MON AM News: Black Business Hub aims to transform ‘disparity to prosperity’; Unemployment rates in nine metros lower than pre-pandemic

— The co-chair of the Black Business Hub Capital Campaign Committee says the project aims to transform “disparity to prosperity” for Black entrepreneurs in Madison. 

“We want this to be a beacon, really, of what we’re trying to do here in south Madison and grow the opportunities for those less fortunate,” Derrick Smith said during a recent forum held at the Discovery Building on the UW-Madison campus. 

Smith is the senior director of external relations, partnerships and development in UW-Madison’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement. His remarks came after the Urban League of Greater Madison held a groundbreaking earlier this month for the new facility, scheduled to open in spring 2023. 

He highlighted racial disparities in Madison, noting Black unemployment is about five times higher than for white residents. And Black homeownership in Madison is just 10 percent, compared to 23 percent for Wisconsin and 46 percent nationally, he said. 

“Three things I tell people that we need in this town — that most people need in this town — is a good roof over their head, education and a good-paying, liveable job,” he said. “The hub is going to start the process of developing those opportunities.” 

Smith said just 2 percent of Madison public works contracts go to minority-owned firms, arguing that trend adds to disparities in the area. 

“When you see all the new projects going up on East Washington, right, and up on the corridor, the gentrification that’s going on, the reason that is not getting down to the south side of Madison is a big problem, and we feel that by having the hub is going to help in that aspect,” he said. 

He said organizers for the hub had raised about $19.5 million of the $25.5 million total project cost as of earlier this month, and aim to raise the other $6 million by the end of the year. 

Once it’s up and running, the hub will be providing coaching and mentorship services, connecting minority entrepreneurs with state investor networks, and hosting a coworking space with a goal of serving at least 200 “current and aspiring entrepreneurs” annually. 

“We want to attract, develop and retain Black talent throughout the region,” he said. “With the partnership here on campus, how do we retain our students, right? Once they graduate, where do they go? Where can they take their expertise and their knowledge to work here in Madison, rather than having the ‘brain drain’ that we see on a regular basis?” 

See coverage of the recent groundbreaking: 

— Nine of the state’s 12 major metropolitan areas had lower unemployment rates in March than pre-pandemic, the latest federal figures show. 

When comparing preliminary figures from last month with benchmarked data from March 2019, these metro areas had lower unemployment rates in March 2022: Appleton, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, La Crosse-Onalaska, Madison, Oshkosh-Neenah, Sheboygan and Wausau. The rates for these areas were between 0.1 and 0.5 percent lower than the pre-pandemic period. 

Meanwhile, the Janesville-Beloit and Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis metro areas had higher unemployment rates, by 0.3 and 0.2 percent, respectively. Racine’s unemployment rate was unchanged over the two-year period. 

Unemployment rates last month ranged between 2.4 percent in Madison on the low end, and 4.2 percent in Racine on the high end. 

The benchmarked data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show unemployment rates in all of these metro areas shot upward in early 2020 as COVID-19 hit the economy. The latest data indicate metro-area unemployment rates in Wisconsin have largely recovered from the impact of the pandemic. 

See the latest release from the Department of Workforce Development: 

Find the BLS data here: 

— A recent study led by a UW-Madison graduate student found the carbon footprint of the average American diet declined more than 35 percent from 2003 to 2018. 

This change is due to U.S. residents eating less meat and other carbon-intensive foods, according to the study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. It was led by Clare Bassi, a master’s degree student in Madison at the time, and co-authored by Rob Anex, an engineering professor at UW-Madison, as well as researcher Rachael Maysels of the University of Cauca in Colombia. 

A release from the university shows a quarter of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are created by food systems, with animal products and processed foods making up a significant portion of that impact. 

By studying trends in food consumption over a 15-year period, Bassi and co-authors found the carbon footprint of the average U.S. diet fell by more than a third. The study found 75 percent of the diet-related carbon dioxide reduction was due to lower levels of beef, dairy, chicken, pork and eggs being eaten. Lower levels of beef consumption made up “nearly half” of the decline, the release shows. 

“The trend is quite exciting,” Bassi said in the release. “Over the study period, national greenhouse gas savings from dietary changes alone is roughly equivalent to offsetting emissions from every single passenger vehicle in the country for nearly two years.”

The researchers also examined trends based on sex, age, household income and race and ethnicity. While each demographic group saw a reduction in diet-related greenhouse gas emissions of between 30 and 50 percent, women tended to have “lower-impact diets” with about 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per day in 2018. Men had about 3 kilograms per day. 

The average carbon footprint was higher among Hispanics than for non-Hispanic white adults, and lowest among Black adults. The carbon footprint was highest among people with higher incomes, and lowest among those with a lower annual income. Also, younger adults saw a larger drop in their diet-based carbon footprint.

Data for the study came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included responses from over 39,000 U.S. adults. 

See the release: 

— Midwest Renewable Energy Association is providing solar industry training to dozens of employees and trainees with support from a DWD Fast Forward grant. 

The nonprofit group, based in Custer, last year received a $73,810 grant from the Department of Workforce Development. A total of 79 trainees and 15 current workers are getting training in basic and advanced solar skills, and are “on a path” to get advanced industry certifications, a release shows. 

“The training is already paying off for many of the 36 participants who have completed the courses so far,” Nick Hylla, executive director of MREA, said in the release. “The trainees are receiving pay raises averaging $3 or more per hour, increasing their pay on average to just under $30 per hour.”

Hylla noted demand is on the rise in Wisconsin for solar projects, including both large-scale commercial and residential installations. 

See the release: 

— UW-Eau Claire is holding a groundbreaking today for an environmentally friendly County Materials Complex.

The complex will include the new Sonnentag Event Center and the John and Carolyn Sonnentag Fieldhouse. 

According to a release, the Pablo Foundation, Xcel Energy, the city of Eau Claire as well as the university and students are collectively pitching in more than $12 million for sustainability features aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of the event center and fieldhouse. 

The Pablo Foundation, founded in 2017 in Eau Claire, will be providing nearly $10 million for these features, including geothermal wells, a heat exchanger and pumps, “high-performance” window treatments, additional wall and roof insulation and more. 

Of the foundation’s contribution, $5 million is being provided through a grant while the rest is a low-interest loan “to be repaid over several years through energy savings,” the release shows. 

Meanwhile, the city is contributing $1.5 million to the project, which supports its goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy and carbon neutrality by 2050. The release shows students at UW-Eau Claire last year provided $150,000 for the project. 

The over $100 million complex will be participating in a renewable energy program and will be powered with up to 100 percent carbon-free solar energy, Xcel Energy says in the release. Aside from the event center and fieldhouse, the building will also include the $15 million Mayo Clinic Health System Diagnostic Imaging and Sports Medicine Center. 

See project details: 

See more environmental news at the Earth Day page: 


# Evers creates new office of environmental justice

# Northern Wisconsin communities stand by CAFO ordinances despite legal challenges from dairy, commerce groups

# Video game workers at Call of Duty maker OK’d for union vote



– Avian flu affecting egg production?

– New industry reps elected to World Dairy Expo board

– Westby Cooperative Creamery is a longtime maker of dairy products


– $1.5 million gifted to Marquette University mentorship program


– ‘The Earth is dying’: On Earth Day, Wisconsin students are calling for climate action

– Evers creates new Office of Environmental Justice on Earth Day

– Beavers and wolves are key to biodiversity in northern Wisconsin, conservancy group leader says


– Madison chef Patrick O’Halloran to leave Lombardino’s for new venture

– For more than 6 generations, this Outagamie County family has been making maple syrup


– Allergy specialist tackles myths, questions about allergies and their treatments


– New African American Leadership Alliance Milwaukee CEO seeks to change city’s reputation

– Passion for affordable housing is central to Waukesha Habitat CEO Melissa Songco


– ThriveOn giving $5 million to childcare centers, names early education provider for King Drive facility


– Proposed 32-unit Grafton housing development for autistic adults, college students up for review

– Strang grows its Waukesha office


– CNBC reports Simon Property Group expressing interest in Kohl’s bid

– Sentry grocery store in the works at 64th and Silver Spring on Milwaukee’s northwest side


– Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator seeking its next cohort


– Milwaukee Public Museum execs move forward on building plans, major fundraising effort


– Some Class II road restrictions end Monday

– Southwest cut thousands of flights from its June schedule. Here’s what happened at Mitchell International.


– Nashotah couple invests in eco-friendly upgrades to lower energy costs and carbon emissions


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

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