THU AM News: WEDC allocates $1.7M to nine regional groups, three chambers of commerce; State surpasses 5,000 COVID deaths

— The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is allocating nearly $1.7 million for nine regional groups and three chambers of commerce as “key strategic partners” for the coming year.

The money comes as regional economic development organizations face private-sector funding challenges while supporting their communities in recovering from the economic impacts of the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses throughout our state, especially the small businesses that many of our key strategic partners work with daily,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “Our relationships with our key strategic partners help put ‘boots on the ground’ in communities that are working to recover.”

WEDC relies on regional organizations to help carry out its statewide economic development priorities. 

Each region will receive a grant dependent on its size, as determined by the Regional Leadership Council. Prosperity Southwest, Centergy, Grow North, Visions Northwest, 7 Rivers Alliance and Momentum West each received $75,000. New North and Madison Regional Economic Partnership each received $100,000. Milwaukee 7 was awarded $125,000.

— The three chambers of commerce will receive a total of $900,000 from WEDC. 

For First American Capital Corp., the $325,000 contract allows the group to build technical assistance to Native American-owned and other disadvantaged businesses statewide. It also allows the group to direct access to affordable business loans to those frequently not meeting the credit standards of commercial banks, said program manager Gary Mejchar.

The African American Chamber of Commerce will get $300,000. President and CEO Ossie Kendrix said the dollars will allow the organization to uplift Black-owned businesses as Wisconsin continues to navigate the pandemic and resulting “economic ruin” it’s caused business owners. 

Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Maysee Herr said the partnership between the chamber and WEDC is a “win-win” for small businesses involved. The chamber will receive $275,000.

“With WEDC’s support, HWCC has been able to effectively expand its reach to small businesses in economically underserved and disadvantaged communities all around the state,” Herr said. 

— Wisconsin has surpassed 5,000 COVID-19 deaths after a day on which 60 people died from the novel coronavirus.

The new toll is 5,039 deaths. The seven-day average is 32 COVID-19 deaths per day, which is greater than the recent low of 25 deaths per day. But it’s still far under the seven-day average’s all-time high of 61 deaths per day, reached on Dec. 7.

Racine and Waukesha counties led the state’s increase, adding 10 and eight new deaths, respectively to their tolls.

Walworth County added four new deaths, while Kenosha, Milwaukee, Outagamie and Ozaukee counties added one new death each.

— The state also reported 3,406 COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 494,747 cumulative confirmed cases of the disease.

The new cases pushed the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases up to 2,493 from 2,400 yesterday. The most recent low was 1,882 on Dec. 26. The all-time high for the seven-day average was 6,563, reached on Nov. 18. 

The seven-day average for people who tested positive for COVID-19 out of the total people tested is 32 percent compared to 28.5 percent last week. The record high is 37.7 percent reached Nov. 11. The seven-day average for positive tests per total tests collected is 11.6 percent from 9.5 percent last week. Its record was 17.9 percent on Nov. 12. 

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— Associated Banc-Corp will sell its wealth management subsidiary Whitnell & Co. to Rockefeller Capital Management and form a strategic partnership with Rockefeller. 

New-York-based Rockefeller will acquire Whitnell, while Associated Bank will become a Midwest mortgage lending referral partner and Associated Trust Company will become one of Rockefeller’s third-party trust solutions providers. 

The transaction is expected to close in March. 

Whitnell, an Oak Brook, Ill. wealth management and multi-family office services firm with $1.4 billion in client assets, was acquired by Associated in 2017. Upon closing of the transaction, Whitnell and its 25-person team will become the primary Midwest office for Rockefeller’s family office services. Rockefeller recently expanded its services into the Chicago market.

— Port congestion, container shortages, excessive fees from carriers and service provider upheaval are plaguing import and export supply chains, according to a Milwaukee customs broker.

M.E. Dey & Co. President Sandi Siegel reminded her stakeholders yesterday that everyone is in the same boat.

“U.S. customs brokers, freight forwarders, and non-vessel-operating common carriers … of all sizes are facing multi-week delays and higher costs of routing shipments through the nation’s congested seaports, airports, and rail ramps,” she wrote. 

Siegel added that the frustration over delays is compounded by excessive fees from ocean carriers. She noted that in the worst cases, containers are being reported lost by carriers and terminals. 

The same goes at airports, she continued.  

“Truckers hired to retrieve or deliver freight, more than likely will encounter inefficiencies at ports and airports that severely disrupt and add significant cost to what should be an efficient activity,” Siegel wrote. “In many areas, there is a severe shortage of available truckers to move your cargo domestically.”

M.E. Dey & Co. is looking to the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America to communicate its clients frustrations to the nation’s container ports and carriers, and to the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission to untangle the logistics challenges.

— A growing commercial pathway for intellectual property in Wisconsin runs through research and development engines in the Milwaukee region, both private and public. 

The Wisconsin Technology Council is hosting “technology transfer” leaders from five of those Milwaukee-area entities in a virtual event on Jan. 26. 

The morning webinar will feature: Kevin Boggs of the Medical College of Wisconsin; Laura Savatski of Versiti; Daniel Sem of Concordia University; Jessica Silvaggi of UWM Research Foundation; and Kalpa Vithalani of Marquette University.

Register here: 

— Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative is pushing for a new farmworker visa, expanded free trade agreements and for farmers to play a leading role in developing environmental policies in the next congressional session.

“Edge’s priorities and objectives reflect a broad range of tangible changes that would boost critical support for our dairy farmers,” Edge President Brody Stapel said. “This is a critical time for the dairy community. Ongoing issues, like the worker shortage, have only grown more challenging and call for bold action. And, we need the tools to meet emerging challenges as well.”

The Midwest-based cooperative, one of the largest dairy co-ops in the country, laid out five key legislative focus areas during its annual meeting with members. These include a reliable workforce, better access to global markets, more feasible dairy risk management programs for farmers, farmer-led environmental innovation and new labeling laws to distinguish dairy from non-dairy products.

— Northwestern Wisconsin dairy farmer Amy Penterman is the first woman to lead the Dairy Business Association.

Penterman was chosen as the next DBA president yesterday during the advocacy organization’s annual meeting. She and her husband farm Dutch Dairy in Thorp, which milks 850 cows and farms 1,300 acres. 

She was chosen as DBA’s president-elect in 2019 and previously served as secretary.

“I’m honored to serve in this role going forward,” Penterman said. “Dairy is the backbone of our state’s economy and rural communities, and I am passionate about keeping it strong now and for future generations.”

Outgoing DBA President Tom Crave becomes president emeritus. 


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