MON AM News: WPF report shows jobs recovery for bars, restaurants; Doyenne webinar highlights crowdfunding options for startups

— A report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum shows employment at bars and restaurants in the state is rebounding from last year’s dip, though recovery in the sector lags behind other industries. 

Employment at these and similar businesses initially dropped by nearly half, from about 199,400 in March 2020 to 104,900 in April 2020 due to the pandemic. That number has since increased to 199,900 in August based on federal employment data, but still remains 8.8 percent below August 2019, when the sector employed about 219,200 people. 

The category is largely made up of bars and restaurants, but also covers caterers, food trucks and other food and beverage service providers. The WPF report also notes the sector’s recovery “has been weaker in Wisconsin than nationally,” as U.S. employment in August was about 6.1 percent lower than in August 2019. 

Employment recovery in Wisconsin’s arts, entertainment and recreation sector is significantly slower, as jobs in the sector remained 20.5 percent lower in August than in August 2019. But total nonfarm employment is only 3.5 percent lower over the same period. Employment in retail trade is 1 percent lower, and manufacturing employment is just 0.7 percent lower. 

Report authors note that “no data is available” on exactly how many bars and restaurants closed during the pandemic. But limited information from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection “suggests that hundreds more restaurants closed in Wisconsin than opened” last year. 

DATCP only tracks state-licensed businesses, accounting for about a third of retail food businesses in the state, the report shows. The agency’s data show 418 restaurants and similar businesses closed in 2020, while 218 opened. Still, more restaurants opened than closed in 2019 and so far this year, which the report highlights as a positive indicator for the sector. 

“Still, the net loss of state-licensed restaurants in 2020 speaks to the challenges facing the industry as a whole in Wisconsin,” report authors wrote. 

While these businesses have struggled to recover, the report notes that federal funding and state programs have helped prop up the sector. WPF found 11,400 Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling over $935 million went to bars and restaurants in the state. These businesses received about 6.5 percent of all PPP funds distributed in the state, the report shows. 

Meanwhile, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund administered by the Small Business Administration provided $379 million in grants to 2,095 businesses in the state. Other federal funds administered through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation included $64 million in grants for bars and restaurants, representing about 22.6 percent of the We’re All In Grants program. 

“The pandemic caused some restaurants and bars in Wisconsin to close permanently, but most have found ways to adapt and survive, thanks in part to the lifeline provided by federal and state grant and forgivable loan programs,” report authors wrote. “Yet, many continue to face challenges, including an increasingly tight labor supply that may be driven in part by workers seeking better employment conditions in other industries.” 

See the full report: 

— Doyenne co-founder and Executive Director Heather Wentler says crowdfunding sites can be a useful tool to support early-stage growth, but she warns of uncertainties with aspects of these services. 

In a recent webinar hosted for members of the women’s entrepreneurship and business group, she urged startup leaders to reach out to crowdfunding platforms before launching a campaign to see if they would be a good fit. She suggested exploring if similar businesses have seen success with the platforms in the past. 

“Crowdfunding is very much a marketing game, just as much as a raising dollars game,” she said during the webinar. “So thinking about who in your network can contribute, do you have enough sway in your network to get people to contribute, and also how can they support your campaign and help bring in their networks and connections?” 

She also explained that federal regulators haven’t made it clear whether contributors to online equity fundraising campaigns should be included in companies’ official investor lists, creating uncertainty for startups that raise money through certain sites. 

“Let’s say you raise $1 million … Do those 1,000 contributors to your campaign, do all 1,000 names end up on your cap table for your company, listed as personal investors?” she said. “They’re still trying to figure those things out right now, which is something to consider.” 

If federal officials decide that every contributor to online equity fundraising campaigns must be listed, she said “it could potentially cause problems for you as you continue to fundraise through other investors.” 

Wentler described some differences between the various platforms, including GoFundMe, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others. Some require those raising funds to secure an initial group of backers, while others are more often used by individuals rather than businesses. She noted crowdfunding has become a “hugely popular” route for startups in recent years, but she urged business leaders to be careful about the types of funds they accept through platforms like these and to think about the long-term ramifications. 

Listen to a recent podcast with Wentler focused on the Doyenne Investor Accelerator program: 

— The Public Service Commission has increased the budget for the next round of the state’s Energy Innovation Grant Program to $10 million. 

These grants help fund projects aimed at reducing energy consumption, boosting clean energy and transportation, fortifying the state’s energy system and more. The PSC is increasing the funds available for the second round of grants by $3 million in response to the high number of applications for the previous round, for which funding was awarded earlier this year. An earlier round from 2018 included $5 million in grant funding. 

While evaluating applicants for the upcoming round, commissioners will consider factors including energy savings, additional funds leveraged, economic impact, equitability and energy resiliency improvement. The PSC will announce application instructions for the funds in mid-October, and applications will be accepted through mid-January. 

See the list of recipients from the previous round: 

See the list of 2018 grant awards: 

— The latest data from AARP show a recent increase in COVID-19 cases among nursing home staff in Wisconsin, though cases among residents decreased slightly over the same period. 

Cases among nursing home staff in the state increased from 0.01 per 100 residents for the four-week period ending July 18 to 1.53 per 100 for the four-week period ending Aug. 22. Meanwhile, cases among residents decreased from 0.06 to 0.03 per 100 residents. 

But at the same time, virus deaths in Wisconsin’s nursing homes increased from 0.01 per 100 residents to 0.05 per 100 residents, the AARP site shows. 

Vaccination rates for both nursing home staff and residents in the state have been increasing in recent months. As of Aug. 22, 62.4 percent of health care workers at these facilities and 86.5 percent of residents were fully vaccinated. 

And 21.5 percent of nursing homes in Wisconsin had at least 75 percent of staff vaccinated by that time, compared to 18.6 percent on July 18. 

“As the new variants are emerging, facilities cannot let preventable problems be repeated,” said Sam Wilson, state director of AARP Wisconsin. “The key is to increase vaccinations, and do it now.” 

The Department of Health Services site shows 56.5 percent of the state population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 53.3 percent have completed the vaccine series. 

A total of 1,072 people in the state are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the Wisconsin Hospital Association Dashboard shows, including 335 patients in the ICU. DHS reports 89.7 percent of hospital beds and 91.8 percent of ICU beds were in use as of Tuesday, the latest day for which these numbers are available. 

See the nursing homes dashboard: 

— A recent study from a researcher at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and other scientists found certain prostate cancers respond differently to hormone treatments. 

These findings could help improve treatment for these cancers. The study was published Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology. 

Shuang Zhao, a professor of oncology at the UW SMPH, helped direct and publish the research. In a release from UW-Madison, he noted previous work had shown one type of localized prostate cancer saw a bigger impact from “anti-testosterone therapy.” The latest study focused on more serious metastatic prostate cancer, in which cancer cells are spreading through the body. 

Working with other researchers in the university’s Department of Human Oncology and the University of California, San Francisco, Zhao used results from large national studies of metastatic prostate cancer to compile 634 different patient samples. 

By differentiating between the cancer subtypes of those samples and comparing that information to patient survival rates and treatment response, they determined that hormone therapies are more effective against certain tumors. 

Because metastatic cancers are more difficult to biopsy, given their differentiated nature, Zhao says he’s hoping to develop blood tests that could help determine which subtype of cancer patients have. He’s the co-director of the Circulating Biomarker Core at the UW–Madison Carbone Cancer Center, which focuses on developing those kinds of tests. 

“Now that we’ve discovered this pattern, how do we turn this into a test that metastatic patients can benefit from?” he said. “The only way it can be used widely is if we make it easier.”

See the study here: 

— The Wisconsin Technology Council has extended the deadline for companies to apply for opportunities to pitch and connect with investors at the upcoming Early Stage Symposium. 

Applications are now being accepted through Friday. The event has two pitch opportunities for entrepreneurs — the Tech Council Investor Networks track, which features five-minute presentations, and the rapid-fire Elevator Pitch Olympics. 

All registered companies are eligible to participate in the Investor Intros segment, which sets up brief one-on-one meetings with angel and venture investors. Many of the state’s top investment groups are set to participate in this year’s event. 

Find application details for companies here: 

Register for the event here: 

Listen to a recent podcast with Wisconsin Investment Partners co-manager Brad Bodden, highlighting the Investor Intros opportunity: 


# Milwaukee hotel revenue projected to be down 76.9% from 2019

# Packaging solutions giant to acquire Mequon-based Gateway Plastics in nearly half-billion-dollar deal

# Appleton entrepreneur’s new messaging app solves ecommerce inefficiencies



– Legend Seeds acquires Kussmaul Seed Co.

– Warrens Cranberry Festival to celebrate another harvest


– River Point District fill not yet complete, site to be secured for Oktoberfest


– Tight supply of homes could hold back record sales


– Fall colors running behind due to warmer than normal weather

– Citizen scientists monitor Wisconsin’s frog and toad population


– GE Healthcare makes $1.45B acquisition to extend its ultrasound business

– Employee benefits exec Jim Mueller sells firm to Hays Companies


– Wisconsin teenager wins lawsuit over COVID social media post


– Gardening passion drives GMC’s Hostad to leave The Commons for startup Fork Farms’ new foundation


– Dane County to consider over $8.2 million for affordable housing


– Eau Claire Marathon deals with pandemic, route changes, roadwork


– Wisconsin Inno Under 25: The 2021 rising tech leaders to watch


– J. R. R. Tolkien manuscript exhibition coming to Marquette

– Downtown Appleton businesses plan Fall Fest, Mocktober Fest events in place of Octoberfest


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