FRI AM News: “WisBusiness: the Podcast” with Jon Horne of the Idea Fund of La Crosse; Exports beginning to rebound, report shows

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” features an interview with Jon Horne, managing director of the Idea Fund of La Crosse. 

The La Crosse native discusses his journey over the past few years leading the fund, which was launched with the support of the state-backed Badger Fund of Funds. The fund has invested in 11 early-stage companies since June 2017. 

“We raised $13 million from 28 limited partners — really good people that all took a real risk on a first-time fund manager,” he said. 

Horne also gives his perspective on the state of Wisconsin’s startup ecosystem overall, emphasizing the importance of building a network of funds investing in promising early-stage businesses. 

Listen to the podcast here: 

See a full list of podcasts: 

See more on the Idea Fund of La Crosse in a recent story: 

— A new monthly report from the state Department of Revenue shows that Wisconsin exports are beginning to rebound from last year’s dip caused by the pandemic. 

State exports have increased 16.4 percent through the first five months of this year, the report shows. Compared to the first five months of 2019, Wisconsin’s exports for the first five months of 2021 have increased 5.2 percent. 

The report notes that farm operators’ income grew 32 percent in 2020, slightly higher than the 30 percent growth seen nationwide. 

And it shows that Wisconsin corn prices have risen “dramatically” over the last three months, reaching $5.93 per bushel in May before falling to $5.65 per bushel in June. 

By comparison, prices were $3.18 per bushel in June 2020, and $3.98 per bushel in June 2019. 

See the full report here: 

— A recent study of around 300 COVID-19 patients in Wisconsin found that vaccinated people had similar levels of viral particles in their nasal passages as those who were unvaccinated. 

The study from UW-Madison, Exact Sciences and Public Health Madison and Dane County suggests that those who are vaccinated and become infected with the virus could potentially pass it on to others. It was published Saturday in medRxiv, an online archive for scholarly papers that have yet to be peer reviewed. 

After analyzing samples collected between June 28 and July 24, researchers found “no significant difference” in the quantity of virus particles present between the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. In total, 79 study participants were fully vaccinated and 212 others were not vaccinated. 

Both groups presented high enough “viral loads” at the time of their test to be contagious, according to a release from UW-Madison. Still, researchers stress that getting vaccinated against the virus is effective at preventing serious symptoms, and breakthrough cases in vaccinated people are expected but rare. 

“They’re still working to keep people from becoming infected, though not necessarily as well as they were against earlier types of the virus,” said David O’Connor, co-author of the study and a professor with the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “As long as the vaccines are keeping people out of the hospitals, I would say they’re working spectacularly well.” 

Only half of the study samples underwent genetic testing at the time the report was published, but 84 percent of those tested were identified as the delta variant. 

See the study here: 

— The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the state continues its steep climb, rising to 1,000 cases per day. 

That’s the first time the average has been that high since early February. The seven-day average for new cases had dipped below 70 cases per day in mid-June.

The Department of Health Services Dashboard showed 1,573 new cases yesterday, which is the most added in a single day since early February. There were 1,386 new confirmed cases on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations also continue to rise. The Wisconsin Hospital Association website shows 388 patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 — nearly five times as many as one month ago. That’s the highest that number has been since late April. 

As of yesterday, the State Laboratory of Hygiene had identified 418 cases of the delta variant, and 90 percent of new cases sequenced in the past week were caused by this variant. 

The percentage of Wisconsinites who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to inch toward 50 percent, reaching 49.6 percent yesterday. And 52.4 percent of the state’s population have received at least one vaccine dose. 

During the opening ceremony of the Wisconsin State Fair yesterday, Gov. Tony Evers continued to urge the public to get vaccinated.

“We do have a long way to go to make sure that his pandemic is behind us for good,” Evers said. “This Delta variant is no joke.”

See the latest case numbers: 

See hospitalization numbers here: 

Track the state’s COVID-19 vaccination progress: 

— The Food Fight Restaurant Group says it will begin requiring employees and guests to wear masks starting Monday after some of its vaccinated employees contracted breakthrough cases of COVID-19. 

Food Fight has around 20 restaurants in the Madison area. In a Facebook post, the group highlights the surge in new cases driven by the delta variant. 

“Many of our employees have vulnerable people at home, including unvaccinated children. We owe it to our community and co-workers to continue to make health and safety our top priority,” the group wrote. 

See the post: 

— Wisconsin residents already getting health insurance through the federal marketplace are saving an average of 42 percent on health coverage during an ongoing special enrollment period. 

That’s according to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. The special enrollment period was made available due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will end Aug. 15. 

A release from OCI shows 25,000 people in the state have gotten covered through the special enrollment period as of June 30, and 25 percent of new enrollees can find a plan for $10 or less. 

“Costs are at a historic low, but time is running out to get signed up,” said Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable. “Find high quality plans with affordable premiums on the marketplace that will cover check-ups, cancer screenings, vaccines, and more before this SEP ends.”

See the release: 

— The state Department of Workforce Development has announced employers and other organizations in 10 Wisconsin counties will receive $1.17 million in grants for worker training, education and recruitment. 

The Fast Forward grants reimburse recipients for the cost of occupational training programs for new or existing employees. 

“Fast Forward industry training grants help employers find and develop the skilled talent they need to boost Wisconsin’s economy while also offering a path to well-paying jobs for unemployed workers and higher wages and more opportunities for growth for current employees,” said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. 

The majority of the recipients are manufacturing businesses, but the largest grants will go to organizations including Green Bay Area Public Schools, the Urban League of Greater Madison, the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board and the Vera Court Neighborhood Center in Dane County. 

See the full list of grant recipients here: 


# Madison Area Technical College, Edgewood College reinstate mask mandates

# Wisconsin State Fair returns with some COVID-19 tweaks

# More Wisconsin hospitals mandate COVID-19 vaccine for employees



– State cheese production continues to climb


– Milwaukee stores putting safety measures on the table with COVID cases rising again

– Food Fight Restaurants to require masks starting August 9


– Advocate Aurora Health requiring vaccinations for workers

– Metro Milwaukee’s largest employer Advocate Aurora mandates Covid vaccines for all employees, physicians


– Madison’s Rentable raises $22.5 million, gearing up to double its 90-person team


– Generac buys former American Family offices on I-94 for 300-employee site


– Sen. Tammy Baldwin introduces ‘Disease X’ bill to prepare for unknown viral threats

– Report: GOP accepts four times as much from businesses


– ‘We heard them loud and clear’: City proposes $4.7M for south side grocery


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

Dept. of Military Affairs: Volk Field’s Ammo Rodeo on target with creative, mission-focused training

Associated Banc-Corp: Announces redemption of all outstanding depositary shares representing interests in its 5.375% perpetual preferred stock, series D