MON AM News: Health clubs rebound as pandemic recedes; “Talking Trade” with Addison-Clifton President Ulice Payne

— Mark Plavcan’s timing could hardly have been worse. 

The martial arts expert opened his first full-service gym on Madison’s East Side in October 2019, several months before the pandemic struck. 

“It was a terrifying start,” said Plavcan, who runs Twisted Fitness and had previously rented space at another gym to teach martial arts classes.

“Our business has been around for 16 years, but we were inside another health club,” he said. “Then we built a multi-million dollar facility for cross fit, strength training, athletic development, sports performance and even grandmothers who want to work out using a treadmill. But yeah, our timing was dreadful.”

COVID-19 was hard on gyms all over the region. While there are no statistics on the pandemic’s full impact, owners and managers interviewed for this story said some health clubs have closed or switched entirely to online courses. Others moved to hybrid offerings.

According to the fitness research firm ClubIntel, 72 percent of gyms now offer on-demand and livestream group workouts, up from 25 percent in 2019. 

Plavcan said he closed his club for about 10 weeks from March into May 2020 after state and local public health orders were issued. 

“During that time, we posted daily workouts and classes on social media, using platforms like Instagram and Facebook Live,” he said. “We did jiu jitsu classes and cross fit workouts, whatever we could to stay connected.”

See the full story: 

— In the latest episode of “Talking Trade,” hosts Ian Coxhead and Sandi Siegel welcome a longtime Milwaukee business insider, Addison-Clifton President Ulice Payne, to provide insights into U.S.-China trade.

Business dealings with China changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Payne tells the podcast’s Ian Coxhead and Sandi Siegel, and the new normal offers new business opportunities. 

Watch the show here: 

— The Urban League of Greater Madison is getting a $400,000 grant from WEDC for its Black Business Hub Accelerator Fund, which aims to support at least 40 minority-owned startups and established companies. 

The fund is meant for businesses that are considering locating in the planned South Madison Black business hub. The physical location for this project was announced in March of this year, and Dane County has committed more than $2 million to the effort. Construction on the facility is expected to begin late this year or early next year. 

Kyle Ervin, director of housing development for the Urban League of Greater Madison, says the process of soliciting funding for the accelerator fund has been going on for about a year. He explained the fund will provide seed money for minority-owned businesses, as well as support for technical assistance such as website development. 

“We know that entrepreneurs and business owners of color can face hurdles in getting access to capital needed to grow their businesses,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation in a statement. “This initiative addresses some of those concerns and provides business owners with culturally competent advisors and services.” 

See details on the accelerator fund and planned business hub: 

— Insurance providers in the state will be required to take new cybersecurity precautions, under legislation Gov. Tony Evers recently signed into law. 

A release from the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance shows insurance companies will need to develop an “information security program” to improve data security. They must also conduct a risk assessment within the year and try to address weaknesses. 

Plus, insurers are now also required to create a plan for dealing with data breaches and notify affected customers “in a timely manner,” the release shows. 

Connie O’Connell, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Life Insurers, says the industry recognizes the threat of cyber attacks and strongly supports the new requirements. 

“As we become even more dependent on technology, Wisconsin insurers are committed to protecting our customers’ personal information,” she said in a statement. 

See the release: 

— Marquette University’s College of Education is receiving nearly $1 million in federal funding to train clinical mental health counselors. 

The funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are expanding the university’s clinical counseling program specializing in child and adolescent mental health. The award is meant to expand the pool of behavioral health workers. 

Dr. Lee Za Ong, assistant professor of counselor education and counseling psychology, points to a “particular area of need” for counselors that can treat children and adolescents. 

“Through this program, we will increase the number of behavioral health providers with that focus, and who reflect the demographics of the recipients of behavioral health services in the community,” she said. 

See the release: 

— Wisconsin communities on the coasts of the Great Lakes are projected to spend more than $245 million over the next five years to address coastal damage from climate change. 

That’s from a survey conducted by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. The survey got responses from 241 jurisdictions in the eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. It was conducted by the University of Illinois Applied Research Institute. 

Among Wisconsin respondents, top issues include shore erosion, flooding, storm severity and infrastructure damage. 

See more survey results: 


# Wisconsin labor market faces challenges new and old coming out of COVID-19 pandemic

# Airport Commission rejects resolution seeking PFAS clean-up oversight

# Walmart loses lawsuit brought by worker with Down syndrome



– State FFA Land Evaluation Contest planned for September


– Produce firm breaks ground on $29M HQ at former Kenosha greyhound track


– ‘We aren’t a bunch of lazy people’: Rejoining workforce isn’t easy for some who lost jobs to COVID-19


– Q&A: Dancer and teacher Papa-Kobina Brewoo believes anyone can unlock their ‘superpowers’


– Nominations due soon for Leopold Conservation Award


– State gives Urban League $585,000 for business accelerator, job training


– Komatsu Mining can start using rail connection by year-end for new plant: City official


– Bisignano: Fiserv Inc. HQ will stay in Milwaukee metro — ‘It might be in the Deer District’


– Assembly bill may undermine DNR’s authority to hold PFAS polluters accountable


– ‘Not just a plant shop’: Two Milwaukee entrepreneurs grow a business while impacting Black and brown communities


– The Green Bay Packers’ revenue losses from pandemic hit nine figures. Find out how much.

– NBA Finals becomes a catalyst for future of the Deer District


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

WEDC: Grant helps Urban League aid startups

Catholic Financial Life, Near West Side Partners: Walk-in vaccine event incentivises community vaccination with high-value raffle prizes, free meal

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative: Wisconsin communities to spend nearly $245 million over next five years combating coastal damages from climate change