WED AM News: Wisconsin becoming a leader in ‘fintech’; vaccine supply, delivery speed motivate state’s decision to open COVID vaccine to all

— Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, New York and now, Wisconsin. 

“When people think about fintech in the United States, they don’t automatically think of Wisconsin, but many very well-known fintech companies and new entrants call Wisconsin home,” said Fiserv Inc. Chief Digital and Data Officer Byron Vielehr. 

Vielehr opened up the second day of a three-day virtual trade mission hosted by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. In yesterday’s “Future of Banking” roundtable, Vielehr pointed to Wisconsin as an emerging leader in fintech — also known as financial technology.

In 2018, Madison was the third fastest-growing market for tech talent in North America and was adding tech jobs at a faster pace than almost any city in the nation, according to BioForward Wisconsin. Vielehr said fintech companies, such as Connective and Coinage, have been making the move to Wisconsin for access to talent and more favorable economic policies. 

Fiserv Inc., a financial services and mobile banking processing provider, is recognized as a global leader in both payments and fintech while being headquartered just outside of Milwaukee in Brookfield. 

About 40 percent of card transactions in the U.S. run across Fiserv infrastructure, processing just under $30 trillion of payments and servicing 100 million consumers globally. 

Read the full story at 

— A top state health official cites vaccine supply and delivery speed for motivating Wisconsin’s decision to open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older starting Monday. 

“This marks a major milestone in our state’s fight against this virus and gets us closer to overcoming this pandemic and bouncing back together,” Evers said in a release. 

Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk cited a reliable and increasing vaccine supply and speed of delivering shots as factors in moving the general public’s eligibility up nearly a month.

She told reporters in a health briefing yesterday the state has made great progress in prior phases, including vaccinating the majority of educators and people over age 65.

People with chronic conditions became eligible on March 22. The group accounts for more than 2 million people.

“We’ve given those folks a head start ahead of the general population, but we also know there just aren’t that many more people left to put in the mix, and so this decision to move ahead with everybody really simplifies the whole scenario,” Willems Van Dijk said.

She said that even with eligibility open to all, providers can continue to prioritize people with chronic conditions, especially in the health care system.

“I fully expect that health care providers will continue to prioritize people with chronic conditions first,” she said.

— Evers said a decision on extending the mask mandate will also come on Monday.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court today will release a long-awaited court ruling on whether the governor has the power to issue multiple public health declarations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the guv first issued a public health emergency a year ago, the state Supreme Court last May overturned the extended order Evers’ administration issued.

Evers then followed that with a new public health emergency in late summer that served as the foundation for his first mask mandate. Evers has issued multiple declarations since to continue extending the mask mandate, including one last month after the Legislature voted to rescind one of his declarations.

The court heard oral arguments in the case Nov. 16; the statewide requirement for face coverings ends April 5.

“I’m hopeful that we will win that case. If so, at that time we’ll decide whether we are going to extend that order or not,” Evers said yesterday. “We have to be in a downward trend, and also, we have these new variants that are stronger in their transmission. Would we possibly extend the order? Possibly, but we’ll make that decision on the 5th.”

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— The Department of Workforce Development is unveiling an upgraded claims portal for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites applying for UI benefits. 

The upgrade means better functionality and new features, according to DWD. This includes secure document upload, a message center for direct communication from claims specialists and adjudicators, text notifications, and a mobile-friendly design. 

The new look and upgraded features were set to go live last night.

“This is all about making the process easier,” DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek said. “The ability to upload certain documents instead of mailing or faxing, a message center where claims specialists and adjudicators can share and request information directly through the portal — these are critical upgrades.”

— DWD is also rolling out another phase of its plain language project, an effort to make Wisconsin’s UI application easier to understand and navigate.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we know that of the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who applied for unemployment benefits, many had to wait longer than necessary because an incorrectly answered question triggered an investigation into their eligibility,” Pechacek said. “These important updates will not only benefit our customers, but also improve our operations.”

While some plain language updates have been completed, more are on the way as DWD continues its commitment to making the process of filing for benefits as easy to understand as possible.

— Madison Gas & Electric is seeking approval from the Public Service Commission to buy 9.1 megawatts of a 92-MW Grant County wind farm.

The Red Barn Wind Farm is to be built in the towns of Wingville and Clifton. Wisconsin Public Service, a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, will own the remaining 82.5 MW.

If approved, the project will help MGE meet future energy needs as it transitions away from coal-fired electricity.

“We are doing everything we can today to lower carbon emissions as quickly and as cost-effectively as we can. The Red Barn Wind Farm is another opportunity for MGE to invest further in cost-effective, clean energy as we move toward carbon reductions of at least 65% by 2030 and our goal of net-zero carbon by 2050,” said MGE President and CEO Jeff Keebler.

The approximately 12,000-acre project will feature 28 turbines. If approved, construction is expected to begin in 2022 and it should be serving customers by the end of 2022. MGE’s share of the Red Barn Wind Farm will power about 4,000 households.

— For more developments in green energy, environmental issues and related policy proposals, visit WisBiz Green in the right-hand column at

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— Wisconsin Women in Conservation, a new statewide coalition of landowners and conservation agencies, is offering a free online “Spring Into Conservation!” workshop on Tuesday.

The virtual event, from 10 a.m.-noon, aims to connect female farmers and landowners in Polk, Barron, Dunn and surrounding counties who are interested in learning more about land stewardship or in sharing their own expertise. All interested women are welcome. 

The live virtual event will feature a soil health demonstration and a presentation on native prairie plantings by Britta Peterson from Pheasants Forever. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about pollinator plantings, high tunnels, grazing and cover crops.  

Register here: 

— WEDC is allocating a $250,000 grant for the southern Wisconsin village of Argyle to help renovate the site of a  former auto dealer. 

The money will fund updates for the building, which was built in 1916 and previously occupied by the Ford Motor Company. The project’s estimated completion date is the end of 2022. 

The renovated building will become a commercial space, along with an apartment complex, and have new interior updates and possible exterior updates. The project includes a parking lot and a fitness center from a local existing business.

“Argyle, like so many other small towns, has old buildings in need of renovations,” Village President Thomas Moore said. “Local developer RBS Properties LLC had a project that needed many improvements to an old building. The result for our community will be a new business with residential living quarters upstairs. This all comes at a cost, but thanks to the WEDC, we are able to pursue this exciting project.”


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– UW-Eau Claire Initiative Turning To Open-Source Materials For Classes 


– Weigel appointed to World Dairy Expo Board of Directors 


– Wollersheim prepares for release of Scarlet Fumé 


– Wisconsin Congressman Tiffany Says He Advised His Adult Daughters Against Getting COVID-19 Vaccine 

– Tony Evers, Assembly Republicans lay out priorities for spending federal COVID dollars

– Assembly Republicans want Tony Evers to spend $500 million of stimulus on broadband; $1 billion on property tax relief

– Farmer lawmaker proposes using federal stimulus for bigger Wisconsin broadband expansion 


– Milwaukee may walk back easing of Covid-19 rules if trends don’t improve 


– DOT seeks input on second Twin Cities-Chicago train going through Columbus, Dells, Portage

– Southwest Airlines adds nonstop flights from Milwaukee to Florida 


– WEC Energy Group utilities won’t seek potential 4-6% rate increase for 2022 


– Commentary: Restore local control 


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