MON AM News: State to set new record for outdoor recreation in 2021; solar energy and workforce demand is rising

— Wisconsin is on pace to break its 2019 record for outdoor recreation-related economic activity this year.

Since the start of the pandemic, Wisconsin has outpaced the national average in travel spending, acting Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers said. In 2020 this led to a local spending infusion of $2.5 billion that would have been spent elsewhere in a normal year, she added.

Sayers was a guest during the “Lake Talks: How the Great Lakes Drive Outdoor Recreation and Wisconsin Tourism” virtual event hosted by Wisconsin Sea Grant. 

“An increase in the share of overnight trips from in-state, plus local spending, all led to Wisconsin faring better during the pandemic than most other states,” she said.

According to Sayers, the number of trips being planned of two nights or longer in Wisconsin this year is outpacing 2020, and the record-setting year of 2019. 

Website traffic at is also up 20 percent over 2019, a year in which the website set a record for web traffic, she said. According to Sayers, this is a great indicator of travel intent. 

Read the full story at 

<i>A virtual event on May 20 examines the outlook for tourism this summer. See more and register here:</i>

— Solar jobs held steady throughout 2020 despite the 6.7 percent decline in the national workforce from 2019, according to the 2020 National Solar Jobs Census.

Nationally, the solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020. The report tracks all solar jobs in residential and utility-scale construction, as well as all supply chains. It includes anyone who spends 50 percent or more of their time working on solar-related activities.

According to the latest report, solar employment figures in the Badger State saw a slight improvement from last year’s figures. Across the state, jobs were up from 2,871 in 2019 to 2,910 in 2020. Wisconsin is ranked No. 26 nationally for all solar-related employment.

Jesse Michalski, project manager for Eland Electric, said the Green Bay company saw a 15 percent hiring increase. He added that 2020 was busier than 2019 for solar projects, and 2021 is on track to be busier than 2020. 

The report also notes greater diversity in the solar workforce among women, Blacks, Asians, Latinos and Hispanics. Additionally, pay rates for solar jobs were comparable or higher than the U.S. averages for similar occupations in the energy and construction industries.

See the report: 

— Wisconsin solar installation totals set records last year, bringing online more than 200 megawatts of solar; residential solar installations also increased in 2020.

“Wisconsin’s cumulative solar capacity more than doubled in 2020,” said Heather Allen, RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director.

Over 10 megawatts of solar were installed on homes last year compared with about 5 megawatts in 2019. Requests more than doubled for residential solar incentives, according to Sam Dunaiski, program director at RENEW. 

“This surge in solar adoption was likely due to people spending more time in their homes, recognizing their energy consumption habits, and seeking to reduce their utility bills,” he said.

While the Wisconsin job totals are reassuring, significant workforce growth is still needed. Approximately 2,450 megawatts of generation are expected to come online in Wisconsin over the next three to five years. The state will need to scale up its solar workforce in that timeframe to complete these projects, according to RENEW.

“Wisconsin’s solar industry offers an unparalleled opportunity to grow our clean energy workforce and reinvest millions in our local economies,” Allen said.

— For more developments in green energy, environmental issues and related policy proposals, visit WisBiz Green in the right-hand column at

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— The village of Lena received a $110,000 state grant to expand the Wooden Shoe Bar & Grill located in downtown Lena.

The WEDC grant will support the village’s plans for a larger kitchen, new equipment and construction for a patio and outdoor seating. A blighted building connected to the existing bar and grill was razed to provide space for the development. This expansion has nearly doubled the size of the Wooden Shoe.

Between indoor and outdoor seating, the expansion lets the Wooden Shoe host around 70 additional people, allowing the venue to compete for larger events and hire more staff.

“The Wooden Shoe Bar & Grill could not have achieved its build-out and required space to run its business without the help of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation,” said owner Carisa Deheck. “We had outgrown our current space and were in jeopardy of losing customers and now we can offer them the service they deserve.”

— The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference on June 3 will feature a panel discussion on the Midwestern trend of creating “funds of funds” to advance the startup economy.

Panelists include: Aaron Gillum, senior vice president of 50 South Capital, which manages state funds in Illinois and Indiana; Chris Rizik, CEO of the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund in Michigan and an advisor to similar funds; and John Austin, who has written extensively on the Midwest economy for the Brookings Institution, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Michigan Economic Center.

Register for the conference, produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council: 

— Wisconsin Women in Conservation is launching a four-part virtual summer camp series to address land stewardship concerns of women farmers and landowners statewide. 

All women who desire to better care for land, water and wildlife are welcome to attend. The first summer camp lunch webinar is May 27 from noon to 1 p.m. via Zoom focused on pollinator habitat. 

“Wisconsin Women in Conservation amplifies the fact that women learn best from each other and creates opportunities like the Conservation Summer Camp to connect, ask questions and learn,” says WiWiC Program Lead Esther Shekinah, who is also a research agronomist at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. “This project provides the resources and networks to support Wisconsin women landowners in our commitment to steward our land for future generations.”

WiWiC is a statewide collaborative effort led by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in partnership with Renewing the Countryside, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service and Wisconsin Farmers Union.

Register for the Conservation Summer Camp Series here: 

— In the latest Dem radio address, Gov. Tony Evers discussed the importance of Wisconsin’s Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant Program.

The grant program, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, has the potential to help some 84,000 Wisconsin small businesses with $5,000 grants. Up to $420 million dollars will be awarded.

“At the end of the day, I wanted our small businesses to know that help is on the way,” the governor said. “And once we get these federal funds and guidance, we will get them out the door quickly to help small businesses restock shelves, catch up on bills, or rehire and retain workers.”

Listen to the address:

— RSVP for the May 20 virtual event: “Summer Tourism Outlook: How will Wisconsin take advantage of a post-pandemic visitor surge?”

Join May 20 for a virtual lunch hour event featuring three tourism leaders — Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers, Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association President and CEO Bill Elliott and Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions President Tom Diehl. The trio will discuss the state of the tourism industry in Wisconsin and how the political, health and economic climates may influence what Wisconsin’s robust tourism industry will look like this summer.

The program is set to run via webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 20.

The event will begin with a moderated panel discussion and then shift to questions from the audience.

We will send you a link to access the webinar on the morning of the event.

Register here:

This event is sponsored by Madison Gas and Electric Company, University Research Park, Wisconsin Technology Council and The Phelps Hamus Group.


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– Mom invents milk-based sports drink 

– State Cherry Producers Has Banner Year 

– County Fairs Get Funding 


– COVID-19 Cases In Wisconsin Averaging About 550 Per Day 


– Businesses fighting to find workers in tight labor market  


– Milwaukee Brewing Co. to boost craft beer production by nearly 70% 

– Johnson Controls’ former battery unit Clarios files for IPO 


– Developer Rick Barrett lays out his ideal setup for Couture’s 50,000 square feet of retail space 


– Greater Milwaukee Foundation offering $1 million in small business loans for near north side businesses 


– Forbes ranks Green Bay Packers as 31st most valuable sports team in world 


– 3D virtual events platform Showboat grew fast amid pandemic, seeks funding to expand 


– Wisconsin State Fair Reveals New Logo 


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

– Ameriprise Financial: Sharon Brantmeier honored as Best-In-State Wealth Advisor by Forbes Magazine

– RENEW Wisconsin: Wisconsin solar jobs held steady during pandemic

– SaintA: Named one of Southeast Wisconsin’s top workplaces

– MMAC: March economic trends report for metro Milwaukee shows improvement, but recovery far from complete