WED AM News: Panelists say partnerships between industry and universities key to drive tech growth; JFC approves funding for meat processor grants

— Collaborations between industry and academia are necessary to drive technology development, according to a panel representing universities in the state and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. 

Speaking as part of a Wisconsin Technology Council luncheon in Wauwatosa, WARF CEO Erik Iverson noted the organization is able to commercialize technologies coming out of UW-Madison “wherever we so choose.” But he said he’d prefer to help build those startups in Wisconsin. 

“I think we’ll have a better chance of doing that if we create a robust regional economic powerhouse, not just a Madison one,” he said yesterday. “I do believe that Madison to Milwaukee, up to Green Bay, down to Kenosha area is one hell of a triangle, and offers a diversity of people, of technologies, of opportunities that represents just what’s great about this country.” 

Panelists discussed various ways of establishing a regional technology hub centered in Wisconsin, with or without funding that may come through potential federal spending. 

Tom Still, president of the Tech Council, highlighted possible avenues for federal support, including the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, which he explained was modeled in part after the tech-focused Endless Frontier Act. The bill passed the U.S. Senate this summer but has yet to be scheduled in the House, according to the Tech Council. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act has passed the House and was introduced in the Senate, though Still said there’s “not much traction there yet.” He also highlighted the pending $1.2 trillion infrastructure investment bill and the $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” reconciliation legislation. 

“Where’s that all going? Who knows. It’s D.C., it’s coming up on an election year, there’s just a lot going on,” Still said. “But at least there’s a conversation that touches on some of these things.” 

Andrew Graettinger, associate dean for research at UW-Milwaukee, highlighted the economic opportunity of merging technology with manufacturing, playing to the state’s historic strengths. He noted the university is working with companies like Johnson Controls, Rockwell Automation, Harley-Davidson and others. 

“That manufacturing world, we survived. I mean, we’re part of the Rust Belt,” he said. “We got through that, and it’s still functioning quite well. But the economic engine of the future is technology, right, so we’ve got to go from tools to technology.” 

See more from the discussion: 

— The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has voted unanimously to release $400,000 over the next two years to DATCP for meat processor grants.

The budget approved this summer created the meat processor grant program and put the money into the committee’s appropriation to be released after the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection sought the funds.

Gov. Tony Evers, who originally proposed $2 million over the biennium for the grants, praised the committee’s action.

“Here in America’s Dairyland, we have a strong history of meat production and processing, and we take a lot of pride in that tradition,” Evers said. “I’m proud of our work to create a meat processor grant program to help support meat processors and grow this critically important industry.”

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, temporary closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic shifted slaughter activity from high-volume processors to smaller facilities. Along with a shift in consumer preferences for locally sourced meat, it created a need for additional capacity at smaller facilities.

The grants require an equal match of 50 percent of processor costs to expand capacity. The grants will reimburse processors for their costs for things like equipment, engineering, design, construction and food safety services.

Democrats sought to get the committee to sign off on setting the maximum grant at $100,000 per recipient, which is what the agency favored. But Republicans rejected that and settled at a maximum grant of $50,000, which matches a similar program for dairy processors.

Evers said DATCP plans to release a request for proposal in the coming days.

— JFC has also voted unanimously to sign off on legislation that would direct DATCP and WEDC to create a plan to increase Wisconsin’s agricultural exports 25 percent by mid-2026.

SB 325 has already passed the Senate. But the committee tweaked it to remove funding from the legislation after money was put aside in the state budget for the initiative.

The amendment also would:

*change the deadline for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to request money for the initiatives from the committee. Instead of being within 30 days of the bill’s passage, the new deadline would be within 30 days of DATCP and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. submitting its plan to the Legislature. There would be a Jan. 30 deadline to submit the request. The agency would be able to request up to $558,400 in the first year and another $558,400 in the second.

*require DATCP to request $2 million in the 2023-25 budget for the program. Altogether, the agency would be able to spend $5 million on the program through June 30, 2026. That matches the $5 million price tag in the original version of the bill.

The committee made the same changes to the Assembly version of the bill, AB 314.

The committee also voted along party lines to approve a new income tax deduction for expenses paid for an individual or a dependent to participate in an apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship program would have to be approved by the Department of Workforce Development for participants to be eligible for the deduction.

See more on JFC’s actions at 

— The latest USDA crop report shows harvesting of grain corn, soybeans and potatoes are all proceeding ahead of the five-year average. 

Harvesting of grain corn was 32 percent complete as of Oct. 17, which is four days ahead of last year and nine days ahead of the average. The soybean harvest was 59 percent complete, which is three days behind last year but six days ahead of the average. 

Meanwhile, the potato harvest was 93 percent complete, tied with last year’s rate but five days ahead of the average. 

The report, created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistical Service, also shows topsoil and subsoil moisture levels continue to rebound from the lower levels seen this summer. 

See the report: 

— Despite a recent increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths among nursing home residents in Wisconsin, the head of a long-term care network in the state says “we haven’t let our guard down.” 

“Because the rate of COVID throughout Wisconsin is still alarmingly high, nursing home facilities are testing unvaccinated staff twice a week and we’re still adhering to infection control policies,” said John Sauer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Wisconsin.

The latest numbers from AARP show at least 20 residents in the state have died over the past month or so, but Sauer notes that’s significantly lower than the number of deaths seen near the end of last year. 

“Before the vaccine, at the most troubling phase of this pandemic, was in November of 2020. And that’s a month in which 701 nursing home residents passed due to COVID,” he said in an interview yesterday. 

Sauer describes the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines as “a gamechanger” for the long-term care delivery system. He also noted older adults are at much higher risk due to the virus, as nearly 90 percent of associated deaths in the state have been among individuals ages 65 and older. 

“We’re often talking about a person who’s on average age 85, and presents several comorbidities. They may have congestive heart failure, they may have cancer, they may have other reasons for having a compromised immune system,” he said. “Having those people vaccinated and protected is really important.” 

The Department of Health Services site shows over 83 percent of state residents ages 65 and older are fully vaccinated against the virus. That age range has the highest rate of death among vaccinated people, at 6.1 deaths per 100,000 vaccinated people over age 65. But the rate of death among people in that age range who aren’t fully vaccinated is much higher, at 106.4 per 100,000 people. 

Sauer underlined the life-saving impact of COVID-19 vaccines in Wisconsin, adding that the rate of vaccination among nursing homes in the state is slightly higher than the national average. Based on numbers from AARP, 87.7 percent of nursing home residents in the state were vaccinated at the latest count, compared to 84.7 for the national average. 

See the AARP dashboard here:  

Find more data from DHS here: 

— The head of a hydraulic equipment supplier says a wellness program has led to measurable health improvements among employees. 

GS Global Resources Mukwonago CEO John Thornton says employee engagement has gone “way up” since the company started the COR Wellness program in 2017. 

“Many people participate in programs that we thought never would,” he said in a release. “The overall health and wellbeing of the organization is improving every day.”

Jerry Curtin, CEO of COR Wellness, explains the program is aimed at a number of health factors that contribute to higher health care costs for employers, including obesity, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, alcohol and tobacco use, as well as stress and depression. 

A release shows 25 employees of GS Global Resources Mukwonago collectively lost 162 pounds during a weight loss challenge earlier this year, which is about 6.5 pounds per participant. Measures of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose have all improved for these workers, according to the release. 

Tom Nicholson, the company’s operations and finance vice president, says the program helps with hiring as well. 

“We value company culture. When we brag to a candidate that we offer on-site and virtual wellness coaches, it’s a game-changer. It helps attract the best,” he said. 

See the release: 


# Mill closings make for tough market for logging in Wisconsin

# Wisconsin environmental groups win temporary halt on construction of Cardinal-Hickory Creek Line, if they pay $32M bond

# State Fair names interim CEO/executive director



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– Milwaukee Ballet kicks off season with sharp decline in subscription sales


– 88Nine Radio Milwaukee planning new cafe in Walker’s Point studio


– UW study finds fasting benefits mice, could similarly boost human health


– Crop insurance deadline nears for state growers


– Wisconsin State Fair names interim CEO

– Now under new ownership, M&M Office Interiors names office furniture veteran as its new president and CEO


– Milwaukee Bucks hire new radio analyst Ben Brust


– Environmental group sues Wisconsin DNR board chair for text messages


– Bill allows for delayed code inspections due to COVID-19


– Target set to make its debut at Bayshore: Slideshow


– Milwaukee Bucks open new season with season ticket sellout: Q&A with team president


– Lawmakers propose bill that would allow leasing of solar panels in Wisconsin


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