WED AM News: WEDC trade ventures go virtual during pandemic; DHS says state’s nursing home COVID response triggered by positive tests, not lagging death data

— The old governor-led foreign trade mission has been transformed.

Now WEDC’s trade ventures connect Wisconsin exporters virtually with potential international buyers, distributors and other partners.

“With a virtual trade venture, Wisconsin companies can continue their exporting efforts even as COVID makes it impossible to meet face-to-face,” said Katy Sinnott, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. vice president of global trade and investment. 

WEDC made the switch to a virtual setting in March 2020. Since then, the agency has held four virtual trade ventures in Germany, South Korea, Mexico and Canada. Another starts Monday, focused on Luxembourg.

Eric Coffman, president of Madison-based Graftobian Make-Up Company, attended the first three virtual ventures in search of a distributor. 

“They’re successful for us. It’s a great way for us to reach out to countries where we do not have a master distributor,” he said. Graftobian secured a South Korean distributor after a three-hour virtual makeup demonstration with a potential partner.

Read the full story at 

— The next venture, beginning Monday, is with Luxembourg.

This trade venture is unique in that it is a collaboration between the country of Luxembourg and Wisconsin on freshwater technology, finance and startups. Both Luxembourg and Wisconsin are bringing companies to the table. 

“It’s very different from a traditional trade venture,” Sinnott said. “This is more of a focus for foreign direct investment.” 

The three-day event features three 1.5-hour sessions. Each session will feature a keynote speaker and a panel. Gov. Tony Evers will give the opening speech. Fiserv will speak on the second day on Wisconsin’s fintech ecosystem. Wisconsin and Luxembourg startups will participate in roundtables on the third day. 

Foreign direct investment meetings usually happen internationally during trade ventures. The virtual roundtable with Luxembourg is a test case of how to do it virtually, Sinnott said. She added that this could be something that happens more frequently with more countries — not just during a virtual trade venture. 


— A top DHS official says the state’s delay in categorizing the location of COVID-19 deaths didn’t affect the state response because investigations are triggered by positive cases, not deaths.

Department of Health Services Bureau of Communicable Diseases Director Traci DeSalvo explained that deaths are a lagging indicator — those patients were first treated as confirmed cases. One case in a long-term care facility results in an outbreak investigation.

DHS lists the names of facilities that are undergoing a public health investigation. The state has also enlisted its “infection preventionists” to provide technical assistance via calls with those facilities and give advice on testing and infection mitigation strategies in real time. 

While deaths are an important piece of understanding the pandemic in Wisconsin, DeSalvo told in a one-on-one interview yesterday the delay in categorizing the deaths did not impact the ability to follow up with facilities and make sure they had the resources to protect residents.

“If you’re looking for a good way to count and get an accurate picture of outbreaks, looking at that facility-wide investigations page is a great place to go because that is providing an accurate picture of what’s happening in facilities and we’re actually naming those facilities on that page,” she said.

The Evers administration has been facing GOP criticism for a lag in accurately reporting COVID-19 infection and death numbers for nursing homes. The criticism comes after administration efforts to clean up past data. That process took nearly 1,000 deaths that had been listed in the “unknown” location category and properly slotted them into the category for nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The delay in categorizing those deaths did not affect plans to fight the pandemic, Evers said Monday. 

See the facility-wide investigations page: 

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— Caravel Autism Health has opened a new children’s autism therapy center in the Fox Valley. 

The center is designed to meet the needs of children ages 2 to 18 who may be on the spectrum, providing Customized Applied Behavior Analysis treatment plans for each child. 

“Until now, most of this therapy has been done on an in-home basis. Our new center gives families another option. We can deliver this life-changing treatment in a colorful, welcoming space that’s specially designed to meet the needs of kids who are on the spectrum,” said Abby Amacher, Caravel’s clinical director in Fond du Lac.

Caravel Autism Health, founded in Wisconsin in 2009, has staffed the center with professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of autism. This will be the company’s 18th location within the state. 

“Caravel Autism Health is investing in communities to expand access to high-quality autism health services,” said Caravel’s CEO Mike Miller. “In too many places, there’s a shortage of providers and families face long wait times. With each new center we build, we make it easier for families to find the expert help they need.”

— La Farge-based Organic Valley has launched a loan service to enable farmers to invest in clean energy. 

The Powering the Good Loan Fund, made possible by a partnership with Clean Energy Credit Union, provides loans for farmers seeking to replace their use of fossil fuels with renewable energy and efficiencies. 

“From the farm to the shelf, I see renewable energy playing a bigger role in organic food. We are providing farmers a means to reduce their energy costs and become more self-sufficient and sustainable,” said Bob Kirchoff, Organic Valley CEO. “Farmers who participate in this loan fund contribute to a healthy, regenerative future for the next generation.”

Loans may be used for solar electric systems, farm energy efficiency improvements, such as LED lighting, insulation, ventilation, and ground-source heat pumps for farm heating and cooling.

“This is a great example of cooperation among cooperatives to pursue our aligned missions,” said Blake Jones, chair of the Clean Energy CU Volunteer Board. “Organic Valley is already helping to protect the environment through regenerative and organic farming practices, and now they’re going one step further by supporting the installation of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for their farmer-members.”

— The latest episode of “ The Show” spotlights Taha Jangda, a partner at HealthX Ventures in Madison. 

Jangda talks about what brought him to HealthX, one of Wisconsin’s most active venture capital firms, and the recent closing of its $75.5-million second fund. Jangda also comments on the importance of the proposed $100-million state investment in a privately matched fund of funds.

In addition, Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still gives an update on “Vision 2020,” a report in which the Tech Council recommended goals for the state’s tech-based economy. 

Watch the show: 

— The Department of Workforce Development is launching a virtual career center through Google Cloud to connect Wisconsinites to job opportunities.

This $2.9 million project will launch certain features throughout the spring and summer, with the full project completed by late 2021. Wisconsin will become one of the first states in the country to leverage Google Cloud technology to help people get back to work and support economic recovery statewide. DWD plans to use federal funding to pay for the new project.

“For our economy to bounce back, we need to rapidly and successfully connect workers with the in-demand jobs of our state that build on their existing skills and experience and that offer the wages and benefits necessary to support their families and invest in their futures,” said DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek. “This new online platform will build on our current online services and complement our staff’s existing work at our local job centers, in public libraries, and around local communities in our mobile job center.”

The virtual career center will be powered by a range of Google Cloud technologies, including Google Meet, which will allow job seekers to schedule video meetings with career coaches, job recruiters and potential employers. 

“Many states have struggled during the pandemic to provide unemployment benefits, career resources, and more — due to outdated or hard-to-use technology,” said Mike Daniels, vice president of Global Public Sector, Google Cloud. “Wisconsin has taken an innovative approach to these problems, and through integrated experiences provided by our technology, we hope job seekers across the state can land back on their feet quickly.”


— Join tomorrow for a virtual lunch hour even featuring a trio of hospitality sector representatives.

The hospitality industry was hit the hardest during the pandemic after forced shutdowns to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a sharp economic downturn.

Even after the economy reopened, Wisconsin’s favorite eateries and alehouses continue to struggle as they’re faced with local capacity regulations and as people wait to get their COVID-19 vaccine before going out.

Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer, Tavern League of Wisconsin President Chris Marsicano and Wisconsin Brewers Guild Executive Director Mark Garthwaite will discuss the state of the hospitality industry in Wisconsin and policies from a new administration that could make or break what the state’s wine-and-dine scene looks like coming out of a global pandemic.

The program, “Hospitality industry stirs after year of COVID,” is set to run via webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday. The event will begin with a moderated panel discussion and then shift to questions from the audience. We will send you a link to access the webinar on the morning of the event.

This event is sponsored by Madison Gas and Electric Company, University Research Park, Wisconsin Technology Council and The Phelps Hamus Group.

Register here for this free event:



# Wisconsin Senate approves bill to let bars, restaurants sell cocktails to go

# AFBF: U.S. Must Enforce Trade Agreements with Mexico 

# Lawmakers Approve Blocking Vaccine Mandates, More Control Over Federal COVID-19 Funds



– Wisconsin Honey Yields Rebounded in 2020 

– From donations to vaccinations, dairies lead throughout the pandemic 

– Egg production dips 8% in February 


– Associated Bank extends Milwaukee Film sponsorship 


– Audubon Plan Aims To Restore Nearly 300K Acres Of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands To Benefit Birds 


– Milwaukee-area health officials vigilant as Covid-19 case counts creep up again 


– Marshfield Mayor Removed Over Records Complaint In Conflict With Police Commission 


– Briggs & Stratton to more than double standby generator production 

– Rockwell Automation condemns violence against Asian-American community, offers resources 

– Oak Creek’s Nordco to be purchased by Wabtec in $400M deal 


– Wisconsin lawmakers claim $555K in expenses during pandemic


– Third Space Brewing expanding with statewide distribution 


– DOT seeking public input on $53 million expansion of passenger rail to Twin Cities 


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