WED AM News: Milwaukee lacking resources to grow tech sector, employer says; Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin getting $1.5 million in CARES funds

— Milwaukee lacks economic and educational resources needed to develop and retain high-end talent in the technology sector, according to Milwaukee Tool President Steve Richman.

During a recent Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce webinar, Richman discussed the importance of company culture to economic success and the ongoing struggle to find talent. 

“Our biggest challenge is attracting more and more people to understand the benefits of Milwaukee and recruiting,” Richman said. “I’ll be frank. The lack of technology is not allowing us to be able to recruit the amount of electrical engineers and software developers that we need, as we are a technology company.”

Programs offered by state higher education institutions, like the Milwaukee School of Engineering and UW-Madison, do not produce enough developers or electrical engineers to meet Milwaukee Tool’s needs, he said yesterday. 

He also said the pandemic pushed Milwaukee Tool to look for new ways to recruit and interact with employees. The company is now developing artificial intelligence programs to help educators train talent through 12- or 24-month virtual programs. 

“We always said we want to change the game from an educational standpoint for our people,” Richman said. “We’re now going to be able to do that.”

See the full story at 

— The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded $1.5 million in CARES dollars to the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin to develop economic recovery strategies.

“This EDA investment in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin will develop a strategic plan to ensure greater competitiveness and resiliency when future economic shocks occur,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

The investment will allow the tribe to hire staff, conduct an economic development assessment of the reservation and create a plan to respond to the pandemic and future economic disruptions, according to EDA Chief of Staff Molly Ritner.  

The federal CARES Act allocated $1.5 billion to the EDA for economic assistance programs.

— The EDA also awarded $160,000 to the Madison Region Economic Partnership and the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission to invest in the region’s economic recovery.

The dollars will support the two entities in developing the region’s pandemic recovery strategy. The project will identify, document and map potential sites for key industry sectors including advanced manufacturing, communications technology, biosciences and health care.

The work also supports the initiative Advance Now 2.0, which calls for the expansion of the regional planning commission in the Madison region.

“We’re very excited to receive this CARES Act funding and looking forward towards the next round of federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA),” said MadREP President and CEO Jason Fields.

— The state is re-launching the “You Stop the Spread’’ multimedia campaign to encourage Wisconsinites to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Since Wisconsin began vaccinating in December, over 5.2 million doses have been administered, according to data from the Department of Health Services. Nearly half — 48.6 percent — of the total population has received at least one dose. And 43.2 percent were fully vaccinated.

“We are making progress, and we need to make even more progress,” DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk told reporters yesterday in a health briefing. 

DHS officials hope Wisconsin can achieve an 80 percent or more vaccination level. 

“The implications are … we leave more people vulnerable to a disease that can be prevented,” Willems Van Dijk said. “The whole point of herd immunity is that we reduce disease levels in the community so that we have less spread and particularly so that we can protect those people who are unable to receive vaccine.”

These populations include children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. The vaccine is also not 100 percent effective, so some people get vaccinated but are not fully protected, she said. Additionally, some people have conditions that would make vaccination more risky, or their immune system cannot develop strong immunity to the vaccine.

“The more people we leave vulnerable to infection, the greater foothold that the virus has to continue to replicate and in areas where replication is going on is risk of mutation and the emergence of new genetic variants,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer. 

COVID-19 daily case averages are down to around 150 — the best since March 2020, when the pandemic started to take hold in Wisconsin. The average of positive tests per day per total tests is 1.4 percent, which has stayed below the desired 5 percent threshold since early February.

But an average of four people per day are still dying from COVID-19, and 1,178 Wisconsinites have died from the disease.

“Yes the pandemic is in a better position than it was, but everyone who dies of COVID-19 is dying a preventable death,” Westergaard said. “When do we stop trying to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and just accept that it’s circulating? My answer is never.”

He said the pandemic will truly be over when it’s controlled globally, such that new variants will not have an opportunity to emerge.  

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— Wisconsin is in the top 15 percent of U.S. states and territories for total population vaccination rate with nearly half of residents having received at least one dose. 

That’s according to Dr. John Raymond, CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin, who gave a COVID-19 update during a recent Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce webinar.

COVID-19 cases are declining in Wisconsin as only 66 new confirmed cases were logged as of June 7. 

The state saw one related death, which came from Milwaukee County, and 170 hospitalizations on June 7. The number of COVID-related hospitalizations decreased from Wisconsin’s 2,277 on Nov. 17, 2020.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected to have full FDA approval in July, Raymond said. Individuals under 12 years old may be eligible for the vaccine by the fall.

— A Madison-based company with a shopping rewards app called Fetch Rewards has announced a new partnership with a national food and drug retailer. 

The partnership with Albertsons Companies comes nearly five years after Fetch Rewards first launched in Madison. The app has been downloaded more than 19 million times with 7 million active users. It functions like a customer loyalty program, giving shoppers discounts on certain products sold by partner businesses. 

Through the new partnership, Fetch is expanding the list of participating stores with about 2,200 more supermarkets spread across 34 states. Aside from its Madison headquarters, the company also has offices in New York, San Francisco and Chicago. 

Listen to an earlier podcast with the company’s CEO: 

See the release: 

— A new nonprofit called Wisconsin FIRST Robotics will teach young Wisconsinites about emerging careers in science and technology. 

Students ages 4-18 can participate in after-school sessions and competitions. Wisconsin FIRST will also offer mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills.

Populations underrepresented in STEM fields are a particular area of focus in the organization. Wisconsin FIRST is affiliated with the global nonprofit FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

“The goal is to inspire innovation, and foster well-rounded capacities in young people, including self-confidence, communication and leadership,” said Jeff Fenstermaker, chairman of Wisconsin FIRST. “FIRST has a strong record on STEM learning and skill-building and we are excited to bring those opportunities to Wisconsin.”

— Wisconsin farmers saw higher-than-average temperatures during early June, with some regions of the state getting little to no rainfall. 

According to the latest crop progress and condition report from the USDA, dry conditions got worse in southern and southeastern Wisconsin, though some farmers were able to take advantage of the dry weather to harvest hay. 

Still, topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were rated as largely adequate while little surplus moisture exists in these soil layers, the report shows. Growth rates for corn, soybeans, winter wheat and oat crops are ahead of both last year and the five-year running average. 

See the report: 

— RSVP for the June 15 – – Wisconsin Technology Council “From dairy to tech: How smarter immigration policy can help the Midwest workforce” virtual event.

Four speakers will talk about the prospects for immigration reform under the Biden administration and within Congress, and how bipartisan changes might help solve workforce problems in some of Wisconsin’s largest economic sectors.

Participants are: Reid Ribble, a former Republican member of Congress from northeast Wisconsin and chief executive officer for the National Roofing Contractors Association; Ankit Agarwal, president and CEO of Imbed Biosciences Inc. in Madison; Jay Heeg, of Heeg Brothers Dairy in Colby and a former president of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin; and Kelly Fortier, an attorney with the Michael Best law firm. Tom Still, president of the Tech Council, will moderate.

The program is set to run via webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15.


<br><b><i> Editor’s note: yesterday was my last day — thank you for subscribing and being a part of this experience! </i></b>

I’m Stephanie Hoff, your editor. It’s been a pleasure bringing you the stories of the happenings in Wisconsin’s business world. Since my start in January 2020, I’ve had some amazing experiences in the field and from home. 

From Capitol pressers on the opioid crisis to a National Guard COVID-19 testing site in the Driftless Area. And from home moderating a hospitality industry panel and interviewing NFL star and former Badger James White, it’s been a great journey. 

I’m moving on now to cover agriculture, which has been my beat even before I became a reporter. I’ll be a farm broadcaster for Mid-West Family Broadcasting. You can listen for me on 97.7 FM and watch for me on the Mid-West Farm Report. 

Alex Moe is back to lead You can reach him at [email protected]


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