TUE AM News: Evers kicks off Wisconsin Tech Month with inclusivity focus; Agropur investing $168 million into Little Chute expansion

— Gov. Tony Evers kicked off Wisconsin Tech Month with a focus on inclusivity, highlighting the “technological divide” in the state. 

“We see it with broadband. Our communities don’t have access to a reliable internet connection,” he said yesterday at a news conference in Madison. “We see it in gaps to the education systems. There are kids not receiving equal opportunities to access STEM programming. And we see it in access to opportunities for entrepreneurs, whether that’s venture capital, education and training and networking opportunities.” 

Evers was joined by WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes, Nadiyah Johnson, founder of Jet Constellations and Milwaukee’s Milky Way Tech Hub, and representatives of the StartingBlock Madison entrepreneurship hub, where the event was held. 

In order to improve measures of equity, diversity and inclusion among the state’s tech sector, Evers said “we have to make sure that every Wisconsinite has the tools and resources to thrive.” He said progress is being made in schools to give more kids access to technology and science resources, and praised the state’s universities for preparing the next generation of tech industry leaders. 

“These leaders must represent our state’s diversity,” Evers said. “We’re thankful for partners across the state that work to make sure entrepreneurs — especially entrepreneurs of color — have the tools and resources to see their tech businesses succeed.” 

Throughout October, Johnson said tech industry representatives will be advocating for expanding broadband access, as well as “equitable deployment of resources” for entrepreneurs of various backgrounds. The effort will kick off with Milwaukee Tech Advocacy week, Oct. 1-10, and will continue throughout the month, she said. 

“We will be advocating with our community around upskilling our communities, to prepare them for the accelerated automation within the workforce,” she said. 

Hughes noted that WEDC has supported Johnson’s program in Milwaukee as well as StartingBlock’s efforts in Madison, the Blueprint Green Bay program, and other inclusive initiatives in Platteville and Eau Claire. 

“All around the state, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that in your community you can find these resources,” she said. “That’s why it’s so incredibly important for Black entrepreneurs to be able to access these tools within their community, and we want to make sure we’re supporting those types of accelerators also.” 

Watch a video of the news conference: https://wiseye.org/2021/10/04/news-conference-gov-evers-wedc-to-kick-off-wisconsin-tech-month/ 

— A large dairy products producer called Agropur will be investing $168 million into an expansion of its Little Chute facility to boost production of cheese and other dairy goods. 

In a release, the company points to growing market demand for these products and says a “new state-of-the-art facility” will help the business offer a wider array of options to consumers. As part of the 210,000-square-foot expansion, the company is building a new wastewater treatment facility that will produce energy to support sustainability efforts. 

A new plant will be built north of the company’s existing facility in Little Chute, and is expected to increase milk processing volume from 300 million pounds to 750 million pounds per year. About 85 percent of that milk will be purchased from farms located within 40 miles of the plant. 

The company says it will create up to 54 new jobs with the expanded operation, which is expected to be operational by early 2023. Agropur expects it will increase purchases of milk from Wisconsin farms by nearly $60 million per year, the release shows. 

In addition, the company projects the construction effort will “directly or indirectly” result in $100 million going to state-based suppliers and subcontractors for things like building materials, packaging, project management and more. 

The company will be eligible for up to $4.5 million in state business tax credits for the project through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, contingent upon the company meeting certain job creation and capital expenditure goals. 

Agropur currently employs about 850 workers in Wisconsin at facilities in Appleton, La Crosse, Little Chute, Weyauwega and Luxemburg. Agropur inc. is a subsidiary of Agropur Cooperative, which reported $5.7 billion in sales last year and employs 7,700 workers. The cooperative processes over 13 billion pounds of milk annually at 32 plants in North America, including 1.6 billion per year at nine plants in the United States. 

See the release: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-state-of-the-art-plant-in-little-chute-wisconsin-agropur-to-expand-its-facility-in-little-chute-301391950.html 

— The latest USDA crop report highlights continued progress in harvesting, with progress on corn and grain proceeding ahead of the five-year average. 

The report, which covers the week ending Oct. 3, also documented high temperatures and variable rainfall across the state. While some areas of the state got “virtually no precipitation” over the week, others saw an inch or more of rainfall. 

See the report: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wisconsin/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/2021/WI-Crop-Progress-10-04-21.pdf 

— The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association is launching a new website advocating for methods to “protect and enhance” the state’s water resources. 

The site provides details on certain conservation practices including irrigation techniques and spotlights producers that are putting them into effect. It includes an overview of the Little Plover River Watershed Enhancement Project, a partnership between Plover and the association aimed at restoring the river and local environment. 

See the site here: https://farmersforcleanwater.com/ 

— UW Health has announced that all of its doctors and providers and nearly all of its workforce are in compliance with its COVID-19 vaccination policy. 

The policy was announced three months ago and applies to 16,185 employees, a release shows. Workers were asked to get the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or complete an exemption form “for medical or religious reasons” by Oct. 1, and those that are non-compliant have until Oct. 11 to do so. Those that recently got the first dose of a multi-dose series must get their second by Nov. 1. 

UW Health says 99.96 percent of those covered by the policy are in compliance, and 96 percent of its workforce have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The release notes that some staff have filed exemption waivers, and the health system expects fewer than 10 non-compliant employees will be fired due to the policy. 

“Waivers for medical reasons must include documented medical conditions that prevent vaccination,” UW Health spokesperson Emily Kumlien said in an email. “Waivers for religious justification must be for a system of sincerely-held religious beliefs, but not for social, economic or political philosophies or simply personal preference.” 

Health care workers have gathered to protest employer vaccine mandates in the state several times over the summer with protests held in Fond du Lac, Franklin, Two Rivers and at the state Capitol in Madison. The Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Nurses Association and other health groups have backed the vaccination requirements announced by many health systems in Wisconsin. 

See more in a release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2021/uw-health-virtually-all-uw-healths-workforce-compliant-with-covid-19-vaccination-policy/ 

— The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce is criticizing Dane County’s health department for extending its emergency order requiring masks indoors through Nov. 5. 

The previous order, issued Sept. 10, was due to expire Oct. 8. A release shows no changes were made to the existing order, which was issued by Public Health Madison & Dane County Health Officer Janel Heinrich. 

Chamber President Zach Brandon says the extended order “indicates a complete lack of leadership” from local officials. 

“We have heard no plan and no clear path forward — only vague reliance on a single CDC data point that treats every community equally, regardless of vaccination rate. The decision-making process in October 2021 should not look the same as it did in July 2020,” he said in a statement. 

In the release, Heinrich notes the rate of new COVID-19 cases in the county increased rapidly due to the delta variant between July and September. But the latest data show the incidence of cases in the county has decreased from its recent peak in mid-September. 

“Vaccination is our top intervention, and we’re seeing an impact from our high rates,” Heinrich said in the release. “As we’ve done all along with our layered mitigation approach, we’ll keep masks as an extra layer of protection as we navigate our way to lower levels of CDC’s community transmission thresholds.”

See the latest order here: https://publichealthmdc.com/documents/2021-10-04_Order_19.pdf 

— A virtual webinar this week from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s World Trade Association will deal with global supply chain challenges and compliance issues. 

Speakers on the webinar will include Margaret Lange, compliance director for Illinois-based M.E. Dey & Co and Desiree Pasbirg, director of global sourcing for Motis Brands, based in Germantown. 

The webinar is being hosted as part of the WTA’s Global Business Insights Series. 

See event info here: https://bit.ly/3l9o6cl 

See coverage of a recent WTA webinar: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/rockwell-automation-responding-to-logistics-issues/ 

See more at the WisBusiness.com Trade Policy page: https://www.wisbusiness.com/trade-policy/ 


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

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