MON AM News: Federal officials taking comments on reinstating certain tariff exclusions; Broadband expansion funding going to 83 projects

— A lawyer with Michael Best Strategies says companies that import from China would benefit from submitting comments as federal officials consider reinstatements of certain tariff exclusions. 

“This is an invaluable opportunity for Wisconsin companies who import from China to be able to engage in,” said Sarah Helton, a partner with the Madison-based consulting firm, in a recent interview. “Having the opportunity to engage in the process to get the exclusion from that tariff is significant.” 

Ambassador Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, announced earlier this month that the agency would begin a targeted exclusion process for tariffs on certain products. The agency began accepting comments Oct. 12 through an online portal regarding the reinstatement of 549 exclusions, and the window to submit comments will be open until Dec. 1. 

According to Ngosong Fonkem, a trade compliance lawyer with the Chicago-based law firm Page Fura, the new process is limited in scope to imported products that had previously been granted an exclusions, and only those that were extended through the end of 2020. 

“As with past exclusion processes, the USTR proposal would permit importers, many of whom are Wisconsin businesses to apply for relief from Section 301 duties on certain imports from China that range from 7.5 percent to 25 percent,” Fonkem told in an email. 

As the office of the USTR evaluates reinstating these exclusions, officials will consider whether the product or a comparable one is available from a U.S. supplier or another country other than China, domestic capacity for U.S. production, global supply chain changes since September 2018 related to the product or industry, and other factors. 

Denise Bode, who heads the federal policy practice at Michael Best Strategies, said “a number of our clients” are impacted by the tariffs. Helton added the tariffs are “an inhibitor” of growth in the Midwest’s manufacturing sector. They explained the Michael Best team has filed thousands of exclusion applications over the years, including under prior presidential administrations. Bode says a large portion of those were for Wisconsin-based companies “or those that do business” in the state. 

Along with the factors listed above, Bode said the USTR will take into consideration if China has subsidized any of the products on the list in order to better compete with specific U.S. products or industries. In prior successful exclusion applications, she said the firm was able to make the case that the tariff would result in “severe economic harm” to the importing company in question. 

“We hope that those that were subject to exemptions before and have the opportunity to apply do apply,” Helton said. “We estimate that if people don’t weigh in asking for the exclusions, they’re going to lose that opportunity … That’s why it’s so important to be aware this is happening and to engage in it.” 

See more details, including the full list of eligible products: 

— The state Public Service Commission is providing just under $100 million in broadband expansion grants for 83 projects in the state. 

A release shows the projects will extend fiber broadband internet to 28,426 residential and 1,490 business locations that are “currently unserved and underserved.” Recipients are located in 40 counties and three tribal land areas, and will pitch in about $102 million in matching funds. 

Gov. Tony Evers authorized the American Rescue Plan Act funding in May, after declaring in January that 2021 is the “Year of Broadband Access.” Another $129 million in state grant funding has been allocated over the next two years for boosting broadband access. 

The PSC announced earlier this year it had received 242 applications requesting over $400 million for projects, which are slated for completion by the end of 2024. The agency is urging applicants that weren’t selected for the ARPA funding to apply for the state broadband expansion program, and says details on those funds will be announced “in the coming weeks.” 

Recipients include local governments, telecommunications utilities, internet service providers and both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Many of them are located in the state’s northwestern region. 

See a map of recipient project sites here: 

See the list of recipients: 

See the release: 

— A hoped-for rebound in public school enrollment after a big pandemic-driven decline last year has failed to materialize, with new data showing public schools down more than 4,000 students this year.

Meanwhile, enrollment in charter and private schools has increased.

Statewide, there were 814,101 public school students this September, 4,311 fewer than last year. From 2019 to 2020, student enrollment declined by 25,742.

Department of Public Instruction officials during a press call said the public school enrollment drop is likely due to changing demographics. They said large swaths of students graduating high school are not being replaced by similar numbers of new students entering kindergarten. That trend predates the COVID-19 pandemic, which drove a large decline last year. A lack of students migrating to the state could also be contributing to the decline, they said.

See more on the new data at 

— The Department of Workforce Development’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation is getting a five-year, $14 million federal grant to provide job training to people with disabilities. 

The grant funding began Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30, 2026. In a release, the division says it will enroll up to 500 people in the grant program, which will offer credentials for “high-growth” occupations including manufacturing, construction, health care and digital technology. 

“With Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate of 66.5 percent ranking in the top 10 nationally, it is vital that we continue to emphasize programming that connects employers with talented individuals from underutilized talent pools such as individuals with disabilities, the justice-involved, and the long-term unemployed,” DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said in the release. 

See more details on the program: 

— The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will meet this week to consider DATCP’s request to release $400,000 over the next two years for grants to meat processing facilities and to promote growth of the meat industry in Wisconsin.

In addition to that hearing, the committee will:

*take public testimony on AB 314, which deals with prompting the state’s agricultural and agribusiness products.

*hold an executive session on AB 314 and its Senate companion, along with voting on bills that would create a new income tax deduction for tuition used to cover apprenticeship programs and one dealing with registering car fleets.

See the DATCP hearing notice:

See the public hearing notice:

See the executive session notice:

— Imbed Biosciences has been awarded a $800,000 grant to continue developing its wound dressing products, which kill bacteria that can interfere with healing. 

When a wound or surgical site is healing, bacteria colonies can form on the surface as part of a biofilm. Burns, chronic wounds and surgical implants are all “prone to development of mature biofilms” that can slow down healing and result in serious complications, including amputations. The Madison-based company’s products aim to prevent that disruption. 

Dr. Michael Schurr, a co-investigator on the grant and surgeon at Mission Hospital in North Carolina, says the wound dressing products could “significantly improve healing in high-risk surgeries” and reduce medical costs associated with the use of antibiotics and other interventions. 

Other investigators include researchers working for Imbed Biosciences, as well as Jonathan McAnulty and Charles Czuprynski, professors at UW-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine. 

Grant funding will support “late-stage development of an advanced version” of the company’s Microlyte Matrix product, according to company CEO and co-founder Ankit Agarwal. He’s also the principal investigator on the grant. 

The Commercialization Readiness Pilot grant is provided by the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. This funding follows successful animal trials funded by Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Institutes of Health. 

See the release: 


# 6-year graduation rates at UW-Madison hit new record high

# This Wauwatosa startup says it discovered a better test for certain blood clotting diseases: The Pitch

# Check the date, save the food: Madison-made app targets grocery waste



– Women in Conservation to launch of statewide network


– Wisconsin regulators award $100M in COVID-19 stimulus funds for broadband expansion


– UW-Platteville to contribute to diverse corn belt project

– Wisconsin public school enrollment didn’t rebound after last year’s big drop

– What do UW-Madison students want in the next chancellor?


– Fiserv Forum’s Punch Bowl Social to reopen ASAP


– Bucks sign GM Jon Horst to contract extension


– DCD says it’s working to redevelop Phillips and Wisconsin site, even as officials consider five-year parking lot lease


– MKE Sports Alliance’s next goal is an esports facility


– Technology moving MKE Black forward with growth plans

– Pay it forward: Sparking an interest in STEM through robotics

– These Milwaukee companies had the most tech job postings in September


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

Door County Economic Development Corporation: The Smithsonian institute to include Forestville, WI in nationwide traveling exhibition showcasing places of innovation in rural America

Port Milwaukee, The DeLong Company: Break ground on major agricultural maritime export facility

UW Center for Agricultural Safety and Health: Protect against harvest time fires