FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Dean Amhaus, The Water Council; Former WAICU head calls for leaders to fight negative perceptions around college education

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of the Water Council in Milwaukee. 

Amhaus discusses some of the top trends in water technology innovation, as well as the role of data analysis and predictive modeling in water issues. He spotlights major water-related companies in the state and how the Water Council helps advance this sector. 

“We’re seeing a lot of companies that are dealing with data and management of information around water,” he said. 

He also shares his perspective on environmental issues, ranging from water scarcity in the western United States to flooding linked to the Category 4 hurricane that hit Florida on Wednesday. 

And Amhaus talks about how Wisconsin and the Midwest’s freshwater resources fit into the global conversation on water scarcity and climate change, and why that’s important for businesses here in the state. 

“They may not have operations out West, but where are their suppliers located? … We work on a global economy, so you have to think about your supply chain, and are you at material risk because of water issues someplace else?” he said. 

Listen to the podcast here: 

See the full list of podcasts: 

— Rolf Wegenke, the recently retired head of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, says education leaders in the state need to fight negative perceptions around college education. 

“I think that’s the critical issue looking forward, is this ‘you don’t need college’ crowd,” Wegenke told President Jeff Mayers in a recent interview. “And what are we going to do about it? I think we can’t be tacit. I think we have to get out there and tell the story.” 

He says that process starts in K-12 education, though he acknowledged high school guidance counselors are grappling with issues such as student drug use, bullying and limited staffing. Still, he said these advisors as well as faculty and leaders in education need to be communicating the value of post-secondary education to students. 

Wegenke also expressed “great respect” for the trades, noting people like welders and bus drivers play an important role in the economy alongside engineers and teachers. 

Before joining the WAICU, Wegenke spent nearly 17 years working in economic development under five different Wisconsin governors. 

He discussed enrollment challenges facing independent colleges and universities in the state, which currently have about 56,000 students. Still, he noted some of these institutions have fared better than others, and said the COVID-19 pandemic has played a significant role in recent enrollment declines. 

“Part of it is birth rate, and we’ve known that was coming for a while,” he said, adding the pandemic resulted in “record dropouts” when many people were out of work. He added many potential students with financial challenges weren’t aware of opportunities for financial aid. 

The discussion also ranged from President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan to the cost of higher education for students and efforts by WAICU members to share program costs. He said these efforts have resulted in over $230 million in savings in the three decades he’s been with the organization. 

“We have a national reputation for our cost-saving efforts here … and if we can control our costs, that helps us control tuition levels,” he said. “And you look at the stats too for our students, we actually enroll and graduate a higher number of low-income students than the UW.” 

Rockford University President Eric Fulcomer has been named the next president of the WAICU and will be stepping down from his current position in December to take the new role. Wegenke says the organization “is going to be very fortunate to have him.” 

Listen to the full interview: 

— The Department of Health Services is now projecting the Medicaid fund will run a $504.9 million surplus in general purpose revenue, a slight improvement from what was expected three months ago.

In June, DHS had projected a $414.5 million surplus.

In a letter to the Joint Finance co-chairs yesterday, DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake noted the federal government in July extended the COVID-19 public health emergency for another 90 days through Oct. 13. Federal officials have indicated they will further extend it through Jan. 11.

That action keeps in place an enhanced federal matching rate for Medicaid expenses, and the department estimates that will continue through March. The 2021-23 budget had assumed it would end in December 2021.

The budget allocated more than $6.9 billion in GPR for Medicaid, and the agency is now projecting expenditures of $6.4 billion.

Read the letter: 

— American Family Children’s Hospital is now offering a new chemotherapy technique for treating a type of eye cancer in children. 

According to a release from UW Health, Dr. Margo Hoover-Regan and Dr. Sudarshawn Damodharan helped introduce the new technique to the hospital last month. They used “intra-arterial chemotherapy” — or IAC — to deliver the treatment into a patient’s retina where the tumor was located. 

Damodharan explains previous treatments for this cancer, called retinoblastoma, have involved removal of the eye, radiation and systemic chemotherapy. He says the IAC technique is “superior to those methods” in certain cases.

UW Health says retinoblastoma is an “uncommon but serious” childhood cancer that makes up about 3 percent of cancers in children aged 15 and younger. 

To treat this cancer, doctors can use the IAC technique to precisely target the tumor in the retina using a catheter from the patient’s femoral artery into the system that provides blood to the eye. 

UW Health says it typically involves two treatments over two months followed by an eye examination. Damodharan says full remission occurs “in most cases,” resulting in the eye being saved. 

“We are now set up to take on most retinoblastoma cases in the Midwest,” Hoover-Regan said in the release. “And American Family Children’s Hospital is at the forefront of retinoblastoma treatment.”

See the release: 

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— Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has announced the top 16 products selected for the “Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin” contest. 

These products will compete head-to-head in a bracket-style tournament called “Manufacturing Madness.” The first round of bracket voting runs through Tuesday at 5 p.m., and votes can be cast once per day in each of the eight matchups. 

The top 16 products include an electric fire truck, LED lights, a medical testing device, an electric recreational vehicle, a cargo ship, a magnetic embroidery frame, a harvesting cart for farmers, soft drinks, folding chairs, flooring for sports facilities, a consumer snow plow, aviation coating, mining equipment, outdoor lighting systems, a reusable plastic food tray and popcorn. 

Watch a video of the announcement and see more on the top 16 finalists here: 


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– Wisconsin potato growers had a good year in 2021

– EQIP, RCPP signup for 2023 funding due in November


– Legislative study council focuses on underground plumbing in talks to allow early starts for builders 

– A house-mover’s final act: historic preservation


– How Milwaukee-area businesses will be able to get in line for RNC contracts

– Here are the 5 fastest growing companies in southeastern Wisconsin


– UW System takes to social media to boost financial aid applications

– State testing data shows improved math, English learning. But scores remain below pre-pandemic levels

– 3 technical college system board members still serving 16 months after terms expire

– Sennett staff say former principal gave school ‘hope,’ ask for return

– Student proficiency dropped 10% in pandemic, more in Milwaukee


– Metro Milwaukee construction jobs up 8 percent year over year: AGC


– Molson Coors expands Coca-Cola partnership with new spirits drink


– RNC host committee job “is to make Milwaukee and Wisconsin shine,” says chair Reince Priebus


– Waukesha could get state’s first standalone Genesis dealership

– Streetwise: McKayla Marie Sweets will open this weekend in Ashwaubenon


– Nelson honored as first ever Dairy Athlete of the Month


– Neostella will acquire Chicago software development company


– Milwaukee RNC Host Committee selects former ambassador as CEO


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

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DeWitt LLP: Attorney Lindsey M. Anderson appointed to the Wisconsin Crime Victims Council