WED AM News: Wisconsin pharmacies key in COVID-19 vaccination plan; Business leader panel discusses barriers facing Black-owned businesses

— Wisconsin’s not seeing a problem with “pharmacy deserts” harming its COVID-19 vaccination efforts. In fact, pharmacies are a big help.

Pharmacy deserts refer to areas with limited or no access to community pharmacy services. The federal government sponsors systems to identify and define areas with shortages of health professionals or facilities, such as Health Professional Shortage Areas. But no such designation exists for community pharmacies.

“Community pharmacies are a key component of the COVID-19 vaccination plan, and are also key to expanding access to other vaccinations as well,” said UW-Madison School of Pharmacy Professor Kevin Look. “However, those individuals living in pharmacy deserts will definitely be disadvantaged when it comes to access to the vaccine.”

Look is the lead author on a paper currently under review by the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. It found 99 percent of the Wisconsin population lives within 20 minutes of a pharmacy and 89 percent live within 10 minutes of a pharmacy. 

In fact, pharmacies are proving to be a strength of Wisconsin’s vaccination efforts.

As of Monday, Wisconsin had 698 pharmacies enrolled as COVID-19 vaccinators, making up about half of the state’s total vaccinators. DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said pharmacies’ wide networks, walk-in style appointments, flexible hours and relationships with their customers and patients make pharmacies strong partners.

Read the full story at 

— Racial disparities in business ownership and entrepreneurship pose unique challenges.

But that doesn’t mean Black business owners can’t reach their full potential, speakers told “The Business of Metro MKE,” a virtual series presented by the MMAC centered on issues shaping the region’s health and economy.

“Be careful who you listen to. Obviously, follow your dream, but make sure you are getting counsel from people who have been down that road,” said James Phelps, president of JCP Construction. “That’s not to say you [shouldn’t] listen to those who have not put skin in the game, but I would weigh that a little bit less than those who have fought the battles needed to be a small business owner.”

Other speakers echoed this need to connect with informed and experienced individuals. Ugo Nwagbaraocha, president and owner of Diamond Discs International, stepped in to remind the panel that while personal relationships are key, both to getting a foot in the door and for guidance, some people may not always be receptive to your goals.

“Sometimes people have good intentions, but they’ve never seen excellence,” he concluded. “Don’t let someone’s ignorance to Black excellence hinder your ability to achieve Black success. Don’t let anyone define or put you in a hole as far as what the limitations of your success can be.” 

Carla Cross, president and CEO of Cross Management Services, noted that a lack of diversity among business owners may be partially due to young adults of color not being aware that business and entrepreneurship are valid career options. 

Read the full story at 

— One of the largest challenges Waterloo-based Trek Bicycle encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic was keeping up with the “bike boom,” according to CEO John Burke.

Wisconsin’s first real taste of the pandemic’s impact was March 12, when the state launched its “Safer at Home” order. It was that day that Burke said the year looked to be brutal after doing financial modeling for what the company’s worst year could look like. But exactly one month later, Trek experienced the bike boom. Burke reflected on the experience in a Milwaukee Rotary Club event this week. He said he received calls that lines were out the door at stores from Florida to Wisconsin. 

“We have large distribution centers in the United States and by the end of May they were empty,” he said. “By the end of May, it was clearly going to be the biggest year in Trek history.”

Since then, the No. 1 priority for Trek has been its supply chain and having enough product for the consumer in a global marketplace. Trek gets a lot of products from Asia and imports products from Europe. The company has a large factory in Germany that makes bikes for the European market. Trek builds high-end bikes in Wisconsin. But all the parts come from Asia because there aren’t bike part makers in the U.S., Burke explained. 

“If you go to the automotive business, there’s a supply base; in the bicycle business, there really isn’t. And we were hit hard by the Trump tariffs,” he said. “One of my frustrations with the government is if you wanted to have a proactive trade policy for bicycle manufacturing in the United States, you could do that, but nobody has the vision and nobody has the desire to sit down and actually deal with a real problem that could be solved.”

— Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is calling on Congress to oppose the Protecting the Right to Organize Act introduced in the House of Representatives in early February.

WMC argues PRO Act takes away freedom of choice in the workplace by undermining workers’ rights, undercutting Wisconsin’s economy and hampering the state’s business climate.

The bill would expand various labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace. Among other things, it would revise the definitions of employee, supervisor and employer to broaden the scope of individuals covered by the fair labor standards. It would also permit labor organizations to encourage participation of union members in strikes initiated by employees represented by a different labor organization.

WMC took issue with several items included in the bill, including the elimination of Wisconsin’s right to work law. 

Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal also aims to repeal some provisions of Wisconsin’s right to work Law, such as the prohibition on contracts between labor unions and employers that specify the employer may only hire unionized workers. 

“Anti-worker policies like the PRO Act would eliminate freedom of choice in the workplace — empowering unions while undermining workers,” said WMC Senior Director of Workforce & Employment Policy Chris Reader. “Wisconsin workers currently have a choice on whether or not they join a union and pay union dues. Unfortunately, some members of Congress and our governor want to take that choice away.”

In March 2015, Wisconsin became the 25th right to work state, following Indiana and Michigan. WMC argues the state’s pro-worker policies have expanded freedom of choice in the workplace, leading to strong economic growth, record-low unemployment numbers and more opportunity for residents. 

“The data has proven that Right to Work states perform better on nearly every economic indicator there is,” Reader said. “While Gov. Evers and his friends in Congress try to sell these policies as pro-worker, nothing could be further from the truth. These pieces of legislation are simply a handout to powerful union bosses who want to coerce more members into their ranks.”

— The House of Representatives is expected to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus package today, dubbed the American Rescue Plan Act.

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, said despite the handful of amendments made in the Senate, the relief package is essentially the same bill that passed the House in late February. 

Gallagher’s office said approximately $1 trillion is still unspent from previous relief packages — including $159 billion of the $828 billion allocated for the Paycheck Protection Program. The Green Bay Republican is advocating for a much more targeted approach supporting vaccine distribution, reopening schools and small businesses needing aid.

Staffers for Republican U.S. Reps. Scott Fitzgerald, Bryan Steil, Glenn Grothman and Tom Tiffany also indicated opposition to the bill. Wisconsin’s five Republicans voted against the bill the first time. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson also opposed the bill over the weekend in the Senate vote.

Meanwhile, Dems praised the measure. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, voiced her support for the pandemic relief bill. She told WisPolitics she supports the bill because it provides needed relief to her constituents without delay. 

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said he too will vote yes. Moore, Pocan and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, supported the bill in late February when it passed the House the first time.

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin touted the bill’s inclusion of federal aid for Wisconsin small businesses, including restaurants. She supported the bill when it passed the Senate Saturday.

The American Rescue Plan would provide help so small businesses can stay open, keep workers on the payroll and reopen completely post-COVID-19, the Madison Dem said.  

“Wisconsin Congressional Republicans oppose the American Rescue Plan and have said it is unnecessary and that it’s a ‘bailout,’ but I know small businesses are the engine of our economy and they need help,” Baldwin said. “The American Rescue Plan provides more, targeted federal funding and resources to the hardest-hit small businesses in Wisconsin, including restaurants. This support is targeted and necessary to move our Wisconsin economy forward.”

The American Rescue Plan Act would include a $25 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which will provide grants to restaurants; $15 billion for the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance program for small businesses; and $10 billion in new funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative, among other things. 

See Baldwin’s release:

— The latest episode of “ The Show” spotlights Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 

She outlines state budget plans to invest in a venture capital fund and to assist small businesses statewide. Also, Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still gives a primer on the state budget process and updates the 2021 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. 

Watch the latest episode here: 

— DATCP is accepting applications for the 2021 Specialty Crop Block Grant program, due April 2. 

Grants are awarded to projects focused on enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crop industries through research, education or market development. Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery crops, herbs, among others. Find a full list of eligible crops and more information about the program at

Non-profit organizations, producer groups, government agencies, universities and other agricultural organizations are encouraged to apply. Grant funds will be awarded for projects up to three years in duration. Typical projects are awarded up to $100,000.

— Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Jason White is resigning from the organization, departing next month.

White accepted a position closer to family in Iowa. Ken Arneson, Greater Oshkosh EDC Board Chair and CEO of Evergreen Retirement Community, will lead transition efforts as the organization seeks a new leader.

— The Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee is ready to vaccinate more than 800 teachers today and is seeking educators and child care workers to schedule an appointment.

Over 1,000 additional appointments are also available. The Wisconsin Center is focusing vaccination efforts on teachers, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters in a press conference. Appointments are also open at South and North Division High Schools for Milwaukee Public School educators only. All vaccinations are by appointment only.

Milwaukee Public School teachers are scheduled to begin teaching in person next month: early elementary students will return by April 12, third through eighth graders by April 19 and high schoolers by April 26. 

“We know that there’s been a lot of disruption for the kids, we know there’s been a lot of disruption in education and we want to make sure that the teachers, educators, the people who are working in the schools, they have their vaccinations,” Barrett said. “Now people have to take advantage of it.”

Barrett said he’s not disappointed with the vaccination numbers at this point, citing thousands of teachers and child care workers that have taken advantage of the vaccine. 

When asked by reporters if the recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine will help get educators vaccinated, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said the city has not yet received it. But with the doses they do have, Johnson said Milwaukee will meet its goal of all educators having access to the COVID-19 shot by Monday.

<i>For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

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# Back to school: Madison schools welcome kindergartners a year after COVID shutdown

# New Covid-19 rules coming next week for Milwaukee businesses

# House Auto Caucus co-chair wants to delay USPS contract with Oshkosh Corp.



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– Wisconsin Officially Sets New Milk Production Record in ’20 

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– Wisconsin Conservation Congress To Survey Residents On Climate Policy In Spring Hearings


– Eau Claire County could receive $20M from federal relief package 

– CUNA Mutual Group strikes $1.3B acquisition deal for Assurant’s funeral insurance business 


– Gov. Evers makes opening day visit to La Crosse COVID-19 vaccine clinic

– Monona-based WPS to lay off 128 

– Ascension, Sixteenth Street partner to ramp up COVID vaccination effort on Milwaukee’s south side 


– TitletownTech VC fund invests in Virginia artificial intelligence company 


– Dieter Named CEO of CentralStar Cooperative 


– Milwaukee Tool on pace to exceed $6 billion in revenue by year’s end 


– Johnson not revealing his plans for 2022: ‘I’m doing everybody a favor’


– Illinois packaging company leasing 472,000-square-foot building in new Bristol industrial park 

– New Land plans to break ground in July on its next Milwaukee apartment project 


– ‘Extreme loosening or dissolving’ of pandemic restrictions possible by summer as vaccines guide reopening decisions in Dane County

– Columbia County rejects mask mandate, despite requests from city of Portage, other officials


– Some golf courses open, while others wait for frost, ice to melt 

– Packers hold ticket prices for 2021; Gold package gets tickets if NFL goes to 17 games 


– Milwaukee Rep offers employees a cash incentive for Covid-19 vaccinations 


– After more than two years on the job, Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson’s appointment could be headed to a Senate vote 

– Racine is Wisconsin’s electric bus trendsetter. Here’s why it is investing early in public transport’s future 


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– UnityPoint Health-Meriter Nurses: Nurses announce they will stand for key protections in contract