— WEDC Board Chair Hank Newell says the agency’s metrics for success “need to evolve” going into fiscal year 2022.
During a virtual meeting of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s board of directors, Newell said agency leaders need to renew their focus on the organization’s role in economic development.
“The issue is, most of our incentives are oriented towards jobs,” the former Wausau Paper executive said yesterday. “We need capital. We need capital investment.”
Newell called on WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes and others within the agency to work with board members on this goal. That includes updating metrics as well as finding ways to stimulate “significant sources of capital” without relying on state tax dollars.
“I think that’s a pretty big, bold challenge,” he said. “I think it’s time, we’re mature enough in our thinking. We need to start engaging with the board and really try to surface those kinds of ideas.”
Also during the meeting, Hughes explained that the planning process for the prior fiscal year was taking place in the midst of the economic shutdown caused by COVID-19. That resulted in a “steady as she goes” approach focused on economic stability in the short term.
Now, as WEDC prepares for fiscal year 2022, Hughes said agency leadership has been focused on how to support small businesses and entrepreneurs, boost exports, and target underserved communities with development efforts in the next several years. Fiscal year 2022 starts Oct. 1.
She said the agency is set to receive about $40 million from the state budget, and she expects WEDC will get a similar amount in each of the following two years as well.
“Now we’re going to really start to push ourselves to think longer-term and how that impact could happen,” she said.
— Amid a discussion on the state’s ongoing workforce issues, Hughes and board member Randy Hopper provided differing views on how to address the worker shortage.
Hopper is a former Republican state lawmaker and the president of Mountain Dog Media, based in Fond du Lac. He said the majority of the firm’s hundreds of clients are putting out help wanted ads and offering incentives for new hires, rather than messaging on branding or new products.
“We need to force people to get off the couch and go back and join our workforce, and what are some of the things we could do to encourage that?” he said. “I think the business community, they’re looking for our leadership in that as well.”
But Hughes countered Hopper’s remarks, arguing “we don’t have a lot of evidence that people are sitting on the couches.” She acknowledged that many businesses have shifted their strategies to attract workers, but said more investment in services such as childcare, transportation and housing would help address the shortage.
“We have to recognize that even if, let’s say for example, we had people on the couches, if they got off the couches, we’re still going to have a shortage of people,” she said. “That’s where I think WEDC really needs to be focused on the long-term issues here.”
She characterized the state’s workforce shortage as “demographic, rather than attitudinal.”
— The WEDC board had originally planned to meet in person, but Newell requested that the meeting be held virtually.
“Ultimately, we can conduct business effectively without an in-person meeting, and I have a very strong belief on modeling behaviors we desire to see,” he said during yesterday’s meeting.
Newell explained that he holds leadership roles for multiple companies located in Wisconsin, Tennessee and California. For all these businesses, he emphasized the importance of protecting worker health and safety during the pandemic.
“Words matter. What people see matters. Folks need to feel safe, and as I considered our board meeting here … I could not assure participants that they would be operating in a safe environment,” he said.
Watch a recording of the meeting here: https://wiseye.org/2021/08/03/wedc-board-meeting-7/
— In the latest episode of “Talking Trade,” hosts Ian Coxhead and Sandi Siegel connect with Menzie Chinn, professor of public affairs and economics with UW-Madison’s Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs.
Their discussion highlights the impact of shifting U.S.-China relations on international trade, including investment and competition in technology production.
See the full show archive: https://www.wisbusiness.com/category/talking-trade/
— UW-Madison has announced that all students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks while inside campus buildings starting tomorrow.
In a statement, the university points to the “steep rise” in COVID-19 cases in the state and country driven by the delta variant.
The release notes several exceptions to the new rule. Students in residence halls can remove their masks while in their own rooms with roommates. And employees can remove their masks while working alone in an office or laboratory with the door closed.
See the release: https://news.wisc.edu/changes-to-campus-masking-policy/
— Gov. Tony Evers says $10 million in federal funding will be allocated to local tourism efforts.
The funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act and will be awarded by the state Department of Administration. Grants up to $3.5 million will be awarded to local governments and nonprofits promoting tourism for specific projects aimed at boosting the industry.
“Wisconsin’s tourism industry was one of the hardest hit throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but these folks are innovative, dedicated, and resilient, and we’re working to make sure our tourism industry can bounce back from this pandemic,” Evers said in a statement.
According to a release, the state’s tourism industry is already starting to see a recovery from 2020.
The newly announced funding is in addition to the $140 million in ARPA that Evers previously announced supporting the state’s entertainment and tourism industries.
— With COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases on the rise in the state, the Wisconsin Hospital Association says it supports hospitals that decide to require vaccination for employees.
“WHA believes each hospital and health system is best positioned to determine how to provide safe and effective care,” said Kelly Lietz, vice president of communications for the association. “WHA strongly supports them in making decisions they determine to be most appropriate for their patients, staff and communities, including if and when to require vaccination of staff.”
The Department of Health Services website shows the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 increased 51 percent in the second half of July.
A total of 310 patients are currently hospitalized due to the virus and 88 patients are in intensive care units with COVID-19, according to a WHA dashboard. One month ago, 85 patients were hospitalized with the virus and 26 patients were in the ICU due to COVID-19.
In a statement provided to WisBusiness.com, Lietz noted that hospitals already often require vaccinations such as for the flu.
“Hospitals have historically employed a variety of strategies to encourage and realize a highly vaccinated workforce and have achieved this objective through means that best fit the unique circumstances of their organizations and the communities they serve,” he said.
Just over 5 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin have been among health care workers, the DHS dashboard shows.
Over 93 percent of hospitals in the state had immediate bed availability near the end of July. But at the same time, more than 85 percent of hospital beds in the state were in use. And over 88 percent of ICU beds were in use as of July 27.
The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the state has surpassed the previous peak in April, reaching 854 cases per day on Monday. That average is now the highest it’s been since early February, according to the Department of Health Services dashboard.
See more numbers from DHS on hospital capacity: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/hosp-data.htm
See the WHA dashboard: https://www.wha.org/Covid-19Update
See the latest case numbers: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/cases.htm
# Marquette University says more than 85% of students are now vaccinated against COVID-19
# Vaccine mandates for employees not spreading to Milwaukee-area non-health businesses
# $1T Infrastructure bill could help fix Wisconsin’s deteriorating roads, bridges and water systems
– Holstein USA Delegate election underway
– GOP-led committee votes to block UW campuses from vaccination rules, mandatory virus testing
– DNR pushing for limited wolf hunting quota this fall
# FINANCIAL SERVICES
– Tony Evers allocates an additional $10 million in federal funding to state’s tourism industry
# HEALTH CARE
– Children’s Community Health Plan has a new benefit to address food inequity and chronic disease
– Wisconsinites struggling with long-haul COVID-19 see hope in new disability guidelines
– Lack of foreign workers has seasonal businesses scrambling
– Report: Where Wisconsin stands on hate crime laws in comparison to other states
– Wisconsin Public Media Director Gene Purcell dies following traffic accident
– Larson out of US Senate primary race, backs Barnes
# REAL ESTATE
– Downtown river walk reworking approved for 15-story apartment building
– Home prices keep setting records, but profit margins are slipping
– Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul move quickly in NBA free agency
– HEAR Wisconsin launches Mobile Audiology Clinic
– Wisconsin State Fair back for 2021 with pandemic changes
– Milwaukee blocks scooter riders from starting trips downtown
# PRESS RELEASES
<i>See these and other press releases: