TUE AM News: 50 chambers of commerce ask Evers to do away with $300 UI bonus; April home sales, prices grew

— Fifty chambers of commerce statewide are urging lawmakers to end the $300 federal unemployment benefit, arguing it contributes to the state’s workforce shortage.

The announcement comes on the heels of Wisconsin’s Republican congressional delegation also urging Gov. Tony Evers to end the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

Workforce was already the biggest challenge facing Wisconsin businesses prior to the COVID-19 downturn, the chambers wrote. And instead of a bounce back from the pandemic, the state’s economy is being held back by an “acute labor shortage” made worse by the benefits they say incentivize people to stay home. 

The chambers, including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, are asking Evers and the Legislature to instead use American Rescue Plan funds to encourage people to reenter the workforce. 

“Wisconsin should join states like Idaho, Iowa, Montana, and South Carolina in ending the $300 per week federal UI supplemental,” the letter reads. “Instead, funds from the American Rescue Plan should be used to incentivize work by offering bonuses, similar to what is being done in the aforementioned states.”

It also calls for the state to reinstate the talent attraction campaign to recruit workers to the state.

In the Republicans’ letter to Evers, the delegation writes that the primary issue Wisconsin employers face is their inability to hire the workers they need to meet demand as the economy reopens.

“We are paying people not to work, so employers cannot hire the people they need to run their manufacturing plants or be in the service industry,” said U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh. “We need to get government out of the way, and let people start living productive lives again.” 

U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Allouez; Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah; and Scott Fitzgerald R-Juneau, each noted that businesses in their respective districts are hiring but cannot find workers.

“Employers across Wisconsin are reducing business hours, cutting services, and shutting their doors because they are unable to find workers to fill family-supporting jobs,” U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, said.

U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua, added: “It simply doesn’t make sense to pay people to stay home when so many employers are desperate for help.”

Read the chamber letter: https://www.wmc.org/wp-content/uploads/Labor-Shortage-Letter-Chamber-Support_Final.pdf 

Read the delegates’ letter: https://gallagher.house.gov/sites/gallagher.house.gov/files/210514%20Letter%20to%20Governor%20Evers%20re%20FPUC.pdf 

— April home sales and median prices were up significantly compared to last year, when the economic lockdown was in full force, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.  

While new listings were up compared to April 2020, total listings fell by nearly 30 percent this month. Months of supply fell to just 2.5 months statewide, dropping by more than 20 percent in every region in the state. All regions remain in a very strong seller’s market.

“Home prices have been rising quickly because of strong demand and weak supply in the market,” WRA President and CEO Michael Theo said. “Specifically, median home prices have increased at an annual pace of 9.7% or higher since July 2020. It is low mortgage rates that have kept our housing affordable.”

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgage rates remained low at just over 3 percent in April, which has kept Wisconsin housing affordable even as median prices rose 9.9 percent over the past year.

“If we do start seeing more pronounced increases in mortgage rates, this will really start to erode affordability,” Theo said.

As of April, homes are moving quickly, as average days on the market dropped 14.1 percent to just 85 days in April, down from 99 days a year earlier.

All regions’ sales grew by solid margins in April, and the less-urbanized north and central regions are up two to three times that of other regions, said WRA Chair Mary Duff.

“This bounce in closed sales for April was expected since we are comparing to a depressed level of sales last April when the economy was in full lockdown as a result of the pandemic,” she said. “Still, the increase in sales was particularly impressive given the very tight inventory situation in the state.”

— Strong economic growth is starting to generate inflationary pressures, says Marquette economist Dave Clark. 

“Even though the end of the recession hasn’t been officially announced, the national economy has been growing since the third quarter of last year,” said Clark, who is also a consultant to the WRA. 

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has dropped steeply since peaking in April at 13.6 percent. In March, unemployment was at 3.8 percent. 

“The concern is that the strong economic growth is starting to generate significant inflationary pressures,” Clark said. “On an annualized basis, headline inflation increased from 1.4% in January to 4.2% in April.”

— The Wisconsin Housing Alliance unveiled a new online virtual marketplace of factory-built homes available in the state. 

The platform allows Wisconsin homebuyers the capability to take a 3-D tour of new manufactured homes and modular homes for sale online. It allows buyers to learn more about modular homes, view floorplans, get price quotes and find lenders.

With the housing market as hot as it is, the trade group’s president, Amy Bliss, says modular homes are an affordable way for homebuyers to get into the market. She told WisBusiness.com this new virtual marketplace meets consumers where they’re already doing their shopping — online. 

See the new website: https://www.factorybuiltwisconsin.com/find-a-home/ 

— Harley-Davidson will continue to pursue a legal challenge to the Binding Origin Information revocation, and its application for extended reliance.

The declaration comes after an announcement by European Union Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis that tariffs affecting the company’s products will not escalate from 31 percent to 56 percent. 

Late last week, Wisconsin’s entire congressional delegation called for the U.S. to resolve a trade dispute with the EU that is hurting the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer’s sales. The delegates said the tariffs were expected to rise to 56 percent in June.

“This is the first step in the right direction in a dispute not of our making,” said Harley-Davidson President and CEO Jochen Zeitz. “Harley-Davidson employees, dealers, stakeholders and motorcycles have no place in this trade war. These tariffs provide other motorcycle manufacturers with an unfair competitive advantage in the E.U. European motorcycles only pay up to 2.4% to be imported into the U.S. We want free and fair trade.”

Late last week, Wisconsin’s entire congressional delegation signed a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai asking them to take action on the trade dispute. U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, says rising EU tariffs can hurt other Wisconsin businesses too.

“The ongoing trade retaliation by the European Union harms Wisconsin workers, jobs, and our manufacturing industry,” Steil said. “The Biden Administration must make resolving this dispute a top priority.”

— WisBusiness.com has a new trade policy page to help you track events, news and developments that affect trade and the economy in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

See it here: https://www.wisbusiness.com/trade-policy/ 

— Nestlé is closing the planning department at its Burlington facility. 

The partial closure will eliminate about 34 employees on July 23. All affected employees are represented by Teamsters Local 200 and have bumping rights. 

See the notice: https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dislocatedworker/warn/2021/2021051201.pdf 

— The city of Sturgeon Bay is getting $250,000 from the state to help the nonprofit Third Avenue Playhouse renovate its downtown theater. 

The grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will support ReImagine TAP, a project to renovate and expand the theater. The project will allow Third Avenue Playhouse to add educational offerings and engage with more members of the community. The project is expected to be completed this fall.

Project plans include a new lobby, accessible restrooms, a concessions area, a new theater space, a scene workshop, dressing rooms, administrative areas and a secure box office, along with additional meeting, classroom and rehearsal spaces. The building will get a new elevator and an exterior facelift to resemble what the building looked like when it was built in the early 1900s.

The Door County theater will also be brought to current energy standards with new windows, walls and roof. 

“We know how heavily the pandemic has impacted theaters and performing arts foundations, with many venues forced to shut down,” said Sen. André Jacque, R-De Pere. “This renovation will be a great momentum builder for Sturgeon Bay. People are eager to return to community activities that enhance our quality of life and attract jobs, employers and redevelopment for our area.”

— RSVP for the Thursday WisBusiness.com virtual event: “Summer Tourism Outlook: How will Wisconsin take advantage of a post-pandemic visitor surge?”

Join WisBusiness.com Thursday for a virtual lunch hour event featuring three tourism leaders — Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers, Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association President and CEO Bill Elliott and Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions President Tom Diehl. The trio will discuss the state of the tourism industry in Wisconsin and how the political, health and economic climates may influence what Wisconsin’s robust tourism industry will look like this summer.

The program is set to run via webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 20.

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.

Register here: https://forms.gle/EZxExdEx9JK1Bv3cA

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

— The DNR is celebrating the anniversaries of Green Tier participants.

Green Tier is a voluntary program for Wisconsin businesses in various industries throughout the state. Participating businesses minimize environmental risks of their work in exchange for some regulatory flexibility.

Clear Waters Initiative Charter in Dane County, Kimberly-Clark’s Experimental Mill in Neenah, Roundy’s Distribution Facility in Oconomowoc and Serigraph, Inc. in West Bend are celebrating 15 years of participation. 

See the full list of anniversaries: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/newsroom/release/44006 

— For more developments in green energy, environmental issues and related policy proposals, visit WisBiz Green in the right-hand column at WisBusiness.com.

To get a weekly feed of WisBiz Green highlights, sign up here: https://forms.gle/D9UncD3ee3j6nWZ2A

— The panels at the virtual Entrepreneurs’ Conference on June 3 will focus on tech talent and post-pandemic resources for people involved in all sizes and stages of companies.

At 10 a.m., MKE Tech Hub Coalition CEO Kathy Henrich will moderate a panel on attracting and developing the skills to fuel growth. Panelists are: Erica Conway, Talimer; Tan Ho, Fiveable; and Matt McCoy, Lanex. 

And RedFox AI founder Nick Myers will moderate a panel on post-pandemic resources for entrepreneurs. Panelists are: Elaine Coughlin, CoLab; Vincent Rice, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.; and Michelle Somes-Booher, UW-Madison Small Business Development Center.

Register for the conference produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council: https://web.cvent.com/event/2d25ef3b-0687-4386-b8f8-969d8e3b87f9/regProcessStep1 


# 39.5% of Wisconsinites complete COVID vaccine series; no new deaths confirmed 

# Teacher Retirements Were Up In 2020, And More Are Expected In 2021 


# Wisconsin’s planting progress good, but rain needed 



– Agronomist predicts little early forage harvesting in Wisconsin https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/agronomist-predicts-little-early-forage-harvesting-in-wisconsin/ 


– Experts say a ‘turnover tsunami’ could be on the horizon as pandemic uncertainty subsides https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/05/17/turnover-tsunami-companies-best-practices.html 


– CDC-led study finds little evidence of UW-Madison dorm outbreaks fueling community spread https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/university/cdc-led-study-finds-little-evidence-of-uw-madison-dorm-outbreaks-fueling-community-spread/article_77193a23-6ebf-5eb7-9b4b-d18bf2410342.html


– EC tavern hosts pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic https://www.leadertelegram.com/covid-19/ec-tavern-hosts-pop-up-covid-19-vaccination-clinic/article_788af79b-2de9-5bd2-9523-06c387cc5635.html 


– Wisconsin DOJ official alleges racial, gender harassment



– Wangard Partners’ expansion of Sussex business park will allow another 600,000 square feet of development https://biztimes.com/wangard-partners-expansion-of-sussex-business-park-will-allow-another-600000-square-feet-of-development/ 


– Fair Maps Coalition holds rally at State Capitol calling for non-partisan redistricting


– Parking lot in prime Historic Third Ward location could be developed into 295-unit luxury residential project https://biztimes.com/parking-lot-in-prime-historic-third-ward-location-could-be-developed-into-mixed-use-residential-project/ 


– City of Beloit lifts mask, social distancing requirements https://www.channel3000.com/city-of-beloit-lifts-mask-social-distancing-requirements/ 


– Kohl’s, Target end mask requirement for fully vaccinated shoppers https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/05/17/kohls-target-end-mask-requirement-fully-vaccinated.html 


– Milwaukee Bucks player Jrue Holiday’s JLH Fund offers $1 million in grants https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/05/17/milwaukee-bucks-jrue-holidays-jlh-fund-opens-1-m.html 


– Amazon hiring more than 3,000 in Wisconsin averaging over $17 an hour, plus vaccination bonus https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/05/17/amazon-hiring-more-than-3000-in-wisconsin.html 


<i>See these and other press releases: 

https://www.wisbusiness.com/press-releases/ </i>

– UW Health: Testing still crucial to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic

– Mitchell International Airport: United Airlines adds nonstop service to Washington, D.C.

– Classy Glass: Local small business sues over denied insurance claims related to COVID-19 closures

– UW-Extension, DATCP: Create new monthly resilient farms and families newsletter