THU AM News: Culver’s saw a 4 percent increase in sales in 2020; WILL, biz groups prepare to sue City of Madison over bird-safe glass ordinance

— Culver’s saw a 4 percent sales increase in 2020 over 2019 and opened 50 new restaurants nationwide, including three in Wisconsin. 

Co-founder and former CEO Craig Culver joined a Wisconsin Alumni Association event this week to share the story of Wisconsin’s iconic drive-thru chain, which fared differently during the pandemic than most dine-in restaurants in the U.S. 

During the pandemic, Culver’s drive-thru business went from 60 percent of sales to 90 percent. This shift was a big factor in how Culver’s evolved during the pandemic, according to spokesman Eric Skrum. In fact, Culver said the drive-thru saved the home of the Butterburger.

“Where would have we been without the drive-thru? Well, we would have been in the same position as everybody else who has spoke today,” he said referring to two restauranteurs on the call who experienced restaurant closures. 

But the start of the pandemic wasn’t smooth sailing for Culver’s restaurants. Nearly a year ago on March 12, when Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order shut down Culver’s dining rooms, Culver said he, franchise owners and the support team panicked. He said there were layoffs and furloughs until business actually grew. Culver’s also faced supply chain disruption between to-go food bags, sanitary paper products and pork tenderloin.

Read the full story at 

— The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and several business groups are gearing up to sue the City of Madison over the city’s ordinance requiring bird-safe glass in building projects. 

WILL filed a notice of claim yesterday with the City of Madison on behalf of four real estate, development and building associations, warning that the city’s new mandatory bird-safe glass ordinance is preempted by state law. The claim also warns a lawsuit is forthcoming because the new city ordinance undermines and violates Wisconsin’s uniform building code.

City of Madison Attorney John Strange told that Madison’s bird-glass ordinance is a valid exercise of the city’s zoning authority and does not set construction standards that are preempted by the state building code. 

The Madison Common Council’s ordinance that exterior construction and development activity for buildings over 10,000 square feet, skyways and other glass features, must meet new bird-safe glass treatment requirements went into effect Oct. 1.

WILL argues Wisconsin’s uniform commercial building code provides that no city may enact or enforce an ordinance that establishes minimum standards for constructing, altering, or adding to buildings.

“A uniform building code is a critical component of Wisconsin’s business environment,” said WILL Deputy Counsel Dan Lennington. He added that Madison’s attempt to undermine the code would raise costs, hinder investment and “inject new uncertainty” for developers and investors.

The city will process the claim, with the Common Council ultimately approving or denying the claim, according to Strange. WILL’s claim starts a 120-day timeline before a lawsuit against the city can commence. 

WILL represents Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, Commercial Association of Realtors of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Builders Association and real estate group NAIOP Wisconsin in the claim.

See the release: 

— Pet food company Stella & Chewy’s is expanding in Oak Creek — a $67.7 million project expected to create 245 jobs over the next three years.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is supporting the project with up to $2 million in state income tax credits over the next three years contingent upon the number of jobs created.

The company is planning the construction of a new manufacturing facility adjacent to its current facility that will include approximately $65 million in new equipment. Up to $20 million of this equipment will be purchased from local Wisconsin vendors.

Stella & Chewy’s expects to hire approximately 245 employees; the company will require mostly manufacturing personnel to support its production and growth. CEO Marc Hill said he expects growth to continue and so the company is also expanding its current production footprint by 140,000 square feet to support growing demand.

— NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes has appointed five-year NorthStar veteran Dave Wilson as vice president of advanced radiopharmaceutical and therapeutic technologies. 

Wilson was previously vice president of commercial operations for the Beloit- based company. NorthStar is a nuclear medicine company that develops, produces and manufactures reliable and environmentally-friendly diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals.

Wilson’s appointment and other organizational changes aim to focus growth in radioisotope development and commercialization. NorthStar is poised to be the first commercial-scale supplier of the therapeutic radioisotopes Cu-67 and Ac-225, used in nuclear medicine to directly target and deliver therapeutic doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells in patients with serious disease. 

The company also continues expansion programs for its increased molybdenum-99 capacity and production, for which it is the only commercial producer in the U.S. NorthStar is also nearing completion of its accelerator production facility in Beloit.

— UW Credit Union will remain the preferred financial partner for UW-Madison through at least 2025 after the two entities signed a five-year contract effective immediately. 

UW Credit Union has been the university’s financial partner since 2009. Per the new contract, UW Credit Union will maintain its branch bank at Union South and its network of free ATMs across the UW campus. The contract also includes a marketing sponsorship and integrated engagement opportunities with the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.

The credit union does not enter into royalty agreements with schools, and it actively implements ways to protect student members from paying fees. It also offers internships and scholarships. And student members often remain members. UW Credit Union boasts a 94 percent member-retention rate. 

UW Credit Union currently manages campus branches in Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Whitewater, Green Bay and La Crosse.

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is taking part in reintroducing a bill increasing the icebreaking capacity of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Great Lakes fleet and codifying into law the USCG’s icebreaking mission.

The Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act aims to help the businesses and workers that rely on the maritime industry to transport their goods to market and grow our regional economy. Wisconsin is bordered by Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. 

“Inadequate icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes is costing us thousands of American jobs and millions in business revenue,” Baldwin said. “We must boost our icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes to keep our maritime commerce moving.”

Icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes supports more than 90 million tons of cargo annually, according to the Madison Dem’s release. It also cited a Lake Carriers’ Association study that during the 2018-2019 ice season, businesses that depend upon the Great Lakes maritime industry lost over $1 billion in revenues because of delays caused by inadequate icebreaking. These economic losses resulted in the loss of over 5,000 jobs throughout the Great Lakes Region.

Wisconsin-affiliated organizations endorsing the bill include Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding & Marine Group, Fraser Shipyards, LafargeHolcim, Lake Michigan Carferry Service and the Western Great Lakes Pilots Association.

— Charter Communications today announced a $688 million plan to expand high-speed broadband to some 143,000 unserved Wisconsin homes and small businesses.

The project includes an expected investment of $500 million by Charter and more than $168 million through money the company received through the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity auction. 

Charter currently serves 64 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, and the project will add service in three more. The company declined to say how many homes it serves in the state, but said it has nearly 1.5 million customers.

— Preparation for the broadband buildout has already begun. It will include Charter focusing on deployment of the new fiber-optic network.

The company said completion of the project depends on several factors, including utility pole permitting. Serving rural areas requires access to multiple poles for every new home served, as opposed to multiple homes per pole in more populated areas. 

Permitting and pole attachments can make up as much as 35 percent of a buildout project, according to the company.

“The stronger collaboration we have among broadband providers, state regulators, pole owners and utility companies, the faster we can connect these communities with high-speed internet services,” said Tom Rutledge, chairman and CEO of Charter Communications.

See the release: 

— The Wisconsin Medical Society opposes an Assembly bill that bans employers from deciding whether employees should be vaccinated as a condition of employment.

The memo, sent to the Assembly Constitution and Ethics Committee, argues the legislation paints vaccines in a negative light, and a common message on vaccine safety is needed to reach herd immunity from COVID-19. 

“There is a universal desire to emerge from the pandemic as soon as we can with the minimum number of lives lost to COVID-19. The single best way to accomplish both of these aims is through widespread vaccinations, which can lead to community immunity,” the society wrote. “A government policymaking action instituting a blanket ban on a private employer’s vaccine-related decision sends the opposite message.”

The society, representing more than 10,000 physician members statewide, said bill AB 25 infringes upon a health care employer’s ability to decide what steps may be necessary to adequately protect their employees’ and their patients’ health.

It also argues that federal and state laws already exist that allow for employee exceptions should an employer require a COVID-19 vaccination, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

See the memo: 

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# World Dairy Expo exploring venue options outside Madison for upcoming event

# Wisconsin State Fair is planning a 2021 return 

# Pandemic has cost UW-EC, Stout $11M each so far



– Nation’s first regenerative organic dairy drew inspiration from WI mentors 


– Bird-safe glass requirement in Madison challenged, another in the works in Wauwatosa 


– Evers Says Schools Might Need Summer Classes, Early Start To Recover From Pandemic

– Chancellor: Normal fall semester at UW-Madison hinges on vaccinations 


– Pandemic Pushes Wisconsinites To State Parks In Record Numbers 


– DHS launches statewide vaccine registry website

– African American, next-gen Milwaukee philanthropists lead $2 million campaign for health equity research 


– Survey: Nearly half of Wisconsin manufacturers say business still down 

– Central Standard sets opening date for downtown distillery 


– Evers tells WisPolitics he expects final budget will be compromise: ‘I don’t get bent out of shape over it.’

– ‘She never got involved’: A Madison woman’s obituary asks for donations to Ron Johnson’s 2022 opponent


– GOP Leaders Reject Evers’ Plan To Allow Local Sales Tax Increases


– Wanaki Golf Course’s new owners are veterans in the industry. Here are their plans for it. 


– Bringing the Birkie home: Solon Springs students ski youth race in school forest 


– Carbon dioxide would be stored underground in North Dakota 


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

– Madison International Trade Association: Hosts March 9th Webinar

– Wisconsin Technology Council: Healthcare IT experts to discuss digital health at virtual March 17 tech summit

– Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities: 30th annual private, non-profit colleges’ career, internship, & graduate school air

– Urban League: Announces location for the black business hub as part of partnership with the City of Madison and CDA to develop village on park