FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Lisa Stefanik, managing director for Focus on Energy; Evers prioritizing getting FEMA workers over creating emergency treatment facility

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” features Lisa Stefanik, managing director for Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program. 

She took over as managing director near the end of October after working for the program earlier in her career. She previously held the role of Focus on Energy marketing manager and energy policy advisor at the state’s Public Service Commission between 2004 and 2011. More recently, she worked in various roles including implementation, advisory and evaluation in the energy industry. 

In the latest podcast, Stefanik highlights the importance of energy efficiency projects for the state’s workforce, economy and environment. 

“Our recent evaluation shows that for every dollar invested in the Focus on Energy projects, that we return at least four dollars of economic benefit to Wisconsin, so that’s a really exciting, exciting idea to me,” she said. 

She also provides an overview of how the program works, including an example of a project that has benefited from it. And she details her plans for continuing to grow the program’s impact in the state, for both businesses and residents of Wisconsin. 

The program provides financial incentives for various energy efficiency upgrades, such as new HVAC and lighting systems, as well as renewable energy projects including wind and solar. 

Listen to the podcast here: 

See a full list of podcasts: 

See more on the program: 

— Gov. Tony Evers says he’s more focused on getting federal workers into Wisconsin to help overwhelmed hospitals than the state creating a temporary facility to treat COVID-19 patients.

The Evers administration last week requested FEMA send 100 health care workers to Wisconsin to help deal with the latest COVID-19 surge.

As of the latest update, there were only 44 of 1,331 intensive care beds in the state that were immediately available, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association. The group also listed 1,659 COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized, just off the peak for 2021 of 1,714 earlier this week.

In October 2020, the Evers administration used federal funds to open an alternative care facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park to help with overflow patients from state hospitals. It served 170 patients before closing in February, according to the Department of Health Services.

Evers said he spoke with federal officials Wednesday about his request for FEMA workers and remained hopeful he’d know within a few days what the response will look like. If they arrive, the workers would be prioritized to the Fox Valley and western Wisconsin, where he said the lack of hospital beds is particularly an issue.

“An emergency hospital is an option for us, but we believe the first step should be to get people into these hospitals that are overrun and really have a shortage of people,” Evers said. “We’re getting close. But we believe our initial step is to find the human resources first before we build a hospital.”

— Researchers at UW-Madison are creating an “arsenal” of therapeutics to prepare for future viral outbreaks using proteins derived from the immune systems of sharks. 

According to a study published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications, these antibody-like proteins called VNARs can protect human cells from infection by the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as its variants and other coronaviruses. 

A release from UW-Madison shows these therapeutics won’t be “immediately available” as a treatment for people, but could help the world be better prepared for the next potential pandemic. 

Aaron LeBeau, a professor of pathology at UW-Madison, says “there are a number of coronaviruses that are poised for emergence” in humans. His team worked with researchers at the University of Minnesota and a Scottish company called Elasmogen that’s developing therapeutic VNARs. 

“What we’re doing is preparing an arsenal of shark VNAR therapeutics that could be used down the road for future SARS outbreaks,” he said in the release. “It’s a kind of insurance against the future.” 

Because the shark VNARs are much smaller than human antibodies, they can bind to viral proteins in ways that human antibodies cannot. This gives them the ability to neutralize these infectious proteins in some cases. 

While these therapeutics have yet to be tested in humans, the release shows future therapies “would likely include a cocktail of multiple shark VNARs” to achieve greater protection against “diverse and mutating viruses.” 

See the study: 

— Wisconsin’s unemployment rate fell to 3 percent in November, tying the state’s record-low rate from November 2018.

That’s according to the latest federal figures released by the state Department of Workforce Development. Wisconsin’s November unemployment rate decreased 0.2 percent from October’s rate of 3.2 percent.

The state’s unemployment rate remained below the national rate of 4.2 percent, the DWD release shows.

Wisconsin added 12,300 private-sector jobs over the month in November, driven by gains in leisure and hospitality; transportation, warehousing and utilities; and manufacturing and construction.

See the release:

— The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced $114.5 million in funding for rural infrastructure upgrades in the state. 

Recipients will use the funding to replace and improve wastewater treatment facilities and sewers, address overflow issues, build new electric lines, meet limits for effluent including phosphorus and more. 

“The investments we are announcing today will drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably so that everyone gets ahead for decades to come,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was scheduled to be in Wisconsin yesterday to promote the infrastructure investments. 

The funding will support projects in Barron, Chippewa, Crawford, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Juneau, Lafayette, Richland and Vernon counties.

See the release: 

See the list of funded projects: 

— WEDC is providing a $250,000 Community Development Investment Grant to support construction of a new downtown building in East Troy. 

Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., says the funding will “help cultivate economic growth and enhance the cultural and social vibrancy” of the village. 

The building has two commercial tenants set to move in soon: Sweet Bevvie Cakes, a bakery that specializes in cakes and cupcakes; and a sushi restaurant called Chinuk Bistro. The building owners, Jeff and Vicki McKone, are investors in the cake business. 

“We’re excited about getting the building wrapped up and getting the businesses opened up soon,” Jeff McKone said.

See the release: 


# Court rules against proposed frac sand plant in Wisconsin

# Latest gener8tor equity accelerator cohort includes four startups with Wisconsin ties

# Wisconsin hospitals are holding off on requiring COVID-19 vaccine boosters, even facilities with vaccine mandates



– Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer finalists named

– Organic farming conference being planned in La Crosse


– Hoffman offers $49.4M low bid for section of I-43 expansion in Milwaukee 


– Wisconsin unemployment ties monthly low of 3%

– Child tax credit payments, a lifeline for many Wisconsin families, have run out


– ‘So much devastation’: Wisconsin wakes to aftermath of damaging wind storm


– 3 cases of omicron variant found in Dane County

– Three cases of Omicron COVID variant identified in Dane County


– State appeals court denies company’s effort to reinstate a key permit for frac sand operation

– Bayside residents group suing village over incentives deal on $84 million real estate project


– Perlick begins facility remodel, adding 100 new employees


– United Way raises over $56 million, surpassing 2021 campaign goal


– 3rd Street Market Hall bringing new investors to downtown Milwaukee real estate: Slideshow

– Comar moves to larger facility in West Bend


– A legal loophole allows the sale of ‘Delta 8’ cannabis in Wisconsin. For one grower, it’s been a boon.

– 3rd Street Market Hall announces another vendor ahead of United for Waukesha fundraiser


– This Wisconsin company was the fastest-growing startup in the nation. Why its founder let it go.


– Policy Forum: Transportation aid formula favors small towns, high-growth cities 


– Dairyland Power acquires RockGen Energy Center


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

UW-Milwaukee: Again achieves top-tier research status with Carnegie Classification

Marquette University: Marquette Law School receives $5 million to establish the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice