TUE AM News: New Foxconn deal prompts cautious optimism from critics; house prices still climbing as supply dips

— Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, who has consistently knocked Foxconn, says he hopes the new deal Gov. Tony Evers’ administration signed with the Taiwanese manufacturer brings “better transparency and clarity.”

Evers’ office didn’t announce details of the new agreement, which will be reviewed by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Board today. The guv’s office says that will be the last step in the process. Hintz, a member of the WEDC board, said he looks forward to getting more answers on the contract details during the meeting.

“I share Governor Evers’ goal of having a realistic and accountable contract that can lead to new jobs and protect taxpayers going forward,” said the Oshkosh Dem.

The original deal under GOP Gov. Scott Walker called for up to $3 billion in refundable tax credits if Foxconn created 13,000 jobs. Even if the company had hit all of its goals, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated it would be 25 years before the state would recoup its investment in the project through increased tax revenues. That 2017 analysis noted the state would pay Foxconn about $1 billion more than what it received in tax revenues during the first 15 years of the project.

Since then, WEDC has contended the company’s decision to scrap plans to build a 10.5 generation LCD fabrication facility outlined in the original 2017 agreement meant it was not eligible for tax credits under the contract it first signed.

Read the full story at WisBusiness.com: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/new-foxconn-deal-prompts-cautious-optimism-from-critics/ 

— Home sales have flattened and median prices surged in March as housing supply continues to shrink compared to last year, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

The latest monthly analysis by the WRA shows home sales established a new record for March, rising slightly above the previous sales record in March 2020.

However, total listings of homes for sale fell about 37 percent over the last year, pushing median prices up over 10 percent to nearly $230,000 over that same period. 

Home sales were up almost 6 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020 — another new record for home sales in the first quarter of the year. Median prices are up over 11 percent to $218,000 over that same period.

— While Wisconsin keeps seeing new sales records, eventually the inventory crisis is going to start hurting sales, explained WRA Board Chair Mary Duff. 

“Sales really started taking off in July of last year, but we were in a better inventory situation then,” Duff said. “Unfortunately, the current trends in listings don’t look good.”

Last March, total inventory was down just under 5 percent compared to March 2019. By March 2021, inventory levels had plunged 35.2 percent over just 12 months. 

“There isn’t a region in the state that had more than 2.6 months of available supply in March, which means all regions are classified as very strong seller’s markets,” Duff said.

Wisconsin has never seen such a tight market going into the peak summer sales season, according to the WRA.

“We’ll probably sell more homes in April and May of this year compared to those months last year during the lockdowns. But after that, it won’t be surprising to see sales fall off compared to last year,” Duff said.

— The red-hot housing market is good for sellers, but tough on buyers, WRA President and CEO Michael Theo said.

But sellers become buyers in an overheated market if there’s not a home already lined up. 

Theo also pointed out that mortgage rates are beginning to inch up, which is starting to hurt

affordability. The Wisconsin Housing Affordability Index fell from 212 in March 2020 to 201 in March 2021, a modest 5.3 percent reduction in affordability. 

“We’ve been lucky to have record-low mortgage rates partially offsetting the rapidly rising home prices, but mortgage rates have begun to increase, and that’s likely to continue,” he said. “After bottoming out at 2.68 percent in December, the 30-year fixed mortgage has increased in each of the last three months, rising to 3.08 percent in March. 

“We’re going to see more erosion of affordability if this trend in mortgage rates persists,” Theo said.

— While Wisconsin is still down almost 100,000 private sector jobs over the last year, the COVID-19 vaccination rate is a good economic sign, according to a Marquette University economist. 

The March unemployment rate in the state stood at 3.8 percent, up from 3.2 percent in March 2020. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate was 6 percent in March, up from 4.4 percent a year earlier.

“Although the state is still down almost 100,000 private nonfarm jobs over the last 12 months, the progress in the COVID vaccination rate is a good sign that the state economy will continue to grow,” said economist David Clark.

He noted that robust growth in the national economy is expected for the first quarter of 2021, creating some concerns that the economy could overheat and generate inflation. 

“We’ve been lucky to have annual inflation rates below 3% since 2012, but the combination of an economy which has been expanding since the third quarter of 2020, and a significant stimulus bill increasing spending in the economy will put pressure on prices,” Clark said.

In March, the annual rate of inflation increased to 2.6 percent from 1.7 percent a month earlier. 

“If inflation does pick up, look for mortgage rates to also increase,” said Clark, who is also a consultant to the WRA.

— Some farmers in southern Wisconsin have begun planting corn, according to the USDA.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reports the southern part of the state was mostly dry allowing for 1 percent of Wisconsin farmers to plant corn. Meanwhile, small grains, potato and alfalfa planting continued. 

Oats are reported as almost 30 percent planted, five days ahead of last year and 10 days ahead of the 5-year average. Potatoes are 15 percent planted, four days ahead of last year and five days ahead of the average.

Recent frosts prompted some concern for budding fruit trees, but cold-hardy crops were reportedly still in good condition. Winter wheat condition was rated 84 percent good to excellent statewide, up 9 percentage points from last week. Pasture condition was rated 62 percent — 4 percentage points above last week. 

Spring tillage is 30 percent complete, a week ahead of last year and 11 days ahead of the average.

— Gov. Tony Evers is hosting his final virtual Badger Bounceback Live Session with a focus on climate change and environmental issues.  

The listening session at 6 p.m. tomorrow will cover topics such as investing in stewardship, making public lands more accessible, addressing water issues, combating climate change and protecting the state’s natural resources.

The session will be streamed live on the governor’s YouTube channel or register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0pdeGqpjwiEt221fzsvTa7mXnGIQ43pjG_ 

— 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

— Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht says Congress should look to improve educational pipelines and pathways to improve job skills.

In a virtual event, Albrecht said Congress could help Wisconsin build a skilled workforce. Several Wisconsin powerhouse industries from manufacturing to health care are facing labor shortages. U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, is a member of a bipartisan caucus that hosted the event. Gateway is in his district.

Albrecht suggested funding policies to streamline paths between high schools, postsecondary education and a job, such as allowing greater flexibility for students and employers. 

“Today, new workers need new skills to meet the communities and to thrive and grow,” Albrecht said. “This will only happen if we strengthen the collaboration at all levels and reestablish our values at all levels of our communities.”  

He added young Wisconsin workers could take advantage of blooming business industries by training to work in areas such as information technologies and cybersecurity. Congress could help by supporting workforce education programs, child care reimbursement programs, food stability programs and infrastructure projects such as broadband expansion, he said. 

— The Town of Wyoming is getting $90,200 from WEDC to help make repairs to the historic elementary school designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The money will enable the town to finish work rehabilitating the school’s roofs, rebuilding a chimney and repairing water damage inside the school. After construction is complete, the building will be reopened as an arts center for field trips, exhibits, classes, concerts and weddings.

“Opening the historic Wyoming Valley School for tours and events will draw even more visitors and allow new generations to experience the area’s rich cultural heritage,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 

The school was built in 1957 and used until 1990. It is also the only elementary school building designed by Wright. He donated both his design and two acres of land to the school district in honor of his mother, who had been a kindergarten teacher. 

— Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says legislative action to ban so-called “vaccine passports” is possible.

“Do I think that you should have a vaccine passport in order to patronize a business? I don’t,” he said in an interview aired Sunday on “UpFront,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com. “There’s no science, there’s no data, that says it will do anything more than hurt our economic recovery.”

He said his caucus hasn’t discussed the issue, but he said he believes there would be strong support for a ban. 

Vos added he is not anti-vaccination and intends to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Listen to the latest Midday podcast for more on vaccine passports: https://soundcloud.com/wispolitics/vos-says-no-to-vaccine 

See more on the “UpFront” program: https://www.wisn.com/upfront 

<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.

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# Harley-Davidson Says EU Tariff Ruling Threatens European Sales 


# Banking official confirms farm bankruptcies are down 

# Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause leaves gaps in vaccine distribution https://www.channel3000.com/johnson-johnson-vaccine-pause-leaves-gaps-in-vaccine-distribution/ 



– Cool and wet conditions hamper Wisconsin fieldwork https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/cool-and-wet-conditions-hamper-wisconsin-fieldwork/ 


– Report: Property taxes would see slight increase under Tony Evers’ proposed budget https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/report-property-taxes-would-see-slight-increase-under-tony-evers-proposed-budget/article_e4b6d5ef-c38b-5318-b603-c3f1b4f5fe3a.html 


– Memorial Union Terrace will open to general public next month https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/university/memorial-union-terrace-will-open-to-general-public-next-month/article_93ee2c87-c484-59a7-bceb-2a95aac0bbf0.html 


– State Officials Continue Efforts To Track PFAS Contamination https://www.wpr.org/state-officials-continue-efforts-track-pfas-contamination 


– SBA offers new details on its $28.6B Restaurant Revitalization Fund https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/04/19/sba-restaurant-revitilization-fund-svog-grant.html 


– Evers, Foxconn Reach New Agreement Lowering Burden On Taxpayers https://www.wpr.org/evers-foxconn-reach-new-agreement-lowering-burden-taxpayers 


– Food Plant Worker Sues Employer After Contracting COVID-19 https://www.wpr.org/food-plant-worker-sues-employer-after-contracting-covid-19 


– Suspect Identified In Deadly Somers Shooting https://www.wpr.org/suspect-identified-deadly-somers-shooting


– Madison and Dane County leaders say they’re prepared ahead of possible Chauvin verdict https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/madison-and-dane-county-leaders-say-theyre-prepared-ahead-of-possible-chauvin-verdict/article_36643ad5-7652-58e3-a2bf-a67e0851530c.html


– ManpowerGroup may free up a floor of its downtown HQ when workers return https://biztimes.com/manpowergroup-may-free-up-a-floor-of-its-downtown-hq-when-workers-return/ 


– American Airlines to resume Milwaukee to Miami Saturday flights https://biztimes.com/american-airlines-to-resume-milwaukee-to-miami-flights/ 


<i>See these and other press releases: 

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

– Skylight Music Theatre: Announces “Don’t Rána on My Parade” outdoor concert and picnic in the park

– Wisconsin Startup Coalition: First advocacy week a success

– UW-Madison: New research network to measure and promote emotional well-being

– Mount Mary University: All-new fashion academy provides summer experience