WED AM News: WEDC exploring how to better support small rural manufacturers; New member appointed to WEDC board

— WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes says the agency is exploring how to better support small rural manufacturers in Wisconsin. 

“What kinds of resources do they have? And how can we partner with resources like the tech colleges or the university system to make sure that we’re providing the support for these businesses?” she said yesterday during a meeting of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors. 

Hughes highlighted the overlap between the state’s small business community and manufacturing sector, noting around 80 percent of the state’s 9,300 manufacturing companies have fewer than 50 employees. 

About half of those companies are involved with “traditional manufacturing” such as fabricated metals or machinery, while the other half are involved with food processing, textiles, paper and other product categories. And while about three-fourths of manufacturers in Wisconsin are located around Milwaukee, Madison and the northeast region, the rest are “out-state, in rural Wisconsin,” Hughes said. 

“Thinking about those businesses and what kind of support they need and who’s providing them support around the state, and how they start to think about what their opportunities are, where they need to pivot and what our role is in supporting them,” she said. 

She also pointed to larger companies such as Oshkosh Corporation and Milwaukee Tool that are driving growth in areas such as advanced and precision manufacturing, emphasizing their importance for the state’s workforce. Hughes noted Oshkosh Corporation has a $6 billion engineering contract with the U.S. Postal Service fleet in the state, while Milwaukee Tool is conducting research and development into next-generation battery technologies. 

“If we can, you know, think about keeping those jobs and keeping the precision manufacturing, the advanced manufacturing, I think that ultimately that will serve Wisconsin very well,” she said. 

— American Family Mutual Insurance Company Chairman and CEO Jack Salzwedel has been appointed to the WEDC Board of Directors by Gov. Tony Evers. 

Before taking his current position in 2011, Salzwedel was the president and COO of American Family. He has held several different positions with the company since he started there in 1985. Earlier this year, he announced plans to step down as CEO of American Family Mutual Insurance Company in January, though he will retain his position as chairman for several years. 

“I’m looking forward to a lot of things around innovation, entrepreneurship, the startup world,” he said yesterday during the board meeting.

He fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Eau Claire businesswoman Rebecca Cooke, who is running for the 3rd Congressional District as a Democrat. During yesterday’s meeting, Board Chair Hank Newell thanked Cooke for her contributions to the board’s work over the past three years.

See the release: 

See the full list of WEDC board members: 

— WEDC will be moving its offices to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s Black Business Hub in 2023 as more of the agency’s staff is working remotely. 

“The reality is, with this work-from-anywhere-in-Wisconsin model, we can have a smaller space and yet be really embedded where economic development is happening, and we’re really excited about that,” Hughes said during yesterday’s board meeting. 

The agency’s offices are currently located in the Tommy G. Thompson Center near the state Capitol. WEDC will be moving into the entrepreneurial hub as its anchor tenant once construction on the space is complete in the spring or summer of 2023, she said. 

Ruben Anthony, president and CEO of the Urban League, says in a release the business hub will be “devoted to helping underserved entrepreneurs build their businesses.” The four-story building on the south side of Madison will also include office space, retail storefronts, co-working space and more. 

See more details in a release: 

— A Wisconsin Hospital Association report shows the amount of community benefits hospitals provided in the state decreased to around $1.88 billion in fiscal year 2020. 

That number was nearly $1.99 billion in fiscal year 2019, according to the prior year’s report. 

In a message included in the latest report, WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding says the pandemic has tested the “responsiveness, adaptability and expertise” of care providers in Wisconsin. 

“The challenges COVID-19 has caused throughout the state’s entire health care system have only motivated hospitals and health systems across Wisconsin to reaffirm their commitments to the communities they serve in innumerable ways,” he said. 

The community benefits total includes charity care, subsidized health services, Medicaid shortfalls, losses on other public programs and research, community health improvement services and more. 

Hospitals and health systems provided over $169 million in charity care in fiscal year 2020, the report shows, which is down from about $188 million in fiscal year 2019. 

But the value of subsidized health services was nearly $171 million, which increased over the year from around $157 million. 

The largest community benefits category by dollar amount was Medicaid shortfalls, with a total of nearly $1.1 billion for fiscal year 2020. That has decreased from nearly $1.2 billion in the prior reporting period. 

The report includes a regional breakdown of community benefits provided in Wisconsin and highlights a number of local projects focused on improving health education or providing other resources at the community level. 

The total value of community benefits provided varies widely by region, from just over $26 million in the state’s eight-county upper northwest region to over $928 million in the seven-county southeastern region. 

See the full report: 

— Wisconsin gun deer hunters harvested 14,979 fewer deer during this year’s nine day gun deer season than last year.

Gun deer hunters this year took 175,667 deer while hunters last year took 190,646 deer.

DNR Wildlife Management Director Eric Lobner in a virtual press conference said the northern forest management zone was the only area of four management zones to yield a harvest increase compared to last year. But he and DNR State Deer Program Specialist Jeff Pritzl said it’s too early to know for sure why the overall harvest is down and why certain management zones saw a significant harvest reduction.

Pritzl added hunters shifting toward taking deer in earlier-starting seasons, such as archery and crossbow seasons, could be driving the drop in gun deer harvest numbers.

“If you asked 10 deer hunters about their experience over the last week, how often they hunted and whether they decided to take a deer or not, you’d get 10 different answers,” Pritzl said.

Lobner added gun deer licenses this year were down to 564,440 from 569,203 last year. Non-resident issued licenses increased by 3,317 from last year, bringing the total to 55,647 this year.

Archery and crossbow harvests have increased each year since 2018, but it’s too early to tell if this season continues the trend because the 2021 season doesn’t end until Jan. 9.

The southern farmland management zone saw deer hunters take 17 percent fewer deer this year than last year, the biggest harvest drop across all management zones, according to Lobner.

Wildlife Health Conservation Specialist Amanda Kamps also on the call said it’s too early to know of any changes in the spread of chronic wasting disease around Wisconsin because test results are still coming back.

So far this year 483 of the 8,800 deer submitted for CWD testing were positive, according to DNR data. Last year 1,578 of 18,912 submitted were positive for CWD.

DNR Recreational Safety And Outdoor Skills Section Chief Capt. April Dombrowski said last week brought three more gun-related injuries — one fatal — on top of the three gun-related injuries during the season’s opening weekend. In all there were six gun-related injuries during this year’s gun season, matching Wisconsin’s 10-year average of six incidents per gun season.

A 65-year-old man was killed in Iron County on Nov. 23 after being shot in the chest when another hunter accidentally knocked a loaded gun over nearby. The other incidents were not fatal.

Last year’s season saw eight gun-related incidents, including one death.

See the release:

— Spothopper, a Milwaukee-based startup with a technology platform for restaurant marketing and operations, has closed on a $14 million funding round. 

The company was founded in 2015 and currently has more than 3,000 restaurant customers in more than 30 states. Spothopper provides a content management system for customers’ websites, facilitating online ordering, catering and private party management, social media and marketing automation and business analytics. 

According to a release, this Series A funding round is the first outside capital the company has accepted. Funds will be used for expanding its sales model and continued development. The round was led by San Diego-based TVC Capital, which typically invests in business-to-business software companies. 

“The mounting stack of challenges facing a restaurant operator can be overwhelming, especially since the pandemic,” said co-founder and CEO Aleksandar Ivanovic. “The goal of our all-in-one solution is to help operators tackle everything they need to do online from one place; for the lowest cost and the least effort.” 

See the release: 


# Oneida Nation set to offer sports betting at main casino

# Proposed bipartisan legislation would allow recent veterans with medical training to temporarily practice without a license

# Madison advanced computing startup FlexCompute raises $22 million



– Scenic Valley Co-op, Infinity Feeds to merge with ProVision Partners

– Final crop report shows 96 percent of corn now harvested


– Community bank with tech focus could be created in Delafield


– Mortenson closes on land purchase for nine-story hotel at Madison’s Judge Doyle Square 


– Donations to FFA Foundation to be matched on Giving Tuesday


– DNR: Nine-day gun season deer kill drops 8% from 2020


– Wisconsin health officials waiting for more data on omicron coronavirus variant


– Zywave acquires California-based insurance software company


– Evers appoints Jack Salzwedel to WEDC board


– HellermannTyton’s Tuttle: ‘We will ensure a safe workplace’


– Proposed ordinance would ban cat declawing in Madison


– Oneida Nation to offer sports betting at main casino in Green Bay starting this week


– Saving energy when it counts: Pilot uses smart controls to save costs, carbon


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

WHA: Reports nearly $1.9B in community benefits and charity care delivered by Wisconsin hospitals

AARP: Milwaukee Christian Center proposal to create support kits for homebound SE Asian seniors wins AARP WI grant