THU AM News: New MMAC board chair excited to be ‘ramping up’ entrepreneurship efforts; Froedtert Health preparing for continued rise in COVID-19 cases

— In her new role as board chair of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, Froedtert Health President and CEO Cathy Jacobson plans to step up the organization’s efforts around startups. 

“Really excited about ramping up our entrepreneurship muscle, bringing new capabilities to the board, adding board members who are entrepreneurs, mentorship programs,” she said yesterday during a webinar hosted by MMAC. 

Jacobson was chosen as chair-elect early this year and was officially elected to the position last week. She had previously served on the MMAC Board of Directors and succeeds ManpowerGroup Chair and CEO Jonas Prising. She says she plans to continue and build on the group’s Region of Choice initiative aimed at addressing racial disparities in the Milwaukee area. 

“This is a great place to live, be, work — that has great promise for us, and you can build on all of those strengths,” Jacobson said. “But we also know that we have some gaps to close to make sure that promise can be delivered to more of our citizens and then really have all boats rise.” 

As employers in the region grapple with ongoing labor shortages and the challenges of recovery amid an ongoing pandemic, Jacobson said efforts by stakeholders should focus on education and investments in the community. That includes buying local and supporting diverse suppliers. 

She underlined the importance of community support for all businesses, not just anchor institutions like higher education and health care. 

“You’re investing in your community to be able to make sure that you have customers for your business, people who can afford to actually take advantage of your services, and to be able to create a workforce and attract talent from other areas,” she said. 

Jacobson also drew a connection between improving measures of diversity and attracting talent to the region, noting younger people in particular place greater importance on equality in their community. 

“They want to live in a diverse, inclusive environment and we’ve got to work on that in Milwaukee, you know, if we’re going to keep our people here and attract the talent we need,” she said. “It’s up to all of us. I think the employers can be a huge, huge driver in terms of closing those gaps.” 

Watch a video of the webinar here: 

— Jacobson says Froedtert Health is gearing up to “take more dramatic steps” in its COVID-19 response if case numbers continue to rise. 

“Quite frankly, we’re preparing for that because we think they are,” she said during the recent webinar. “All we can do is just continue to manage capacity. And if we get much higher, you’re going to start seeing hospitals have to constrain services much, much more than we are today.” 

While Froedtert still has some capacity for elective procedures under current conditions, Jacobson says the health system would move to defer some of those services as its next level of response. 

Hospitals statewide continue to operate at, near or even over capacity in some cases, Jacobson noted. 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association site shows 1,649 patients in Wisconsin are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 434 in the ICU. Just 45 of the state’s 1331 ICU beds and 22 of its 778 intermediate care beds are currently available, the WHA dashboard shows. 

Meanwhile, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases has been on the rise for the past week, reaching 3,740 at latest count. That’s the second-highest that number has been this year, after the recent peak of 3,835 on Dec. 3.

See the latest case numbers: 

— More than 1.3 million additional or booster COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, making up about 40 percent of the nearly 3.36 million fully vaccinated Wisconsin residents. 

That’s according to the latest figures from the state Department of Health Services. 

On a national basis, more than 55 million booster doses have been administered, making up about 27 percent of the more than 202 million fully vaccinated U.S. residents. 

As of yesterday, 61.2 percent of Wisconsin residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 57.5 percent had completed the vaccine series. The CDC dashboard shows 72.2 percent of the U.S. population has gotten at least one dose and 61 percent is fully vaccinated. 

See the latest state vaccination numbers: 

— Outgoing DOA Secretary Joel Brennan said he wasn’t actively looking for a new position. But he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lead the Greater Milwaukee Committee, a position that’s only been open twice since he was 17.

In announcing his hire, Greater Milwaukee said it will continue to address issues such as K-12 educational outcomes in the city, talent retention and business development.

The former aide to Tom Barrett said the new position will allow him to continue helping Milwaukee, including working with the next mayor. Barrett, the longtime Milwaukee mayor. is awaiting Senate confirmation to be U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.

Brennan, 51, will take over for Julia Taylor, who announced her retirement after 19 years in the position.

“This is an opportunity that was too good of a match from my viewpoint,” said Brennan, who has one child about to turn 16 and another who is 14.

Brennan was one of four Milwaukeeans Evers tapped for his first cabinet picks in 2018 after winning the guv’s office. He continues to live in Milwaukee and his background includes being the CEO of Discovery World in the state’s largest city, executive director of the city’s Redevelopment Authority and vice president for the Greater Milwaukee Convention and Visitors Bureau.

With Brennan’s departure Jan. 17, Financial Institutions Secretary Kathy Koltin Blumenfeld will become the third woman to lead DOA in the agency’s history.

Ellen Nowak also served in the role under Gov. Scott Walker, while Doris Hanson led the agency for four years under Gov. Tony Earl.

Evers called Blumenfeld “an incredible partner.” She is the former executive vice president of special operations of Total Administration Services Corp and both a CPA and a project management professional.

“I know she will bring the same sort of strategic and dependable leadership to the Department of Administration, and I’m really looking forward to her serving in this new role,” Evers said.

The guv also announced he’s promoting DFI Deputy Secretary Cheryll Olson-Collins to lead the agency. Before becoming deputy secretary, she served as acting administrator of DFI’s Banking Division.

See the guv’s release:

See the Greater Milwaukee announcement:

— Wisconsin’s population of those under 18 fell by 4.3 percent over the past decade, more than double the decline over the previous 10-year period, according to a new study.

The nonpartisan Forward Analytics concluded in its new report that the trend will exacerbate some issues, including the state’s struggle to find an adequate workforce.

Census numbers show Wisconsin’s population growth of 3.6 percent between 2010 and 2020 was the slowest on record. Forward Analytics found that trend is being driven by the drop in the youth population.

The number of births dropped in every year but one from 2010 to 2020 for Wisconsin. That resulted in about 44,000 fewer babies born than during 2000 to 2010.

See the report:

— Four Wisconsin cities were ranked amid the top 50 U.S. cities for beer drinkers based on the number of breweries, concentration of bars, beer prices and other factors. 

The report, from New York-based financial information resource SmartAsset, looked at these metrics for 366 U.S. cities to narrow down the top 50. 

Milwaukee was ranked third overall, while Green Bay was ranked 11th, Madison 15th and Appleton 46th. All four of these cities were ranked in the top 40 percent of the study for three of the five metrics considered: breweries per 100,000 residents, the average number of beers offered per brewery, and bars per 100,000 residents. 

Milwaukee had the 10th-highest number of breweries in the study with 32, and the 13th-most bars per 100,000 residents, with 35.3. The report shows the average cost of a pint of beer in the city is $4, which is tied for the 100th-cheapest price with other cities. 

Report authors note the number of breweries in a given city was double-weighted, so this measure makes a bigger impact on the overall rating. While the average across the study was eight breweries per city, the average for the top 10 was the same as Milwaukee’s — 32 breweries. 

On a national basis, the Brewers Association for Small and Independent Craft Brewers estimates the number of U.S. craft breweries “nearly doubled” between 2015 and 2020, reaching 8,764. 

See the full study:  

— One of the two winning teams in the 2021 WARF Innovation Awards is working to make tumors more susceptible to treatment with a cross-disciplinary approach. 

After narrowing down the field of research projects up for this year’s awards to six finalists, an independent panel of judges selected two winning teams to each receive $10,000 in funding split among participating UW-Madison inventors. 

The winning team focused on cancer treatment included Shaoqin “Sarah” Gong, professor of biomedical engineering; Zachary Morris, professor of human oncology; biomedical engineering postdoctoral researcher Ying Zhang and human oncology researcher Raghava Sriramaneni. 

Their work aims to make more tumors responsive to immunotherapies with a method that involves radiation therapy and other technologies, according to a release from WARF. 

The other winning team — consisting of Jiamian Hu, professor of materials science engineering, and graduate student Shihao Zhuang — has created a device to “safely and non-intrusively” detect explosives and other dangerous materials in public places. 

“We’re pleased to celebrate the nominees, and all UW-Madison innovators working to discover and translate research with the power to touch lives,” said Erik Iverson, CEO of WARF. “From human health and a greener future to cutting-edge engineering, the passion to make a difference remains strong across campus.”

See the release: 

— WEC Energy Group’s Jayhawk Wind Farm in Kansas has gone online and will be providing energy to Meta, the new name of the company that operates Facebook. 

That’s according to a release from the Milwaukee-based utility, whose main Wisconsin companies include We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service. 

“Our commitment to the Jayhawk project is another step forward in our comprehensive plan to build a bright, sustainable future, serve strong, vibrant customers and continue to grow earnings from our portfolio of renewable energy assets,” said Gale Klappa, executive chairman.

The investment by WEC Energy Group in the Jayhawk project is expected to total $302 million for the 90 percent ownership interest and “substantially all of the tax benefits,” the release shows. The project includes 70 GE wind turbines and will be operated by Invenergy, based in Chicago, which has acquired the other 10 percent ownership interest.

See the release:  

— The Whitewater Unified School District is expanding an apprenticeship program for students with help from local businesses. 

A release shows WUSD and companies in Whitewater have developed a program for this coming summer and school year to help high school students aged 16-18 get first-hand experiences in various industries. 

The district will be hosting a career fair Jan. 19 where participating students will be able to discuss apprenticeship opportunities with local employers. Whitewater High School will be helping students with crafting resumes and other job hunting skills. A follow-up job fair on March 16 will give students more opportunities to connect with businesses where they’d like to work. 

Family/Community Engagement Coordinator Molly Fuller says the program aims to “empower and engage students” to start considering their future. 

“The Youth Apprenticeship Program is a great way to let students test out different job paths and give them an advantage when it comes to college applications and future job searches,” she said in the release. 

See the release: 


# Labor shortage or labor reckoning? Wisconsin stakeholders weigh in on job force changes

# Workers are demanding more. What does that mean for Wisconsin’s economy?

# Wisconsin administration secretary Joel Brennan named president of Greater Milwaukee Committee



– Mason promoted as WFBF operations director

– Former DBA President Jerry Meissner passes


– Building blocks: Expansion of the La Crosse Center 


– Report: Slow population growth a threat to Wisconsin’s economy


– Record high temperatures, high winds descend on Midwest


– ‘Madison Chefs’ tells stories of culinary change in Wisconsin’s capital


– Epic Systems: Unvaccinated 44 percent more likely to be reinfected with COVID-19


– Gateway Technical College, Boys & Girls Clubs awarded millions for workforce development programs


– BRP to hire 175 at former Evinrude plant in Sturtevant


– USDA Secretary Vilsack to visit Wisconsin on Thursday

– Top state administrator departing governor’s cabinet

– Joel Brennan leaving Evers cabinet to lead Milwaukee business and civic organization

– US Senate committee approves nomination for Barrett to be US ambassador to Luxembourg


– Frank Productions live-event facility set for design review by 3rd Ward panel

– Irgens to build apartments, retail and medical offices at former United Healthcare site in Wauwatosa


– Giannis Antetokounmpo partners with JBL on headphone line


– Data Narro moves from downtown Milwaukee to the Third Ward


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

African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin: Opens Chris Abele Legacy Co-working & Innovation Space

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