FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Nick Novak, vice president of communications and marketing for WMC; Racine getting $250,000 WEDC grant

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” features a conversation with Nick Novak, vice president of communications and marketing for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. 

He discusses the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest, which is accepting product submissions through Sept. 3. The contest, now in its sixth year, spotlights the most popular products made by the state’s manufacturing industry. 

Once the nomination period ends, WMC will begin several rounds of voting on products, narrowing down the list of submissions to the top 16. Those products will go head-to-head in a “Manufacturing Madness” tournament-style competition with the final winner chosen from the top four finalists. 

The winner will be announced Oct. 14 at the WMC Business Day event, to be held in Pewaukee this year. 

More than 775,000 votes have been cast in the contest since it began in 2016. Last year’s contest had 150 products nominated and more than 125,000 votes cast. Novak said WMC is hoping to break the 1 million vote mark with this year’s competition. 

“We love the fact that Wisconsinites get so amped up about it,” Novak said. “The thing is that we have a lot of pride for the things made here in Wisconsin, whether it is machinery, or vehicles, or cheese or beer — all kinds of different things.” 

Some of the past years’ winners include the Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight motorcycle engine, Oshkosh Corporation’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, Henry Repeating Arms’ Big Boy all-weather rifle and others. 

Listen to the podcast here: 

Submit a nomination here: 

See the full list of podcasts: 

— Racine is getting a $250,000 state grant to support the redevelopment of a vacant facility located in the historic Horlick Malted Milk Company factory complex. 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is providing the Community Development Investment Grant to fund the project, which will include 86 apartment units as well as commercial space on the ground floor. The cost of redeveloping the building is estimated at $23.7 million, a WEDC release shows. 

Construction has begun on the project, which is being undertaken along with other renovations in the complex. The overall redevelopment has an estimated cost of $210 million, according to WEDC. 

“This project will not only bring more housing opportunities and commercial space to Racine but will also preserve a piece of the city’s history by redeveloping a historic building,” Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC, said in a statement. 

The Horlick Malted Milk Company Industrial Complex has been listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since early last year. Construction on the original complex first began in 1882, with other additions added in the early 1900s. 

See the release: 

— UW-Madison has distributed $7.7 million in pandemic assistance funding to 6,500 “high-need” students this week. 

The funds are being issued as part of a rollout of $28.6 million in federal emergency aid going to UW-Madison students this year, to offset the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The automatic emergency grants went to 4,600 federal Pell Grant recipients as well as 1,900 other undergraduate students with “high levels of financial need,” based on federal student aid applications. The grants ranged from $750 to $1,750. 

The money can be used by students to cover the cost of health care, child care, tuition, food and housing, as well as other debts. 

Funding comes from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, part of the American Rescue Plan Act. The university is getting $53.4 million in the third round of HEERF funding, $26.7 million of which is required to go directly to students in the form of emergency aid, a release shows. 

UW-Madison will be using the rest of those funds for expenses related to the university’s pandemic response, including staffing and resources allocated to COVID-19 testing. 

See the release: 

— UW System interim President Tommy Thompson said a key Republican lawmaker is “making a big mistake” in seeking legal action against universities.

JCRAR co-chair Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said earlier this week he’ll ask legislative leadership to sue the System shortly after the former GOP guv decided not to submit pandemic-related policies as rules to the committee. Thompson expressed confidence yesterday that Wisconsin statutes and administrative rules empower the System to handle campus buildings and safety.

“My friend Steve Nass can make that decision,” Thompson said during a virtual luncheon yesterday. “I think they’re making a big mistake. I think they’re going to lose the battle.”

Despite his disagreement with the JCRAR, Thompson said he is not in a fight with the Republican-led Legislature and denied that the Republican Party is divided into two sections.

“I don’t agree on the administrative rules. Does that make me less of a Republican? No,” Thompson said. “Does that make Steve Nass less of a Republican because he believes in them? No.”

Nass aide Mike Mikalsen shot back Thompson and UW officials are mistaken in their reading of administrative codes. One gives the UW the power to ban people from campus buildings if “his or her presence or behavior interferes with this purpose or with the university’s administrative operations, is in violation of a university policy, rule, regulation or any other provision of this chapter, or is without the consent of an authorized university official or faculty member.”

Mikalsen argued that doesn’t give the system the power to bar students from buildings for not wearing masks or refusing to get a regular COVID test.

“The interim president of the university system doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Mikalsen said.

— Thompson also said he does not expect any increases in tuition in the near future despite decreases in returning enrollment, but called for a bipartisan blue-ribbon statewide task force on higher education.

He speculated fewer students are returning for their sophomore and junior years due to pandemic-driven hardships, the appeal of leaving school for a job with an income and a nationwide normalization of skipping college. Gov. Tony Evers and the Legislature should create a task force to investigate these and other issues, such as how to more efficiently use state-funded tech college and UW System school buildings and programs, Thompson said.

Some of the UW System’s 15 campuses are in the same towns as tech colleges. Thompson said some even share parking lots but remain separate. He said a task force could help universities and tech schools combine their efforts to repair campus buildings and avoid duplicate efforts.

“Higher education is changing,” Thompson said. “We’re not measuring up.”

One of Thompson’s goals during his last six months as president is to create an extended campus with correspondence courses to compete against university systems from other states.

“We need to be able to have distance learning,” Thompson said. “And it has to come now or else we’re going to get so far behind, we’ll never get back in the ballgame.”

Watch the video:

See more from the luncheon at 

— Madison-based Imbed Biosciences has partnered with Spartan Medical, a company that provides a portfolio of advanced medical devices and technologies, the company announced recently.

According to a release, the distribution agreement will provide customers in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense access to Imbed’s product lines. 

“The expansion of Microlyte Surgical distribution with a partner like Spartan Medical will further enable the important work that Imbed is doing to reduce the incidence and associated costs of surgical site infections in the U.S.,” Imbed Biosciences CEO Ankit Agarwal said in a statement. “We are particularly grateful for the opportunity to serve America’s wounded warriors and veterans through this partnership.”

See more at Madison Startups: 


# Thompson wants task force to examine higher education

# Business leaders share their vision for Milwaukee’s next mayor with Barrett departure pending

# Spike in COVID-19 cases not yet stopping elective surgeries in Wisconsin hospitals



– DATCP publishes technical standard for DNR regional manure


– City picks firms to lead update of downtown Milwaukee strategic plan


– July home sales drop in Wisconsin, but that doesn’t mean the market has softened


– Wisconsin business leaders see chance to make social impact through Global Brigades’ for-profit microfinance firm


– Only 50% of Milwaukee police, firefighters estimated to be vaccinated against COVID-19

– NE Wisconsin doctor: ‘I just hate to see everybody getting sick when it’s avoidable’


– United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County sets $55.5 million campaign goal


– Irgens to overhaul building in Milwaukee County Research Park

– Milwaukee office building in foreclosure following departures of major tenants 

– Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative buys historic home for new HQ

– Real estate industry pros see major overhaul ahead for 100 East office building


– $80 million Milwaukee sports center would provide space for people with disabilities, low incomes

– Milwaukee Bucks extend head coach Mike Budenholzer’s contract


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

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Festival Foods: To host statewide Hire Fest Aug. 31