FRI AM News: WMC leader warns of rising energy costs tied to Russia invading Ukraine; WisBusiness: the Podcast with Tom Erickson of UW-Madison’s School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences

— The head of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce warns rising energy costs tied to the war between Russia and Ukraine will impact factories and consumers in the state. 

WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer said in a statement the immediate impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will drive energy costs “even higher than they already are.” 

“Rising energy costs are very regressive for consumers, especially during the home heating season. But rising costs will also have a major impact on factories in a manufacturing state like Wisconsin,” Bauer said. “Higher producer costs are upstream of consumer costs, which means the Russian invasion will exacerbate existing inflationary pressures.”

Meanwhile, a trade consultant with the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center says exporters will need to prove their products will not end up in the Donetsk and Luhansk separatist regions of Ukraine, under federal sanctions. 

“There is a potential upside, however, for organizations with the foresight to mobilize considering disruptive scenarios — and respond in a way that ultimately powers their performance,” the SBDC’s Chris Wojtowicz wrote in a blog post. 

Data provided by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. show state exports to Ukraine reached a peak of $60.5 million in 2017 and have been on a downward trend since then, reaching $20.6 million last year. Most of the state’s exports to Ukraine last year were industrial machinery and vehicles, according to WEDC. 

Wisconsin imports from Ukraine have ranged between $3 million and $5 million since 2014, hitting $3.8 million in 2021. 

Meanwhile, state exports to Russia were $109.1 million in 2021, with the nation ranking 35th among Wisconsin export destinations. Exports to Russia have been between $107 million and $121 million over the past five years, with industrial machinery and medical and scientific instruments making up the majority of those products. 

State imports from Russia totaled $26.4 million last year, reaching their highest level in the past 10 years, WEDC data show. 

See the SBDC post here: 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Tom Erickson, founding director for UW-Madison’s School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences. 

Erickson provides an update on efforts to boost collaborations between the university and industry, touching on the Creative Destruction Lab program as well as a partnership with WARF called Varsity Venture Studios. He also discusses an industry affiliates program that connects students in a capstone course with companies including Epic, Capital One and Madison startup called Last Lock. 

“We’re also doing a number of other things in entrepreneurship that’s just beginning, so stay tuned for some exciting new things working both the College of Engineering and School of Business on things there,” he said. 

Erickson says the university will be introducing a new major next year in information sciences, an evolving field focused on applied uses of databases and other technologies. Similar to the most popular major on campus, computer sciences, he says “it’s very easy” to pair it with another discipline.  

“Almost 90 percent of our data science majors are double majors, and almost 50 percent of our CS students are double majors, and we expect the same out of the information science majors,” he said. 

Listen to the show here: 

See a full list of podcasts: 

See an earlier story with comments from Erickson: 

— The Assembly approved in a voice vote the amended version of a bill that would allow people to charge for the use of electric vehicle power stations. 

Rep. Deb. Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay, criticized the bill for what she called a “power grab” by public utilities. 

The amended version of the bill would bar municipalities from being sole owners of a charging station on public property. Instead, they would have to partner with a third party. That would make clear that private businesses can have charging stations for electric vehicles and charge a fee without becoming a public utility. 

Andraca said the move goes against free market principles. 

“This bill is shortsighted. What started off as a bright idea is now little more than a dim bulb,” Andraca said.

Bill author Nancy VanderMeer disagreed and said considering current law the bill would enhance charging stations.

“Right now the only way that electricity charges can be collected for a fee is if you are an electric utility, so this opens it up to the free market,” the Tomah Republican said.

The bill now goes to Gov. Tony Evers.

— More than a third of respondents to a recent New North survey said broadband internet availability is affecting where they choose to live. 

The survey was conducted in fall 2021 by the northeastern Wisconsin economic development organization, gathering just over 17,000 responses from residents in the region. It was distributed to every postal address in the 18-county region, and respondents were asked to fill out the survey online. Nearly 3 percent of all households in the region provided responses, according to a report covering the results and a number of recommendations for improving broadband access. 

“We know that broadband has become essential community infrastructure, much as building and maintaining roads were in the early twentieth century,” Barb LaMue, president and CEO of New North, said in a statement.“Today, the advancement and support of digital road systems is critical to community and economic business development.” 

Ninety-eight percent of business respondents said the internet is important for the success of their business over the next five years, though just 27 percent of business respondents said they’re satisfied or very satisfied with the speed of their internet service. Eighty-two percent said they want better internet access. 

Thirty-two percent of responding businesses are home-based, and 71 percent said they need their employees to be able to work from home. 

Meanwhile, half of residential respondents said they’re unhappy with their current internet speeds, and 88 percent said they’re interested in faster and more reliable internet service. One-third said they have nine or more connected devices in their homes, but 60 percent said they have trouble using “common” internet services. 

“With its many quality assets — provided we have continued investment in broadband infrastructure — we know that the New North region can be attractive to business investment, along with an emerging population which is making choices about where they live primarily based on family needs and interests,” LaMue said. 

The report includes a number of recommendations based on the survey results, meetings with county officials and other stakeholders, and interviews with businesses operating in the state’s northeast region. 

These include: developing a regional broadband strategy; creating a long-term funding strategy for continued broadband rollout; expanding access to wireless and fiber resources; developing stronger relationships with internet service providers; seeking more federal grant funding for broadband expansion; improving network redundancy and resiliency; working toward “universal access;” and others. 

Along with the survey results and recommendations, the report also includes detailed information on tower, fiber and broadband assets for counties in the area, emerging technologies, a regional “middle map” strategy for reaching unserved and underserved areas, and details on available funding opportunities.

See the full report here: 

— Dairyland Power Cooperative has signed an agreement with an Oregon company called NuScale to explore the role of nuclear power in the La Crosse-based co-op’s clean energy transition. 

The two companies announced the memorandum of understanding yesterday. Brent Ridge, president and CEO of Dairyland, says the co-op is assessing NuScale’s small modular reactor nuclear plants along with other carbon-free technologies for power generation. 

“This agreement provides Dairyland an opportunity to explore this technology and

evaluate whether it might be a viable long-term alternative to provide our members with

safe, reliable and cost-effective electricity in a lower carbon future,” Ridge said in a release. 

Dairyland is a generation and transmission cooperative that supplies energy for about 600,000 people in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. It has 24 member systems and 17 municipal customers. 

As of last year, the co-op’s generation mix was made up of 38 percent natural gas, 37 percent coal, 22 percent wind and solar, and 3 percent other renewables. By 2031, Dairyland plans to reduce the portion of coal to 25 percent while boosting wind and solar to 36 percent. 

See the release: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced nearly $21 million in ARPA funds for Madison and Dane County for community development projects to expand affordable housing, support businesses, and bolster economic, social and cultural opportunities.

Evers has made similar announcements in Milwaukee and Green Bay and will roll out other recipients in the coming days.

See the release: 

See more details on the grant program: 

— The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the state has fallen to 864 cases per day, the Department of Health Services site shows. 

That’s the lowest that number has been since the start of August 2021, continuing the trend of rapidly falling cases in the state. Wisconsin’s course is in line with that of the nation, as the omicron surge of COVID-19 continues to recede across the United States. 

COVID-19 disease activity around the state is lessening as well, as both overall disease burden and viral trajectory show signs of improvement. Twenty-nine of the state’s 72 counties have moved down to “high” activity levels, while the other 43 remain in the “very high” category. 

And the state’s percent positivity rate for testing continues to decline, falling from 29.5 percent on Jan. 7 to 5.7 percent most recently. 

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows 663 patients in the state are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 135 intensive care patients. Both of those numbers have dropped significantly since the recent peak in early January, from 2,278 and 488, respectively. 

The seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths also continues to drop, reaching 11 deaths per day at latest count. DHS reports a total of 11,863 COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin. 

The DHS site shows 63.9 percent of state residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 60.3 percent have completed the vaccine series and 32.5 percent have received an additional or booster dose. 

The latest figures come as mask mandates in Dane County and Milwaukee are set to expire at the end of the month. 

Track case numbers here: 

See hospital figures here: 


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– State milk production falls for first time in 11 months


– MEP contractors submit bids for $25M overhaul of UW-Stout dorm

– Building blocks: Gundersen Tri-County Hospital in Whitehall


– State awards Madison and Dane County $21 million for community development projects


– Assembly OKs mandatory jail time for shoplifters


– Quinlan hired as Wisconsin FFA Foundation executive director

– Marcus Corp. CFO Doug Neis to retire after 36 years


– Briggs & Stratton sells Wauwatosa manufacturing plant for $24 million

– Briggs & Stratton sells Wauwatosa plant for $24 million


– Farm implement transfer bill clears state Senate


– Zilber plans fifth industrial building in its Germantown business park

– Too tall: Appleton board denies height variance for midrise apartment building


– Packers create more cap space by restructuring Aaron Jones’ contract


– After foray into NFTs, Madison music streaming startup LÜM shuts down


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

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