WED AM News: Distillers find opportunity, innovation in pandemic; Packers CEO highlights success off the field

— Wisconsin distilleries Driftless Glen and Wollersheim see opportunity and innovation amid the global pandemic. 

Baraboo’s Driftless Glen made a conscious effort about four years ago to push its bourbon to off-premise consumption, such as in liquor stores. When the pandemic hit, that decision paid off with 2020 wholesales surpassing those in 2019.  

“I think that people had to go to the liquor stores and buy the alcohol, and because we had made that effort … People bought local, they wanted to buy Wisconsin. We did great and so far knock on wood, we’re up almost double this year from last year,” said co-owner Renee Bemis. 

Wollersheim Winery and Distillery co-owner Julie Coquard described the pandemic year as unpredictable because the winery-distillery experienced extremes on both ends. Wollersheim did close from mid-March to the end of May, but then it experienced very busy weekends throughout the summer. 

Prairie du Sac’s Wollersheim expanded its outdoor sitting space in order to accommodate social distancing for patrons. Other pandemic adjustments included requiring reservations in order to make sure indoor and outdoor capacity limits were attainable. As whiskey and bourbon cocktail tastings go, Wollersheim could only host those outdoors due to Dane County capacity restrictions.

“We saw more of a rise on the store side just because people were not going out as much,” Coquard said. “We’re sold in stores around the state. We saw more people purchasing from the stores and not traveling as far.”

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— The Green Bay Packers are seeing consistent success off the field as Titletown continues to grow, says President and CEO Mark Murphy. 

In an update with the Milwaukee Rotary Club, Murphy said construction has continued during the pandemic, including a six-story office tower opening soon, an 150-unit apartment complex and up to 70 townhouses. 

Initial tenants include Hinterland Brewery and Restaurant, Lodge Kohler and Bellin Health Titletown Sports Medicine and Orthopedics. 

“Ideally, Titletown is going to be a place where people can live and work and play,” Murphy said. 

— Green Bay can also look forward to Lambeau Field hosting some great events, possibly including the 2024 NFL Draft and a Big10 Championship game. 

Lambeau Field will host the Notre Dame-Wisconsin game in 2026. 

But the Packers have not been interested in giving up a home game to head abroad. The economic impact of a home game is too significant to the team’s hometown. Murphy said the Packers are the only NFL team that has not played a regular season international game. But he explained that with the NFL moving to 17 games, heading overseas is now a possibility. 

Under a new TV deal and what was voted on at a league meeting, the NFL will move to 17 games. Every other year, one conference — the NFC or AFC — will have nine home games. In a year with nine home games, one division within that conference — four teams — will have to give up their “extra” home game. So every eight years, the Packers will give up that ninth home game to play at a neutral site. 

“Some time in the next nine years we will be playing a game in London,” he said. 

See more from Murphy about the Lambeau Field vaccination clinic in the latest Health Care Report:

— Gov. Tony Evers says more than $46 million in CARES money is heading to 9,300 small businesses statewide.

Under the plan from Evers, each business will get a $5,000 grant through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s “We’re All In” grant program.

More than $240 million in ‘We’re All In’ grants were awarded to Wisconsin small businesses in three phases throughout the first year of the pandemic. The $46 million announced yesterday will go to adversely impacted small businesses that applied for pandemic relief in the second phase of the program in November, when demand had exceeded available dollars.

While CARES dollars were originally slated to expire at the end of 2020, a federal bill signed before the year’s end extended the deadline to the end of 2021.

The guv has used more than $370 million in CARES money to support Wisconsin businesses, including nearly 53,000 small businesses, more than 15,000 farms, and the lodging, hospitality and tourism industries, according to his release.

“The ‘We’re All In’ grants have been extremely important to Wisconsin’s business community,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “I’m so happy that more funding is available to ensure that all qualified Phase 2 applicants will receive assistance.”

— The announcement also comes as WEDC published a new report outlining the state’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

This follows a June 2020 report about the lasting economic impacts of COVID-19. The previous report recommended fixing broadband, getting people back to work and supporting innovation.

The new report aims to guide the state government’s use of the federal American Rescue Plan funds and additional private and public investments to help Wisconsin recover from the economic and everyday impacts of the pandemic.

WEDC’s report identifies five keys to individual economic well-being: financial stability; education; health; community infrastructure, including access to affordable housing and child care; and a clean environment.

Specifically, it encourages the state and public and private partners to remove barriers to participating in the economy by investing in child care, health care and stable housing. The report also recommends expanding access to education and innovation, and finally, to invest in the environment.

See the report:

See the release:

— Wisconsin’s credit unions are spotlighting their work with members, schools and community groups as the governor proclaims April “Financial Literacy and Capability Month.”

“As nonprofit, cooperative institutions, Wisconsin credit unions put people first,” said Brett Thompson, president and CEO of The Wisconsin Credit Union League. “Our credit unions work year-round to build community financial literacy so members and people we reach through educational efforts are fully empowered to achieve their goals in life.”

Wisconsin credit unions:

*provide more than 500,000 hours of free financial counseling to their 3.4 million members annually

*offer incentives to save, such as the Saver’s Sweepstakes statewide program

*support schools and community groups with free teaching materials, classroom presentations and interactive reality fairs (in-person or virtually)

*teach money management through more than 100 youth-run, in-school credit union branches statewide

“Helping members build better lives for themselves and their families is the reason credit unions exist,” Thompson said. “They’re mission-driven to offer the services, expertise and opportunities that can make financial wellness achievable.”   

— Evers says Madison’s COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the Alliant Energy Center will receive federal support this week. 

This federally supported mass vaccination clinic will increase the number of vaccinations per week from 5,600 doses up to 7,700 doses, dependent on vaccine supply.

The site will have the capacity to vaccinate 1,400 people per day. 

FEMA Region 5 will provide federal staff and support services to administer vaccinations. In addition, the state will give up to 7,000 weekly first-doses to the site from its vaccine allotment. The state has been giving doses to this site already; that amount will increase based on supply, according to the Department of Health Services.

The Alliant Energy Center has been providing weekly vaccinations since Dec. 29. It will get 26 additional staff from the federal government providing both clinical and non-clinical support for the site’s operations. Staff support and doses from the state 

“This site will expand access for residents of the state’s capital and second largest city, and for those living in south central Wisconsin,” said Kevin Sligh, FEMA Region 5 administrator.

The mass vaccination clinic is a joint effort between Public Health Madison and Dane County, Dane County Emergency Management, Dane County, Madison, DHS, the state and FEMA. 

“I am grateful for FEMA’s support to our state and coordinating with our local partners to help our most vulnerable populations get the protection they need so we can all move forward from this pandemic,” Evers said.

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