MON AM News: State exports up 18 percent in first half of 2021; With infusion of broadband expansion funds, rural areas take steps to connect

— Wisconsin exports in the first half of 2021 were over 18 percent higher than in the first half of 2020, a recent WEDC report shows. 

Businesses in the state exported $11.5 billion worth of products between January and June of this year, with industrial machinery being the state’s largest export category. These products make up about 24 percent of Wisconsin exports with a total value of nearly $2.8 billion, and had an increase of more than 8 percent over the year. 

The greatest increase by dollar value was seen in vehicles and parts exports, with an increase of $308.3 million or nearly 54 percent, reaching over $881 million. Agriculture-related exports — defined as a “super-category” in the report — totaled $1.9 billion in the first half of 2020, for an increase of over 21 percent over the year. 

Over the same period, state exports of medical and scientific instruments rose by over 15 percent, reaching $1.07 billion. Meanwhile, plastics exports increased by about 29 percent to over $715 million. 

According to the Wisconsin Trade Data Report, Wisconsin is ranked 21st among U.S. states for exports. The report is created by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research. 

On the national level, U.S. exports for the first half of this year increased about 23 percent over the year. 

The top five individual countries for Wisconsin exports in the first half of this year were: Canada, with around $3.6 billion; Mexico, with $1.5 billion; China, $854 million; Germany, $441 million; and Japan, $362 million. 

The report also highlights state imports, which increased by nearly 38 percent over the same period to $16.7 billion. The largest import category, industrial machinery, increased by 45 percent over the year to reach $5.36 billion. And pharmaceutical imports also saw a large increase with 61 percent, reaching $3.06 billion. 

China provided around 20 percent of Wisconsin imports, while nearly 17 percent came from Canada and about 9 percent came from Mexico, the report shows. 

See the full report: 

— When the rest of the world went virtual during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, rural Wisconsin went dark.

“Education didn’t slow,” said Taylor County Supervisor Mike Bub of Medford. “It stopped.”

In an effort to close those internet access gaps, more money is going toward broadband expansion in Wisconsin than ever before. 

The Legislature approved $125 million in the biennial state budget and Gov. Tony Evers directed $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Public Service Commission. Wisconsin is set to receive another $100 million from the bipartisan infrastructure bill that recently passed through the U.S. Senate and the FCC’s most recent Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction granted more than $373.7 million in subsidies for internet providers to expand and manage broadband in 240,546 locations in the state.

Charter, the telecommunications company that owns Spectrum, was allotted $168 million from that fund, adding to the $500 million in private investments the company pledged earlier this year. Those federal and private dollars add up to just under $1.2 billion total, falling within the $700 million to $1.4 billion the PSC estimated is needed to provide high-speed internet access to all Wisconsinites.

See more in the Friday Report: 

— A literature review conducted by UW Health researchers has identified chronic pain as a symptom of persistent cases of COVID-19. 

According to a release, patients hospitalized for COVID-19 infections — particularly those in the intensive care unit — were more likely to experience chronic pain. The review identified age and overall patient condition as factors contributing to the risk for chronic pain post-infection. 

Coronavirus infections had already been linked to headache and chest pain, the release shows. But Dr. Alaa Abd-Elsayed of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health says long-lasting chronic pain suggests the virus is harming people in yet-unknown ways. 

“There seems to be a correlation between the virus and pain that manifests in certain parts of the body,” said Abd-Elsayed, who’s also the medical director for UW Health’s Pain Management Clinic. 

See more in a release: 

— The state Supreme Court has set a deadline of noon Tuesday for Dane County and Madison officials to respond to a lawsuit seeking to overturn a new mask mandate.

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which filed the suit Wednesday, had asked the court for an emergency stay before the order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

The order leaves in place for now the mandate, which covers anyone aged 2 and up in an enclosed indoor space other than their home.

See the order: 

— UW-Milwaukee has announced a $5.1 million effort to eliminate student debt incurred during the 2020-21 school year for more than 2,000 students. 

Affected students owe an average of $2,700 each, mainly for tuition or housing, though a release notes any unpaid university bill can be forgiven through the program. The debt relief program applies to both undergraduate and graduate students at UW-Milwaukee campuses in Milwaukee, Waukesha and Washington County. 

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone notes the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many students and their families to lose their jobs and take on additional costs for things like child care and health care. 

“We established new scholarships, emergency grants and low-cost computer purchase programs to help, but we know for some, the need was greater,” he said in a statement. “By forgiving their debt from the past year, we hope to give them a fresh start.”

See the release: 

— Assets at credit unions in Wisconsin increased by more than $4 billion over the first six months of this year, rising to $53.6 billion as of June 30. 

A release from the state Department of Financial Institutions also highlights a “growing disparity” between incomes of credit unions, with larger ones faring better. 

Credit unions with more than $500 million in assets had a return on average assets of more than double that of credit unions with assets between $100 million and $500 million. And credit unions with less than $100 million in assets had the lowest return on average assets. 

See the release: 

— The engineering firm Kapur is opening a new office in Madison to service clients in southern and western Wisconsin. 

Kapur’s clients in the area include Madison Gas and Electric, We Energies and various government agencies. 

The company is also hiring engineering and development experts to lead the new office. Darin Blang of Cottage Grove has led projects for the state Department of Transportation, counties, local developers and others for 29 years. And Zach Freeman of McFarland has spent 20 years working on site design and transportation projects for public and private clients. 

See the release: 


# About 841,000 attended 2021 Wisconsin State Fair

# How Madison and Milwaukee rank on list of best Midwest cities for startups

# ‘We can’t wait’: Madison leaders pledge urgency following climate change report



– Wisconsin milk production rose in July

– Wisconsin State Fair CEO O’Leary on navigating severe weather and fair adjustments: Q&A


– Burlington officials cancel $80K no-bid contract after trade groups raise questions 


– With COVID-19 surging, cases will show up in classrooms. Many will come from community spread.

– Wisconsin tribes offer $500 vaccination incentive


– Community members can seek compensation as part of $1M settlement with Husky in class-action lawsuit


– AG Kaul files suit to force Natural Resources chairman out


– This firm is using AI and data to change how real estate brokerages manage agents: The Pitch


– Kohl’s on road to recovery as new Sephora partnership begins


– MMAC’s Tim Sheehy appointed new chair of the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District

– Giannis is part-owner of the Brewers: ‘Milwaukee has made me who I am today’


– Harley-Davidson puts muscle behind first Hometown Rally; large crowds expected Labor Day weekend


– WisDOT grant for rail spur to help with Illinois firm’s $10M Walworth County plant


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

Kapur: Continues growth and expansion with new Madison location

Lucas-Milhaupt: Diversity and inclusion are deliberate outcomes at Lucas-Milhaupt

UWM: Announces $5 million student debt relief program