THU AM News: Biden administration’s trade approach may benefit Wisconsin’s economy; Baraboo manufacturer to produce COVID test swabs, add 59 jobs

— The Biden administration will open markets and opt for multilateral trade agreements, benefitting Wisconsin’s trade economy, according to a global affairs expert.

Jeremi Suri, a global affairs professor at the University of Texas at Austin, discussed the controversial trade relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world during a Madison International Trade Association webinar this week.

Suri, a former UW-Madison prof, said the Biden administration will prefer open markets in place of protected markets, multilateral trade agreements with multiple countries over bilateral relationships and trade relationships before transactions. All of that goes against the Trump administration approach.

This gives ample opportunities for Wisconsin’s manufacturers and agriculture businesses because the Biden administration will likely provide federal support for exports, explained Suri.

But trade was not on the forefront of Biden’s campaign. Last week, however, the U.S. and European Union agreed to temporarily suspend the additional tariffs from the Large Civil Aircraft Dispute for four months in order to encourage trade with European partners. Goods imported from EU countries, including dairy products and liquors, will not be subject to the additional 25 percent duties under Section 301. 

Read the full story at 

— A Baraboo plastics manufacturer is gearing up to produce more than 150 million swab sticks for COVID-19 tests each month with up to $250,000 in job creation tax credits from WEDC. 

Teel Plastics plans to expand to a fourth location in Baraboo and add 59 jobs. In addition, an economic modeling study estimates the project could indirectly generate 44 additional jobs in the region. Those 103 total new jobs are expected to generate more than $190,000 in state income tax annually, according to WEDC.

Plans call for the company to lease a 180,000-square-foot building in Baraboo and move the production lines for its fiber optic products to the leased space. New equipment to produce the swabs and other medical supplies will then be installed at Teel’s main facility at 1060 Teel Court, Baraboo.

Teel Plastics has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense that will pay for the roughly $5.8 million cost of equipment to produce the test swabs. WEDC is supporting the project by authorizing up to $250,000 in state income tax credits over the next three years. The actual amount of tax credits Teel will receive is contingent upon the number of jobs created.

“Beyond the pandemic, Teel’s expansion plans are setting the company up for future success by expanding its medical and fiberoptic products,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. 

— Charter Communications announced it’s raised the starting minimum wage for new employees to $18 an hour this year as a part of an initiative started last April.

Last year, Charter announced it would raise the starting minimum wage from $15 to $20 per hour by 2022. This year’s raise marks the second increase of $1.50 an hour over the past two years for new hires.

In Wisconsin, Charter is hiring employees for nearly 100 positions with the company, predominantly in Milwaukee, Madison, Appleton and Fond du Lac. 

— Madison business leaders will headline the seventh annual IceBreaker program, hosted today by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce.

Featured speakers from the Madison area include UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and American Family Insurance Chair and CEO Jack Salzwedel.  

The virtual program will also include national leaders, including the 43rd U.S. T

treasurer, Rosie Rios, Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana and Russell Sage Foundation President Sheldon Danziger. 

“Now, exactly one year after the official start of the pandemic, we are grateful to be able to bring together the thought leaders we rely on — and those they rely on — for conversations about solving the headwinds we face in this moment,” said GMCC President Zach Brandon.

— The Associated Banc-Corp board of directors has appointed Andrew Harmening as president and CEO starting April 28.

Harmening was most recently the senior executive vice president, consumer and business banking of Huntington Bank.

In the position, Harmening will lead Associated Bank and Associated Trust. Current Associated President and CEO Phillip Flynn will continue his role until April. When Flynn steps down, he will serve as an advisor for Harmening and ambassador of the bank before retiring at the end of the year.

— Milwaukee-based education company Fiveable is one of four organizations to partner with Google to increase the amount of STEM and AP courses available in underserved minority communities.

Google will help Fiveable offer more virtual tools to help over 2,000 students in the Oakland and San Francisco Bay area study for AP exams. Fiveable offers 10 live-streamed sessions for 11 different AP STEM courses and a 5-hour virtual study session the day before the AP exam.

According to Fiveable founder and CEO Amanda DoAmaral, 5.5 percent of students taking AP exams last year were Black. Fiveable aims to offer both access to AP and STEM materials for underserved communities and supply the support needed for the students to succeed.

— DATCP’s International Agribusiness Center is co-hosting an upcoming event on the Taiwan market: “US – Taiwan Business Forum in the Mid-West: Taiwan, Gateway to the Asian Market.”

The virtual webinar aims to enhance business ties between the U.S. and Taiwan. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office and Taiwan Trade Center, Chicago have collaborated with the Food Export Association of the Midwest USA, DATCP, the Illinois Soybean Association and The International Trade Association of Greater Chicago, among others, to host the March 23-24 event.

The first day, from 9 a.m.-11 a.m., focuses on Taiwan-U.S. business opportunities and restructuring global supply chains. March 24, from 9 a.m.-11 a.m., is based around the Food Taipei Trade Show and developing a brand in the global market.


— Middle school and high school students can enter Wisconsin Youth Entrepreneurs in Science, a statewide youth business plan contest, through 5 p.m. April 14.

Students across Wisconsin are eligible to turn their science- and tech-related ideas into business plans and compete for cash and prizes. The contest begins with a 250-word summary submitted through The contest is modeled after the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

Throughout the phases of the contest, students get feedback from professionals across Wisconsin who will serve as judges.

“Leveraging technology, thinking creatively and working as a team are all important characteristics for today’s entrepreneurs,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. “Entrepreneurial skills are vital to the long-term success of Wisconsin’s youth, as well as the state’s innovation economy.”

— According to DHS’ vaccine dashboard, 10.8 percent of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated.

The state has put nearly 1.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in people’s arms. 

Over 19 percent of Wisconsinites — over 1.1 million people — have gotten at least the first dose. More than 63 percent of Wisconsinites age 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

And the state reported 516 COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths from the virus. The death toll is now 6,524. The seven-day average for daily confirmed cases fell to 388 from 391 cases yesterday.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are one-ninth the census reached in November — 244 compared to 2,277. Current intensive care unit census is one-seventh what it was in November — 61 compared to 456. 

See the Wisconsin COVID-19 Timeline: 

— Infection numbers, patient counts and COVID-19 vaccinations are keeping Dr. Chris Green optimistic, but he says it’s still too soon to relax precautions.

Green, the Wisconsin Hospital Association chief medical officer, told a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce event that workplaces should follow the CDC guidelines for when it’s time to relax workplace precautions.

“It will happen when infections are under control, so we’re at or nearing herd immunity. It will be a gradual process. It won’t be one day, ‘okay everything’s fine, take away all the barriers and take away all the masks,’” he said.  

Green explained if the state moves too fast in relaxing mitigation efforts, it could face another big surge. Easing up on precautions gradually will allow health officials to monitor potential surges. It’s easier to turn the surge around when it’s small, he said, adding that he doesn’t want to see shutdowns like last year at this time.

“It’ll be a gradual process. I can’t tell you when, and it depends on the number of infections over the next several months, number of vaccines delivered, and also what happens with these variants,” Green said, adding he’s optimistic COVID-19 will be under control as early as this summer. 

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— The hospitality industry was hit the hardest during the pandemic after forced shutdowns to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a sharp economic downturn. 

Even after the economy reopened, Wisconsin’s favorite eateries and alehouses continue to struggle as they’re faced with local capacity regulations and as people wait to get their COVID-19 vaccine before going out. 

After the anniversary of the state’s “Safer at Home” order, join March 25 for a virtual lunch hour event featuring three hospitality sector representatives — Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer, Tavern League of Wisconsin President Chris Marsicano and Wisconsin Brewers Guild Executive Director Mark Garthwaite. 

The trio will discuss the state of the hospitality industry in Wisconsin and policies from a new administration that could make or break what the state’s wine-and-dine scene looks like coming out of a global pandemic.

The program is set to run via webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 25.

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.

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

Register here for this free event:



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