TUE AM News: Housing market starts new year on record pace; Vaccines to impact pace of economic recovery, economist says

— The Wisconsin market for existing homes started the new year on record pace even as inventories continued to tighten statewide, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

This follows a record year for home sales in 2020.

January home sales increased 9.8 percent compared to that same month last year, and the median price rose 10.5 percent to $210,000 over that same period. This established a new January record in Wisconsin for both home sales and the median price, according to WRA’s most recent analysis.

“January is typically the slowest month of the year, so it’s encouraging to see such a strong market to start 2021,” said WRA Board Chair Mary Duff. But she cautioned that the record pace is unlikely to continue due to a severe shortage of homes for sale.

Duff added that unfortunately, January ushered in another Wisconsin record — record-low inventories. There were just 2.1 months of available homes for sale in January, down from 3.5 months a year earlier. The last time there was a balanced market in the state was in summer 2017, when there was about six months of supply. It’s been a seller’s market ever since.

“Going forward, we may be able to surpass the depressed level of home sales last spring, but we will struggle to keep pace with 2020 unless inventories improve,” Duff said.

Read the full story at WisBusiness.com: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/housing-market-starts-new-year-on-record-pace/ 

— Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to impact the pace of economic recovery, according to Marquette University economist David Clark.

“While Wisconsin saw solid job growth between May and September, that growth stalled in the last quarter of the year as COVID cases spiked,” said Clark, who is also a consultant to the WRA. 

The total number of nonfarm jobs fell by 475,600 jobs between February and April as the state went into lockdown. But then the economy added 264,300 jobs over the May through September period, before dropping by 3,000 jobs in the last quarter. 

“The key to more sustained job growth is widespread COVID-19 vaccination in the state,” Clark said. “Hopefully the pace of vaccinations will increase so that more of the economic restrictions can be lifted and job growth can accelerate.”

— The Wisconsin Hospital Association is calling for more urgency from those in charge of vaccine production and distribution so Wisconsin hospitals can put more shots in arms.

WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding’s recent editorial expressed frustration on behalf of the state’s hospitals and health systems about the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine coming into Wisconsin. 

“Just as they are doing with COVID testing, Wisconsin hospitals and health systems are again playing a critical role in the state’s response to the pandemic. They are administering hundreds of thousands of COVID vaccines to Wisconsinites, with the capacity to vaccinate many thousands more every single day,” he wrote. “But instead, they are forced to cancel or not schedule thousands of appointments because vaccine supply and allocation is still falling far short of demand and capability.”

Health officials said last week that vaccinators — hospitals, health systems, clinics and pharmacies — requested 340,000 first doses of vaccine. But only a fraction of those requests were fulfilled. Borgerding said the current situation is frustrating and confusing to both those waiting for the vaccine and health care providers waiting to administer the vaccine. 

“To be sure, Wisconsin has made notable progress from where we started just a few months ago. Yet our state is held back by vaccine production and allocation,” he wrote. “State officials are doing what they can to bring more doses here, but those decisions are ultimately made in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.”

Read the op-ed in columns below.

— Wisconsin has administered nearly 1.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Almost 353,000 of those were booster shots, meaning about 353,000 Wisconsinites have completed a two-dose vaccine series and are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

About 13.9 percent of Wisconsinites — 807,981 people — have gotten at least the first dose. Nearly 47 percent of individuals age 65 or over have received at least the first dose. 

Borgerding warned that supplies will still fall short of demand, even as hospitals and others keep working to finish protecting people 65 and older, who make up 90 percent of COVID-19 deaths. Many of the unvaccinated seniors in the state are reaching out for their turn, he said. On March 1, when Wisconsin is scheduled to make an even larger group eligible to receive their first dose of the two-dose vaccine, the gap will widen between supply and demand.

<i>For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com.

Sign up here: https://forms.gle/o8FtqTLviGJPja8C9 </i>

— Xcel Energy broke its own record for a single-year drop in emissions in 2020, cutting carbon emissions company-wide by approximately six million tons.

That’s a 12 percent reduction over 2019 levels and equivalent to taking nearly 1.2 million cars off the road for a year. In 2019, Xcel achieved a 10 percent reduction over the previous year in its quest to deliver 100 percent carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050.

Since 2005, the company has reduced carbon emissions by 51 percent as it leads the nation’s clean energy transition. 

“We’re making tremendous progress towards delivering on our clean energy goals,” said Ben Fowke, chairman and CEO of Xcel Energy. “Even after factoring in the effect of the global pandemic on our operations, we are well on our way to achieving our goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2030 and are more than halfway to delivering 100% carbon-free electricity to our customers, all while keeping their service reliable and energy bills low.”

Several factors contributed to the 2020 carbon reduction results, including an increase in wind energy generation, steady supply from its two nuclear plants in Minnesota and an estimated 3 percent reduction in electricity sales due to the pandemic. 

— More than 1,200 influencers from business, government and non-governmental organizations came together this month virtually for GreenBiz 21. 

Attendees explored ways to advance market and policy shifts to achieve a more sustainable and just economy, including a keynote by Bill Gates on the critical role businesses must play to avoid a climate disaster, including technology innovations.

Wisconsin Environmental Initiative Executive Director John Imes highlights the event in his blog: https://www.weigogreener.org/blog.php 

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 City of Mayville is getting a $137,500 state grant to help renovate a building to be used for a coffeehouse in the downtown.

The dollars from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will support the first phase of the project — demolition and renovations of the interior first floor to make the space functional. The historical downtown building will be used by Mayville Open Door Inc., which is looking to expand The Open Door Coffeehouse from its current location.

Mayville Open Door Inc. is a nonprofit organization designed to prevent crises by teaching life skills and providing mentoring programs through The Open Door Coffeehouse. It served more than 2,000 people last year at its current location through more than 100 different programs. With this expansion, the organization will have a larger space for mentoring programs, and more equipment and staff. 

The proposed project is estimated to be completed in 2022 and will create three full-time equivalent jobs at the coffeehouse, as well as 100 construction jobs during the renovation.

“We have been able to make a large impact on our community with our current resources, and we look forward to growing that impact in our new space,” said Open Door President and Founder Amber Schraufnagel.

— Kroger Co. broke ground earlier this year on a 350,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Pleasant Prairie, slated to be completed in 2022. 

The facility is the sixth Kroger has planned as part of a joint project with Ocado, a British online grocer specializing in automated order fulfillment and home delivery. 

“Through our strategic partnership, we are engineering a model for the region, leveraging advanced robotics technology and creative solutions to redefine the customer experience for our customers in Wisconsin and Illinois,” said Robert Clark, Kroger’s senior vice president of supply chain, manufacturing and sourcing.

WEDC is assisting the project with $1.5 million in business development tax credits. The new fulfillment center is expected to add up to 400 new jobs in southeastern Wisconsin and will serve customers in Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northwest Indiana. 

— The co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee are signaling Gov. Tony Evers’ nearly $2.4 billion capital budget will be pared back.

Evers yesterday unveiled a proposal that includes more than $1 billion for the UW System, along with a new state office building in Milwaukee, a state-run youth corrections facility and the transformation of a downtown Madison block to house a future Wisconsin Historical Society Museum.

JFC Co-chair Mark Born, an Assembly Republican and a former member of the Buildings Commission, said the Legislature will focus on necessary maintenance and repairs while making investments that stay “within our means.”

— Two years ago, Evers originally proposed a $2.5 billion capital budget that Republicans eventually pared back to more than $1.8 billion.

“While it won’t be at the levels the Governor has proposed, we will continue to reinvest in our state’s infrastructure to make sure our state continues to thrive,” Born said.

Former Gov. Scott Walker’s last two capital budgets came in at $848.7 in 2015-17 and $1 billion in 2017-19 after the Joint Finance Committee added nearly $200 million in spending each time.

DOA Secretary Joel Brennan said the price tag was due to pent-up demand from previous years.

“There continues to be the need to invest in what innovation is going to look like in the future,” Brennan said in an interview yesterday on why the guv was proposing nearly $2.4 billion this time after proposing a similar amount two years ago. “You don’t undo that in one fairly robust capital budget. You need to continue to invest in it.”


# Kohl’s tried striking a deal with Amazon. It wasn’t enough.

# Uline looking to fill 250 warehouse jobs 

# Wisconsin Total Farm Numbers Went Down in 2020 




– Weather Continues to Impact Markets and Cattle Movement https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2021/02/22/weather-continues-to-impact-markets-and-cattle-movement/ 


– Battling Corn Rootworm in Wisconsin https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2021/02/22/battling-corn-rootworm-in-wisconsin/ 


– Wisconsin COVID-19 Cases Decline As Vaccinations Continue https://www.wpr.org/wisconsin-covid-19-cases-decline-vaccinations-continue 

– No new COVID-19 deaths reported in Wisconsin for second consecutive day https://www.channel3000.com/no-new-covid-19-deaths-reported-in-wisconsin-for-second-consecutive-day/


– Evers’ Budget Would Restore Some Union Rights Repealed By Act 10 https://www.wpr.org/evers-budget-would-restore-some-union-rights-repealed-act-10 


– Rockwell hires first chief diversity officer https://biztimes.com/rockwell-hires-first-chief-diversity-officer/ 


– Evers proposes nearly $164 million for new Milwaukee State Office Building in budget plan https://biztimes.com/evers-proposes-nearly-164-million-for-new-milwaukee-state-office-building-in-budget-plan/ 

– Evers wants $2.4 billion for state building projects, nearly half for UW System https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/university/gov-tony-evers-wants-2-4-billion-for-state-building-projects-nearly-half-for-uw/article_1b7881f6-9bd9-5fe3-ae55-f469b193cf39.html

– Evers defends proposed budget as Republicans voice disapproval on his spending targets https://www.wrn.com/2021/02/evers-defends-proposed-budget-as-republicans-voice-disapproval-on-his-spending-targets/

– AG Kaul joining multistate coalition to support cancelation of up to $50K in student loan debt https://www.channel3000.com/ag-kaul-joining-multistate-coalition-to-support-cancelation-of-up-to-50k-in-student-loan-debt/


– New events venue proposed for vacant Third Ward site https://biztimes.com/new-events-venue-proposed-for-vacant-third-ward-site/ 


– Kohl’s Rejects Investor Group’s Bid To Take Over Board https://www.wpr.org/kohls-rejects-investor-groups-bid-take-over-board 


– Milwaukee’s No Studios pledges $100K annually to support Wisconsin artists https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/02/22/no-studios-pledges-100k-to-support-wisconsin-art.html 


– Shortened Wolf Hunting And Trapping Season Opens Monday https://www.wpr.org/shortened-wolf-hunting-and-trapping-season-opens-monday 


– Eric Borgerding: Hospitals can vaccinate many more people, but supply isn’t keeping up with demand https://madison.com/wsj/opinion/column/eric-borgerding-hospitals-can-vaccinate-many-more-people-but-supply-isnt-keeping-up-with-demand/article_3d56567d-e1c0-5c80-9a8a-d503a653f9ab.html 


<i>See these and other press releases: 

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

– Wisconsin Women in Conservation: Announces free Zoom workshops for March and April, hosted by Wisconsin Farmers Union’s Kirsten Slaughter

– Wisconsin Mainstreet Alliance: PPP and Covid updates for small business

– Foley and Lardner: Adds business law attorney Michael Lappin in Milwaukee

– Wisconsin Hospital Association: Calls for more urgency in vaccine production

– Alliant Energy: West Riverside Energy Center wins Wisconsin engineering award