MON AM News: Racine, Kenosha counties face economic development challenges; workforce housing solutions making their way through Capitol

— Labor shortages, lack of housing availability and inadequate small business support are challenging Racine and Kenosha counties’ reputation as a prime location for development.

That’s one of the takeaways from a recent panel featuring economic development leaders. They said the I-94 corridor in the region has received local and national recognition as a prime location for businesses to start or even relocate to. But they added the current landscape has  challenges that need to be addressed in order to sustain and enhance the region’s momentum.

“This area — the geographical location between Milwaukee and Chicago — it’s been an area that has seen a number of great opportunities,” said Todd Battle, president of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance. “This has been kind of a challenging year in the community [and] in the region, but the community showed a tremendous amount of resiliency.”

In a virtual event “Racine & Kenosha County 2035” presented by BizTimes Media, Battle and others said talent attraction is a barrier to economic growth. 

“We really wanted to focus our attention on looking at an external market that might be considerable or looking for a new place to work looking for a new place to live,” said Jenny Trick, the executive director of Racine County Economic Development Corp. “People are very interested in exiting Illinois, and we would love to be the recipient of that access.”

Battle pointed to housing as an opportunity to better attract — and retain — populations.  

“For a long time, Kenosha County itself had been a bit of a bedroom community, where on a daily basis, we were probably exporting … 25,000 people to the surrounding community,” he said. “We need to figure out, ‘How do we get more bodies into our community?’ ‘How do we build more housing?’”

The trio also touched on the need to back current businesses and fill vacant retail space to ensure the communities are supported and maintained. Tim Casey, director of city development for the city of Kenosha, pointed to restaurants and boutiques, as well as other small businesses, as serving as major attractors for potential talent. 

“There’s a distinction between economic development and community development. But it’s the coffee shops and the bakeries and cafes, and specialty shops that really make the fabric of the community and make it something that people are interested in and coming to,” Casey said.

“I’m hoping that there’s some return of normalcy somewhat soon, and some of this pent-up demand that’s in the community can kind of come back and these businesses can kind of get back to flourishing,” Battle concluded. “We’ve just played our small part in trying to help as many as we can with the resources that we have, but it’s been a drop in the bucket. So we’re hoping that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel here.”

— Both sides of the political aisle are circulating legislation to increase affordable housing as a way to tackle workforce issues.

Statewide housing supply is at historic lows. Median home prices continue to rise and apartment rent increases are outpacing wage growth. The situation is spurring possible fixes from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and GOP lawmakers.

Median home prices surged in March as housing supply continues to shrink compared to last year, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association’s most recent monthly analysis. Total listings of homes for sale fell about 37 percent over the last year, pushing median prices up over 10 percent to nearly $230,000 over that same period.

Wisconsin employers are struggling to recruit workers unless the surrounding area has attractive and affordable housing options, according to a brief from the WRA. 

“Unless this workforce housing problem is fixed, Wisconsin will be unable to keep and attract the skilled workers necessary for our economy to thrive,” the WRA wrote.

Read the full story at 

— The Evers administration expects Foxconn will qualify for $37.4 million in tax credits over the next two fiscal years, according to budget revisions sent to lawmakers.

This is the maximum allowed under the new contract signed with the company. The new agreement dramatically scales back the tax credits Foxconn could qualify to receive while also lowering the number of jobs the Taiwanese manufacturer has to create in order to qualify for state assistance.

The guv’s budget originally anticipated the company wouldn’t qualify for any credits in the 2021-23 biennium under the incentive deal former Gov. Scott Walker signed in 2017.

But DOA Secretary Joel Brennan in a letter said the administration now expects the company will hit the maximum credits in both years of the budget, about $29.1 million and $8.3 million, respectively.

See more stories on the new contract between the state and Foxconn: 

— The Wisconsin Beef Council and Wisconsin Farm Bureau are partnering up for their first virtual “Burgers and Buns Fun Run” to support Wisconsin farmers and food pantries.

The event is May 24 through May 31 to cap off May Beef Month. It will highlight the contributions of Wisconsin beef farmers to the state’s economy, and encourage the consumption of dairy and beef products to support them.

“Our beef producers hit the ground running every day as they care for their cattle and the land,” said council spokeswoman Kaitlyn Riley. “This is one of the many ways that we can show our gratitude while giving back to families across the state.”

Participants can run wherever they choose during the event days, and donations from the event will benefit the Wisconsin Food and Farm Support Fund.

— Gov. Tony Evers has vetoed two bills that would’ve placed restrictions on how state and local public health officers may fight the ongoing pandemic. 

The first bill, AB 23, would’ve prohibited the Department of Health Services and local health officers from requiring people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The second, AB 24, would’ve banned local health officers from closing places of worship to control coronavirus outbreaks. 

In a statement, Evers said he vetoed both bills because he objected to provisions that he said would’ve taken away existing tools for public health officials to use in the fight against COVID-19.

“I remain committed to doing everything I can to keep Wisconsinites healthy and safe, following the science and advice of public health experts, and putting people first,” he said. 

— The state’s federally funded COVID-19 testing program for schools will be a multi-pronged approach fitting the needs of each district, according to the Department of Health Services.

Wisconsin has gotten more than $175 million from the federal government to support school-based COVID-19 testing for teachers, staff and students. DHS will work with the Department of Public Instruction to develop a testing program using the state’s existing COVID-19 testing infrastructure and recommendations from the CDC. 

“We’re thinking about a multi-pronged approach. … Each district is different and has different capacities and different needs,” DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said. “As the CDC directs us, it also indicates different types of testing based on the level of disease activity in the community.”

She said the most important thing is to give schools the ability to test symptomatic students, staff and teachers right away for COVID-19 so that if there’s a positive test, the school can move that person out of the classroom quickly.

Read the full story in the latest Health Care Report: 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

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— More than 31 percent of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Just over 42 percent of residents have at least started their vaccine series. More than 2.4 million people have gotten at least one dose of either the single-dose Johnson & Johnson or the two-dose series of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. 

Ahead of the weekend, the CDC and the FDA lifted the 11-day pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Wisconsin had put about 15,000 of the shots on the shelves waiting for the verdict. 

Over 80 percent of Wisconsinites 65 and older have received their first dose. About 74 percent are fully vaccinated. Wisconsin has put more than 4.2 million shots in people’s arms. 

See the Wisconsin COVID-19 Timeline: 

— Spectrum Business in a partnership with SCORE, a network of volunteer business mentors, is sponsoring six free webinars for business owners and entrepreneurs.

Open to everyone, each two-hour session will be led by an expert from SCORE and will focus on how to set up, run and grow a small business. The SCORE webinars are available at no cost through a sponsorship from Spectrum Business, and participants may sign up for as many webinars as they want.

Registration for the webinar series is open at:

— DWD is helping 16 school districts buy equipment to prepare students for careers in advanced manufacturing. 

The districts are getting more than $440,000 to reimburse the purchase and installation of equipment, software and instructional materials used in advanced manufacturing vocational and technical education. 

“We are working to ensure our state’s high school students get critical training in advanced manufacturing fields to help address Wisconsin’s skilled worker shortage,” DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek said. “It’s a real investment in our future.”

The Expanded Wisconsin Fast Forward Technical Education Equipment Grant program also reduces higher education costs by providing dual enrollment credits, industry-endorsed certificates and technical endorsements on high school diplomas.

See this year’s recipients: 


<b>TUESDAY: ‘Dealing with China’ virtual event </b>

<i>Join us for a Technology Council panel discussion on U.S.-China relations under a Biden administration, focusing on national security, economics, and higher education

The program is set to run via webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27.

Panelists include:

* U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse

* U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay

* Bonnie S. Glaser, director of the Asia program for The German Marshall Fund of the United States

* Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education at UW-Madison


See trade resources and other upcoming trade events here: </i>



# DHS Reports 19 New Deaths From COVID-19

# Wisconsin DSPS secretary wants to ease restrictions on mass timber construction

# Wisconsin Egg Production on the Rise



– Weekly Wisconsin Livestock Update 


– Wisconsin unemployment claims trending in opposite direction of the U.S. 


– Foxconn tax credits still a Wisconsin record, but back in line with previous awards 


– Vaccination pace weakens in Eau Claire region 


– Barrett urges aldermen to approve Milwaukee Tool incentive plan 


– Opposing CDC Guidance, Ron Johnson Questions Need For Broad Vaccine Push 

– Wisconsin’s Governor, Legislature spar over use of American Rescue dollars 


– High time? 


– Meet the 5 startups selected for the first Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator cohort 


– Experts Debate Use Of Technology To Curb Pandemic 


– Visit Milwaukee creates new sports division – Sports Milwaukee 


– Amtrak to restore full Milwaukee-Chicago service 


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

– Milwaukee County Parks Department: Begins replacing Humboldt Park trees

– Security Health Plan of Wisconsin, Inc: Teaching adults to read and changing their worlds – one person at a time

– Wisconsin Beef Council: Celebrates May beef month

– DSPS: Secretary Crim visits Wisconsin mass timber company, explores environmental and economic impact of updated mass timber code provisions