WED AM News: Alliant Energy to retire its last coal-fired facility; ‘WisBusiness: The Show’ spotlights Jill Enos of Titletown Tech

— Alliant Energy will retire the Columbia Energy Center by the end of 2024 — the last of its coal-fired facilities in Wisconsin.

Alliant had closed its Cassville plant in 2015. Its Sheboygan facility is slated to retire at the end of 2022.

The retirement of the almost 50-year-old Columbia facility will bring Alliant closer to its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and eliminating all coal from its generation fleet by 2040. It will allow Alliant to focus on solar, battery storage and high-efficiency gas, said Alliant Energy Wisconsin President David de Leon.

A spokeswoman said once the 1,100 megawatt plant comes offline, 40 percent of Alliant’s energy will be produced through renewable resources. The other 60 percent will come from natural gas.

The utility company has 100 employees at Columbia Energy Center, a spokeswoman told Alliant Energy will offer resources such as tuition reimbursement geared toward the needs of each employee. Some employees also will be needed to stay on beyond 2024 to help decommission the plant.

“While we are pleased to reach agreement with the co-owners on this retirement date for the facility, we will not be hasty in the final years of operation,” de Leon said. “We will take care of our employees and provide career assistance to those who are interested while tending to the community we so proudly serve.”

Read the full story at 

— Businesses with advanced technology will be the winners during the coming post-pandemic economic recovery, economist Mike Knetter said.

Knetter also told a Milwaukee Rotary Club virtual event markets will likely see a strong recovery during the first half of the year, with a tougher second half. Real GDP, wages, interest rates and inflation will increase as the dollar remains stable. He expects the markets to recover to around the same levels by the end of the year. 

Businesses using technology to advance their market positions will be the winners during that recovery, with larger business fairing better overall, said Knetter, the president and CEO of the UW Foundation. 

Areas that experienced many small business closures won’t be able to keep up with post-pandemic demand, he predicted, using restaurants as an example. 

“When people are able to go back out again, they may not have the same number of choices they had before,” Knetter explained. “And that will drive up prices at the places that they can go to.”

He added he wouldn’t be surprised to see inflation close the year above 2 percent.

“[The] pandemic has definitely widened the gulf between haves and have-nots,” he said. “But, as noted, it’s going to boost economic growth, in a way, by driving these productivity innovations. We’ve never had this much innovation this quickly in our economy across so many sectors.”

— Rural and suburban real estate markets will also see growth as people look to leave crowded cities in the wake of the airborne pandemic, Knetter said.

“Urban real estate is probably going to suffer,” he added. 

Smaller, four-year colleges and universities will also likely struggle as the year goes on because virtual learning improvements will “chip away” at that market, significantly, Knetter predicted. 

“Many of them were vulnerable pre-pandemic,” he said. “I think it’s going to get a lot tougher for them, and if the pandemic accelerated progress in distribution of education remotely, that will chip away at that part of the market I think pretty significantly.”

— Catherine Jacobson, president and CEO of Froedtert Health, has been named chair-elect of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce board.

Jacobson will succeed current MMAC Chair Jonas Prising, chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup, at the chamber’s member meeting in the fall.

“I look forward to advancing the significant strategies MMAC and its member companies are pursuing to help everyone in the Milwaukee Region realize our opportunities and address our challenges as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jacobson said. “I’m confident my experience leading our health care system throughout the COVID-19 crisis will help our members amplify our efforts and make a real impact on the metro Milwaukee community.”

Jacobson has served as Froedtert CEO since 2012.

— The latest episode of “ The Show” spotlights Jill Enos, managing director of Titletown Tech in Green Bay. 

Enos works with innovators and startups to bring new business models to market.

Also on the show, Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still presents “Tech Metrics,” which chart key indicators and events in the Wisconsin economy.

Watch the show: 

— Emerging companies may apply through Feb. 12 for the eighth annual Wisconsin Tech Summit, hosted by the Tech Council and Wisconsin Healthcare Business Forum.

The virtual, day-long event will be held March 17 and allow young companies to meet with major firms and explore potential business relationships around technology needs and innovation. The summit will also feature a series of brief meetings or “speed dates.” 

Major firms such as 3M, American Family Insurance, Kimberly-Clark, Schreiber Foods and Titletown Tech will hear from emerging companies with innovative products or services in a variety of sectors.

Applications are also welcome from early-stage funds that may want to introduce portfolio companies and otherwise connect with major firms.

Apply here: 

— The Tech Council is also unveiling a publication that contains policy ideas related to talent, capital and tech infrastructure in Wisconsin.

The unveiling will take place at a virtual webinar at 10 a.m. on Feb. 10. The event will feature recommendations tied to the entrepreneurial climate. The webinar is the latest in the Tech Council Innovation Network’s continuing webinar series, “Crossing the Coronavirus Chasm.”

Panelists include: state Rep. Tip McGuire, D-Kenosha, who is one of the four co-chairs of the Legislature’s informal Tech Caucus; Bill Hickey, principal of Wolf Track Ventures; and Steve Lyons, president of SJL Government Affairs & Communications. Still will moderate. 


— Five businesses from around the state have been named as finalists in the fifth annual Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s Main Street Makeover Contest.

The five have a chance to win up to $10,000 in upgrades for their storefronts.

Established businesses located in one of the state’s 35 Wisconsin Main Street communities had the opportunity to nominate themselves for a “makeover” that will take place in the spring of 2021. Finalists were selected based on their business track record, the vision for their business and the potential for the makeover to have a positive impact on the Main Street district.

The five finalists are: Lucky Cow Coffee & Gelato of Darlington, Moores on Main of Ashland, Off the Mat Yoga of Marshfield, Stateline Mental Health Services of Beloit, and Sweet Pea’s Pie of Mayville.

The winner will be announced this month and will spend several months working with Main Street staff and consultants from RetailWorks, Inc. a Milwaukee-based interior design firm, on a renovation plan followed by a two-day transformation in late spring. The new storefront will be unveiled during a public celebration. 

All eligible businesses that submitted applications for the competition will receive technical assistance from the Main Street team to help achieve their goals and improve their business.

See more information on the Wisconsin Main Street Program: 

— The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is “fine-tuning” its vaccine distribution system as it goes, said Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. 

She explained that with limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, the state is working to find the balance of getting doses to vaccinators that administer quickly and vaccinators that can get it to populations with the most need, such as in rural areas and communities of color. 

The last request neared 300,000 doses for one week. But the federal government can only send about 83,000 after the state received a boost of about 13,000 first-doses per week. 

DHS has been selective in allocating the limited doses. It gave priority to vaccinators helping CVS and Walgreens vaccinate long-term care residents and staff. The agency also pushed vaccines to Federally Qualified Health Centers — providers in underserved areas — and tribal clinics. The agency also sent at least 2,000 doses to high-throughput vaccinators, such as hospital systems. Those health systems requested 20,000, Willems Van Dijk noted.

The department limited vaccine distribution for those that requested fewer than 50 doses for the week. The smallest amount of Moderna vaccine that the state can ship is 100 doses, Willems Van Dijk explained. DHS does not want extra doses sitting on shelves for vaccinators that have smaller demand. While the state can ship smaller amounts of Pfizer vaccine, it’s too difficult for the state to make so many deliveries for such small quantities for a vaccine with stringent storage and handling requirements. 

“We continue to encourage our rural partners to request vaccine,” she said. “We’re going to have to alter back and forth between places in the weeks to come as we continue to have relatively small supply for the number of requests that we are getting.”

The state is also working to get doses to clinics that serve African American and Hispanic communities. Willems Van Dijk said hospitals are working with community-based organizations, such as churches, to reach out to people who may not have access to technology in order to get them information about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think it’s fair to say we will never have done enough, and we are recognizing this issue and working on ways that we can increase both access to vaccine and increase information to populations who have great need,” she said. “We’re trying to learn each week as we go. We’re fine-tuning the system and adapting it as we go.”

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