederick Nelson, an employment and training specialist with Employ Milwaukee, says these individuals often feel like “they have something to prove,” and can demonstrate a higher level of commitment to a business that gives them a chance.
“Everybody has made mistakes. I think employers have to be more empathetic to the re-entry population,” he said.
Conor Williams, an economist with the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, is also the facilitator for the Milwaukee Reentry Council. He noted many people have “a lot of fear and mistrust” associated with engaging with people who’ve previously been to jail or prison.
“If we allow that fear and mistrust to lead us, it only compounds the problem,” he said. “We are all better than the worst things we have done.”
— A report from AARP shows the cost of prescription drugs increased nearly twice as quickly as income for state residents in recent years.
Wisconsin residents’ income rose by 13.9 percent on average between 2015 and 2019, while the average cost of common prescription drug treatments rose by 26.3 percent, according to a release from AARP Wisconsin.
The report also highlights recent price increases for drugs that treat diseases affecting thousands of people in Wisconsin.
A cancer treatment called Revlimid increased in price from $185,574 per year to $267,583 per year between 2015 and 2020, according to data from the AARP Public Policy Institute. Meanwhile, the cost of a diabetes drug called Victoza rose from $7,936 to $11,300 over the same period. At the same time, the cost of a Spiriva inhaler for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients increased from $3,886 per year to $5,289 per year.
In a statement, AARP Wisconsin State Director Sam Wilson argues that federal lawmakers should move to “stop these spiraling drug prices” by authorizing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.
See the full report here: https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2021/prescription-drugs-state-fact-sheets.html
— Members of the Public Service Commission agreed on removing some applications for ARPA-funded broadband grants from eligibility based on federal guidelines.
During a meeting yesterday, commissioners noted that Gov. Tony Evers has allocated $100 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to this round of grants boosting broadband internet availability in Wisconsin, which is separate from the state’s own broadband expansion grant program.
PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq said the agency has received 242 applications requesting a total of about $440 million for broadband development projects. Yesterday’s meeting included discussions on which should be considered based on factors including timeliness and existing services in the project area.
Six applications were filed after the deadline of 4 p.m. on July 27, and the three commissioners agreed that they should not be included for consideration. Valcq noted that “ironically,” one of the applications arrived late due to an interruption of internet service.
“I get it, I know that it’s frustrating. But I think it underscores that you can’t wait until the last minute. You just can’t,” Valcq said. “And with 242 applications, in my mind, if we allow the late six in, we are potentially eliminating one of the other 200 plus applications that were timely filed.”
Commissioner Tyler Huebner added that companies that filed late applications also have other applications in this round, “so it’s not like we’re shutting out this particular applicant entirely.”
Eligible projects are meant to serve areas of the state that are “unserved or underserved,” based on federal guidelines for the grant funding. PSC staff identified five proposed projects that don’t meet the eligibility threshold ahead of the meeting, and commissioners agreed they shouldn’t be considered.
Commissioners highlighted one proposed project in Milwaukee that’s ineligible because the area already has reliable service options. Commissioner Ellen Nowak said “it wasn’t even a close call” to deem the $12.5 million project ineligible.
“This is not the type of vehicle to do it,” she said. “I’m not sure if they didn’t understand it or are asking us to ignore Treasury guidelines in approving it, but I thought it was very inappropriate to make that ask under these clear guidelines.”
See the list of applications here: https://psc.wi.gov/Documents/broadband/BbExpG49.pdf
— An agricultural enterprise area in southwestern Wisconsin is helping to foster conservation practices.
The West Point AEA covers over 15,800 acres, where local farmers have been enrolling in farmland preservation agreements and nutrient management plans aimed at reducing phosphorus going into the environment.
Efforts in the area are coordinated through the Columbia County Land and Water Conservation Department, a release from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection shows.
Another entity driving conservation efforts in the region is the Lake Wisconsin Watershed Council, made up of agricultural producers. This council got a watershed protection grant of $15,000 in January for education efforts aimed at reducing soil erosion and improving groundwater levels while “maintaining or improving farm profitability,” the release shows.
Landowners located within the enterprise area can sign a 15-year farmland preservation agreement in order to claim a farmland preservation tax credit. The agreement requires landowners to commit “all or a portion of” their land to farming, while maintaining state standards for soil and water quality.
See the release:
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– Friar earns national Outstanding Service to Agriculture award
– African student learns to farm in Green County
– Building blocks: Cristo Rey Jesuit High School
– Boetel named UWRF Adviser of the Year
– New Wisconsin State Superintendent stresses need for civility, more school funding
– UW-Parkside Chancellor Ford comments on low vaccination rates
# HEALTH CARE
– Fox Valley health systems plead with residents to get vaccinated and wear masks after sixfold increase in COVID cases
– Doctors, health agencies bracing for flu season’s return; ready push for flu shots
– Downtown Green Bay’s vaccination rates are far behind, so a free vaccine clinic will open in October
– Evers, Democrats revive plan to kill personal property tax
– MobCraft Beer raising funds to open three new locations, including two out of state
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– Why this Milwaukee angel investor left Silicon Pastures to build fintech startup Rallius
– Aviation company to build $11 million campus at Mitchell International
– Regulators approve Polk County solar facility, deny funding to opponents of Cambridge project
# PRESS RELEASES
<i>See these and other press releases: