FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Scott Suder, president of the Wisconsin Paper Council; Fairbanks Morse Defense CEO discusses workforce at WMC event

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Scott Suder, president of the Wisconsin Paper Council. 

He provides an update on an industry-backed bill moving through the state Legislature that would limit how often inspections of certain mill machinery can be conducted. The bill recently passed a Senate committee 5-0. 

“I think that’s a testament to the fact that we have such a wide, diverse coalition supporting this legislation, which includes economic development associations, labor, labor unions, industry partners and other coalition trade association groups that are supporting this,” he said. 

Suder discusses industry challenges and touches on some of the paper mill closures seen in the state earlier this year. But he also highlights the industry’s resiliency despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The pandemic has affected almost every sector of our industry. It’s been a struggle, and that’s obviously been a struggle for manufacturers throughout the state,” he said. “But because our industry is so diverse, and so diversified, we have been able to get through the pandemic, make certain that safety is job number one for workers in the industry. But there are challenges, there’s challenges ahead.” 

Listen to the podcast here: 

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— The head of Fairbanks Morse Defense says the Beloit company is “in for a rocky next couple months” after recently enacting a COVID-19 vaccination policy. 

George Whittier, the company’s CEO, discussed workforce-related issues yesterday during Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce’s Business Day event in Pewaukee. As a recently rebranded company with a 150-year history of manufacturing, Whittier said “we’re pretty fortunate” to have significant name recognition. 

The business transitioned from part of a public company to a private company a little over a year and a half ago, and “reinvented” with a new name and focus on the defense contracting market, Whittier explained. 

“In our community, we have a great name, a great brand. People want to work there,” he said. “The biggest challenge we’re facing now, as I assume many of you are facing now, is COVID-19.” 

Since the company provides engines for the Navy and Coast Guard, Whittier said employees would be required to show proof of vaccination in order to access most customer sites due to a Department of Defense mandate. He said it would be impossible to operate without accessing these sites, so the company decided last week to establish its own vaccine mandate. 

“We know that we’re going to have some fallout, some repercussions for that,” he said. “We’re hoping for the best, but there’s no question that we think we’re in for a rocky next couple months as we work through that. We’re going to have some folks decide to leave rather than be vaccinated.” 

Over the past year and a half, Fairbanks Morse Defense has grown from about 450 employees to over 1,000, though most of that employee growth has been outside of the state. He said the company has added about 100 jobs in Wisconsin during that time. 

“For the guys that work in the shop, we do all our recruiting locally. For engineers, accountants, some of the more salary folks, we would end up trying to recruit much more broadly, within a three-four state area,” he said. 

Whittier pointed to a shortage of housing and education as top workforce challenges in the area. But he called Beloit a “wonderful community” that he uses as a selling point when recruiting skilled candidates, adding “we’re really fortunate to be there.” 

— A national economist says global supply chain issues aren’t expected to resolve anytime soon, and the longer they last, the worse they will become. 

Michael Gregory, deputy chief economist and head of U.S. economics for BMO Capital Markets, explained that bottlenecks in product and materials shipping are contributing to higher prices throughout various supply chains. 

“These bottlenecks seem to be creating a lot of pressures, and of course everyone in this room knows exactly what I mean,” he said yesterday during WMC’s Business Day event in Pewaukee. “If you’re a manufacturer, for example, you know just your cost of inputs have gone through the roof.” 

As U.S. retailers prepare for the busy holiday season, Gregory noted some of the largest companies including WalMart, Target and Home Depot are pledging to ramp up their operations to avoid shortages. 

“The thing is though, this is quite pervasive, and again, how long is it going to last? The longer it lasts, the more entrenched it becomes,” he said. “We are in this situation where it may not solve itself pretty quickly. These things may persist well into 2022.” 

Meanwhile, he highlighted the “skills mismatch” making it harder for employers to fill jobs, particularly high-skill positions. He also said early retirements have risen substantially, contributing to a lower labor force participation rate. 

Looking ahead, he said the economic outlook depends heavily upon how the pandemic persists through this year’s flu season, as well as how much progress is made in getting people vaccinated against COVID-19. 

— Broadwind Heavy Fabrications’ 140 Ton Navy Crane is the winner of this year’s Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest. 

The contest has been hosted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Johnson Financial Group for six years in a row, highlighting the most popular products manufactured in the state. 

After more than 210,000 votes were cast in this year’s contest, the 140 Ton Navy Crane was announced as the winner yesterday at WMC’s Business Day event in Pewaukee. The crane was made through a partnership between Manitowoc-based Broadwind Heavy Fabrications and a Finnish company called Konecranes. 

“On behalf of our great Broadwind employees we would like to say thank you to our partner customer Konecranes and all of our Wisconsin based suppliers who made this possible,” said Broadwind Heavy Fabrications President Dan Schueller. 

See the release: 

— Rural communities in Wisconsin are getting a total of nearly $22 million in loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for upgrades to water infrastructure. 

The funding was announced yesterday as part of a $272 million package funding projects in 37 states and Puerto Rico. All of the projects are being funded through the agency’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. 

In Grant County, a $750,000 grant will support replacement of a section of faulty piping that can’t handle the higher water pressure of a new water tower. 

A $165,000 grant will be used to help finance a water collection system improvement project in Iron County, including fixing and replacing damaged manhole covers and installing larger pumps in the system. 

Renovations to a wastewater treatment plant in Polk County will be funded in part by a $2.2 million loan, supporting upgrades to meet new phosphorus permit requirements and other changes. 

Meanwhile, wastewater treatment facility upgrades in St. Croix County are being supported by a $14.5 million loan and a $3.6 million grant. The project will update 30-year-old infrastructure including equipment that is “reaching the end of its useful life,” according to a fact sheet from the USDA. 

Another $365,000 in loans and $364,000 in grants will provide additional funding for wastewater treatment facility upgrades in Vilas County, including installing disinfection systems and replacing equipment related to phosphorus removal. 

See the full list of funded projects here: 

— Researchers at UW-Madison have developed a multi-layered coating technique for probiotics that could improve how diseases are treated with these medications. 

Probiotics consist of helpful bacteria that can be used to treat intestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease. They have been shown to improve the health of the “gut microbiome,” which includes all of the essential bacteria and other microorganisms living in the human digestive system. 

Quanyin Hu, an assistant professor with the university’s School of Pharmacy, is a senior author on a report recently published in the scientific journal Nano Today describing the new dual-coating technique. 

“When you transfer these bacteria through the oral route, most of them are getting killed by the acidic environment of the stomach. Or they’re getting cleared out of the intestine because they aren’t adhering,” Hu said in a release. “Our double protection technique addresses these limitations.”

Scientists involved with the study coated a probiotic bacteria strain in a food additive called tannic acid, which helps the bacteria stick to the lining of the intestines longer. They also applied a polymer used in extended-release drugs called L100, which protects the probiotic bacteria in the acidic environment of the stomach, but then dissolves in the intestine. 

The coating technique was tested in mice with colitis, a condition causing inflammation of the lower intestine. Mice that received the coated bacteria “lost less weight and had healthier intestines” than other mice that were given untreated bacteria or none at all, the release shows. 

Researchers plan to continue testing in other animal models, working their way toward clinical trials in humans. 

See the study here: 


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# Convention hotel in downtown Milwaukee not a sure thing: DCD’s Crump



– Groundbreaking held for Milwaukee ag maritime export facility

– Groundbreaking ceremony marks $35M ag-export project at Port Milwaukee


– With donation, UW-Madison to start work on $95M letters and science building in 2023 

– Madison Development Corporation proposes rebuilding Graaskamp Park on East Mifflin


– Still time to sign-up for Pittsville FFA cranberry tours


– Baird names new president, chairman for its private wealth management business


– Wisconsin Republicans pursue anti-abortion bills in spite of likely vetoes

– Wisconsin GOP bill would make it easier for K-12 students to transfer because of COVID-19 restrictions

– Milwaukee likely to make bid to host 2024 RNC


– HNTB leases more space in downtown Milwaukee amid burst of hiring

– International property restoration company establishes local office at former Paul Davis Harbor District HQ in Milwaukee

– GMAR: Home sales in September, third quarter down from gangbusters 2020


– Ohio business group pursuing $1.7 billion mixed-use communities around U.S. looks at Northridge Mall


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

Associated Bank: To present at the BofA Securities 2021 Banking and Financials Conference on November 10, 2021

Edge: Dairy farmers’ frustrations with Congress, White House on the rise