WED AM News: Milwaukee lagging comparable metros in VC investment, exports; UW-Madison College of Engineering collaborating with WISC Partners

— The Wisconsin Policy Forum’s Metro Milwaukee Innovation DataTool shows the state’s largest city is lagging comparable metro areas in venture capital investment and global exports. 

But the dashboard also highlights Milwaukee’s relative strengths in new STEM college graduates and “knowledge workers,” or those working in occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree. 

The DataTool was first launched in 2019, and has now been updated for the first time since then, according to a release. Along with data on metro Milwaukee, the dashboard also includes information on 10 other U.S. “peer metro areas,” including Austin, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland,  Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh and Portland.

The WPF highlights in a release the “long-standing weakness” of the Milwaukee region in entrepreneurship, as the metro area “continued to attract less in venture capital investment in 2020 than nearly all of the comparison regions.” The average size of venture capital deals in Milwaukee between 2018 and 2020 was $1.56 million, which is the lowest among all metro areas included in the analysis. 

“While VC investing is highly concentrated in a small number of coastal metros, metro Milwaukee trails even most of its Midwestern peers  and has been near the bottom on this indicator for many years,” the WPF said in the release. 

The dashboard also shows the value of Milwaukee’s global exports was 23.2 percent lower in 2019 than in 2010, falling from $9 billion to $6.9 billion. The region ranks lower than most of the comparison metro areas and the national average for global exports per employee. 

Meanwhile, the number of college students completing STEM programs in the Milwaukee area has “grown considerably” over the same period, with the most growth seen in those earning bachelor’s degrees. The percentage of STEM degrees as a share of all degrees awarded in the area has risen from 9 percent in 2011 to 10.8 percent in 2019. 

And the total number of knowledge workers in the Milwaukee area has risen over the past decade or so, from about 202,000 in 2010 to 219,600 in 2020, the dashboard shows. Milwaukee ranks fourth for this metric among the 11 metro areas included in the data tool. 

See the dashboard here: 

— The UW-Madison College of Engineering has announced a new collaboration with investment firm WISC Partners to help connect entrepreneurs with engineering experts from the university. 

“The academic world speaks a different language from the private sector, but they can deliver so much value to each other if we can just find ways to bridge the gap,” said David Guinther, a university grad, veteran entrepreneur and founding partner of WISC Partners. 

Through his work on the advisory board for the college’s Grainger Institute for Engineering, Guinther says he was exposed to “just how much more potential there is in the college to make its way into industry.” 

WISC Partners founding partner Mike Splinter also has a history with the university. Splinter is a graduate of the engineering program and a retired chairman of Applied Materials, a manufacturing business that provides equipment and services for semiconductor chips and other products. Both founding partners have held roles on advisory boards at the university. 

Ian Robertson, Grainger Dean of the College of Engineering, says the collaboration “creates an avenue for our faculty to contribute their expertise to enhance the success of emerging technology companies.” 

As part of the collaboration, UW-Madison will be receiving a portion of the firm’s return on investment, as if the College of Engineering were a limited partner in the firm. The agreement is described as a “unique tiered funding model” in the release. 

“This partnership represents an expansion in the fee-for-service option for industry-university collaboration,” Robertson said in an email. “WISC Partners invests in entrepreneurs who have the potential to build great companies. As these companies achieve success, WISC Partners will realize a profit from their original investment. The College of Engineering will receive a share of the realized profit.” 

WISC Partners has a presence both in Madison and Silicon Valley. The firm’s strategy involves leading investment rounds and looking for opportunities to strategically deploy capital to accelerate business growth. 

“We are looking forward to realizing together the full potential of this bold, new public-private partnership model for regional value creation,” Guinther said in an email. 

See more details in a release from the college: 

See the WISC Partners announcement: 

— Twenty medical personnel from the U.S. Navy are being sent to Bellin Hospital in Green Bay to support civilian health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.

The personnel, including nurses, respiratory therapists and doctors, are being sent following a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Gov. Tony Evers earlier this month asked FEMA to send 100 personnel to the state with hospitalizations spiking due to COVID-19.

“I asked for additional federal assistance to support our state’s continued response to the pandemic, and I am grateful for FEMA’s efforts to help our health care workers with the high volume of patients due to COVID-19 and other health conditions,” Evers said in a release. 

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, 1,653 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of yesterday. That’s down slightly from the peak of 1,714 on Dec. 13.

Of the 1,331 ICU beds across the state, only 59 are immediately available. And just 39 of the state’s 778 intermediate care beds are available. 

See the release: 

— Dane County health officials say nearly 150 cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 have been identified in the county. 

In a release, Public Health Madison & Dane County says the finding indicates “rapid growth” from the three cases that were identified in the county on Dec. 16. The agency says that number is expected to continue rising quickly as more cases are sequenced. 

The announcement comes a day after the state Department of Health Services issued a public health advisory warning the omicron variant is expected to lead to a “rapid increase in disease activity” in Wisconsin. 

“We’ve seen Omicron spread rapidly in other countries and states, so this isn’t a surprise,” Janel Heinrich, director of PHMDC, said in the release. “We will likely see rapid spread of Omicron in Dane County in the coming days and weeks. We all need to be prepared and take action now so that we can preserve our hospital capacity and prevent severe outcomes.”

See the release: 

— The Madison Community Foundation has announced $1.24 million in grants going to 23 local nonprofits for a wide range of community projects. 

“From ensuring equity in workforce development, to expanding fresh produce in food pantries, to dramatically increasing the capacity of the major service provider to the Latinx community, the grantees are helping make this a rich and just community,” said Tom Linfield, the group’s vice president of community impact.

Grants range from $20,000 to $150,000 per recipient. Funding for this round of grants came from thousands of donors to the foundation’s Community Impact Fund, according to MCF President and CEO Bob Sorge. 

See the full list of grantees: 

— Wisconsin Specialty Recycling has joined the DNR’s Green Tier program as a Tier 1 participant and plans to create an environmental management system within the next year. 

The Madison-based electronics recycler aims to reduce “end-of-life e-waste” through reuse of various devices and components. Along with the new environmental management system, the company plans to conduct energy audits to monitor usage, improve heating and cooling systems to boost energy efficiency, and add a solar installation by 2025. 

DNR Environmental Management Division Administrator Darsi Foss says the agency looks forward to “partnering with the company as they focus on improving the environmental impacts of the electronics industry by promoting a reuse-first approach to electronics recycling.”

See the release: 

— Wisconsin milk production was up 2 percent in November over the year, with a total of 2.56 billion pounds. 

That’s according to the latest report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which shows milk production for the past nine months has been higher than in 2020 or 2019. 

The average number of milk cows in Wisconsin was 1.28 million, which is 18,000 more than in November 2020 but unchanged over the month. Monthly milk production per cow averaged 2,000 pounds, for an increase of 15 pounds from the previous November. 

See the report: 


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– State milk output rises nine consecutive months

– Petition period opens for 2022 Ag Enterprise Areas


– Trades council presents check to cover nonprofit group’s January heating bill

– Wauwatosa tower vote delayed for more discussion of design details

– Savings result from third bid package for new county highway facility 


– Milwaukee-area students take first place in national FIS innovation competition

– Solar on La Crosse Schools donates solar oven learning tools to district classrooms


– Rico’s Family Restaurant permanently closes all Fox Valley locations


– Records raise questions over Foxconn project manager’s billing practices


– Wisconsin health officials urge vaccinations, precautions 

– Wisconsin at ‘another critical moment’ for COVID-19 amid holiday season

– No time to lose: Finding rare diseases in infants

– 20-member FEMA headed to overwhelmed Green Bay hospital


– OpenGov could get $350,000 in state tax credits for meeting 100-employee hiring goal


– Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear challenge to Dane County mask mandate


– Enerpac hires exec to oversee Americas from Brady Corp., adds former JCI exec to board


– J.M. Smucker plan to sell business units includes Ripon plant closure

– Racine Metal-Fab acquired by Milwaukee-based company


– Physicians Realty Trust, Landmark Healthcare complete $750 million building trade

– Developer buys former Shopko store building in West Bend, plans to bring in multiple tenants


– Evers signs gambling deal with St. Croix Chippewa


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