THU AM News: Foxconn to receive $28.8M in state tax credits; Expert warns ‘sheer volume’ of omicron cases could push health care system to the brink

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— Foxconn will receive $28.8 million in state tax credits for 2020, just shy of the maximum award the Taiwanese manufacturer could receive under the revised deal Gov. Tony Evers signed this spring.

WEDC CEO Missy Hughes said yesterday the state certified 579 jobs the company had created at its Racine County facility, which was within the target range. But it fell short of the target capital investment of $268.6 million by nearly $2.5 million.

Had the company hit that target, it would’ve qualified for $29.1 million in credits.

This is the first time the company has qualified for state tax credits since signing the original incentive agreement with former Gov. Scott Walker in 2017 after it consistently fell short of job hiring targets.

The revised deal Evers signed with the company lowered job and capital investment targets significantly, while also dramatically reducing the potential tax credit Foxconn could receive. Under the new contract, the company can receive $80 million in refundable state tax credits if it creates 1,451 jobs through the end of 2025 and invests $672 million.

The original deal called for 13,000 jobs and an investment of $10 billion.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. yesterday also released an auditor’s report from late August that found the company paid $40.2 million in wages during 2020.

The company’s submission to the state said it had created 970 jobs in 2020 and invested $850 million in the state. But the state audits have consistently found fewer jobs meeting contract standards and less of a capital investment than what the company claimed.

In a statement, Foxconn Technology Group maintained it has invested nearly $1 billion in Wisconsin “inclusive of all expenditures.”

“This center of gravity has attracted the attention of other manufacturers, businesses and investors who share our vision for a Park that can sustain continued business and community development,” the company said.

Outgoing Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, a frequent critic of the project, continued to question what the company is doing at the Mt. Pleasant facility. He said the company still isn’t clear with the WEDC Board, of which he is a member, about what it’s doing.

“How is it possible that 579 people work somewhere and no one knows what they do, no one knows what they make?” Hintz said.

See the auditor’s report:

— Despite early data suggesting the omicron variant of COVID-19 might be no more severe or potentially less severe than the delta variant, an infectious disease expert warns the “sheer volume” of omicron-related cases could overwhelm health care systems. 

Dr. Nasia Safdar is vice chair for research in UW-Madison’s Department of Medicine and medical director of infection control at UW Hospital and Clinics. In a recent webinar hosted by the university, she pointed to study results showing differences in how the newest variant infects the human respiratory system. These results aren’t peer-reviewed, but they represent some of the latest information that health experts can use to understand omicron. 

Compared to the original COVID-19 strain and the delta variant, the omicron variant’s replication in the bronchi — the tubes that lead into the lungs — was significantly higher. Safdar says that could explain why it appears to be much more transmissible. But at the same time, omicron’s replication in the lungs themselves “was much less than it is for the other variants,” she said. 

“This is the reason why we might expect to see lower disease severity,” she said. “Ultimately, you know, I think if we are left with a variant that no doubt infects a lot more people than one would like but doesn’t cause the dreaded COVID pneumonia or the need to be on a ventilator … then that is a silver lining with this variant, if that holds to be true.” 

Still, even if the disease caused by omicron isn’t more serious, high numbers of people seeking medical care are “very likely to push health systems to the brink,” Safdar said. She noted hospitals and health systems in the state are already stretched thin, and “omicron has just arrived here.” 

“A small fraction of a large number is still a very large number,” she said. 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows 1,633 patients in the state were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of yesterday, including 412 ICU patients. And only 75 of the state’s 1,331 total intensive care beds were immediately available. 

The latest seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin was 3,417 cases per day, the DHS site shows. That’s down from the recent peak of 3,850 cases per day on Dec. 15. 

Watch a video of Safdar’s remarks: 

— The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene sequencing data dashboard shows 29 cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 have been detected in Wisconsin, though the true number is likely much higher. 

Department of Health Services spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt notes the dashboard has a reporting lag because it draws from a public sequence repository called GISAID, which stands for the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data. 

“However, new results may not be immediately reflected in the dashboard due to the delays in individual laboratories submitting their data to GISAID,” she said in an email. 

Plus, only about 5 percent of the cases confirmed via PCR test in Wisconsin are being sequenced, according to state health officials. And the time involved with that process contributes to reporting delays. 

Public Health Madison & Dane County recently reported nearly 150 cases of the omicron variant had been detected in the county. Goodsitt says DHS “is aware of these new cases and has confidence in the data the county health department is sharing.” PHMDC has a direct partnership with health care providers in Madison and gets some information on variants from them before it’s entered into the GISAID, Goodsitt explained. 

She says the new omicron cases announced by PHMDC this week will likely be reflected on the State Laboratory of Hygiene dashboard within seven days, along with any other omicron cases in Wisconsin that have been identified. 

“Given the rapidly increasing prevalence of Omicron in Wisconsin (CDC estimates that Omicron now accounts for 92 percent of cases in our region), we expect the number of Omicron cases on the dashboard to rise steeply in the coming days and weeks to reflect the current levels in the state,” she said. 

She added that COVID-19 vaccines and “other public health best practices” continue to be the best protection against the virus. 

“As the Delta and Omicron variants spread, getting vaccinated, getting your booster if eligible, and continuing good public health behavior is key,” she said. 

See the sequencing dashboard here: 

— The UW System has announced a new incentive program for student health care workers that will provide a $500 tuition refund for eligible students. 

To earn the refund, students must be enrolled at a UW System campus during the spring 2022 semester and work a minimum of 50 hours at a clinical or health care setting in Wisconsin between Dec. 1, 2021, and Feb. 28, 2022. Recipients must also meet relevant licensure and certification requirements. 

A release shows up to 1,000 students will be eligible for the incentive. The UW System says DHS is providing $500,000 for the program, though system officials are looking for additional funding sources to expand it. 

“The new variant threatens to overwhelm our health care system,” UW System President Tommy Thompson said in the release. “Our students have stepped up in the past, and this is another opportunity for them to gain valuable experience while helping Wisconsin combat the latest coronavirus wave.”

See the release: 

— A printing company called Wikoff Color Corporation will be consolidating operations into a new facility being constructed in Lisbon. 

WEDC has authorized up to $200,000 in state income tax credits for the project, which the company can earn by meeting targets for job creation and capital investment over a three-year period. 

Three of the company’s facilities in Wauwatosa, Green Bay and Canada will be consolidated in the 40,000-square-foot Lisbon facility, a release from the agency shows. 

The company says it will invest $5.4 million into the facility and spent “an additional $2 million before seeking WEDC assistance.” Wikoff also plans to create 25 new jobs over the next three years. 

See the release: 

— Attorney General Josh Kaul has announced a Madison company called Recycling Compliance Specialists will be paying a $90,000 fine for allegedly violating state law related to hazardous waste. 

As part of the civil judgment, the company must also retain a consultant to develop and implement a plan for testing and addressing residual mercury contamination at the facility in Dane County. 

According to the release, the business is alleged to have operated an unlicensed hazardous waste facility, disposed of that waste at an unlicensed landfill, failed to “correctly dispose” of waste that exceeded mercury restrictions and failed to follow sampling protocols. The release shows the business has since decommissioned these operations and transitioned to an electronics broker and transfer facility. 

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Lanford signed the Order for Judgment on Dec. 17, the release shows. 

“Hazardous waste endangers human health and the environment,” Kaul said in a statement. “Facilities that handle hazardous waste must comply with applicable laws in order to protect the public.”

See the release: 

— Wisconsin egg production in November was down 5 percent from last year, with about 180 million eggs produced. 

The latest report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service shows the average number of egg-laying chickens in November was 7.26 million, which is 8 percent lower than in November 2020. 

And the number of eggs per 100 layers was 2,476 in November, marking a 4 percent increase over the year. 

See the full report: 


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– Fingers to compete as finalists for 2022 National OYF Award


– BMO Financial buying Bank of the West in more than $16B deal


– WisDOT awards Hoffman $49.4M job on I-43 north of Milwaukee


– Study finds more than 1M tons of salt is flowing into Lake Michigan each year


– Q&A: UW-Madison’s Ajay Sethi on holiday parties and the Omicron wave

– Health care workers recall excitement, hope from first vaccinations a year later


– Douglas Dynamics moves upper management team to far northwest side office building


– Koss Corp. founder and stereophone inventor dies

– Supply chain challenges, onshoring opportunities helped drive MPE acquisition of Racine Metal-Fab

– Milwaukee-based CableMaster Corp. acquired by California-based company


– New nonprofit bringing supplies to area unsheltered population


– Co-op Day at the Capitol slated for January 25 in Madison


– Drug company to open new campus near Madison

– Greendale approves plan to add up to 790 apartments at former Boston Store site

– Illinois firm buys apartment building in Wauwatosa for $10.3 million

– Milwaukee Tool warehouse in Menomonee Falls sold for $48.25 million


– Sales boom as demand for fresh Christmas trees in Wisconsin grows

– John C. Koss, creator of a global industry, dies at 91

– Barrett Lo’s Southridge redevelopment plans get village approval


– Wisconsin Gov. Evers awards $27 million in ARPA funds for live event venues


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

Associated Banc-Corp: Plans to announce fourth quarter 2021 earnings and hold conference call on January 20, 2022

Dept. of Workforce Development: November local employment and unemployment data released