MON AM News: Survey finds support for more renewable energy projects; Report details outcomes of apprenticeship programs

— A recent survey of Wisconsin voters found broad support for requiring that in-state workers be employed on renewable energy projects in the state. 

The survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by Wisconsin Infrastructure Investment Now, tapping 557 voters on Jan. 17-18 by telephone and text message. 

It found that 67 percent of respondents support this requirement, including 73 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of independents. Nineteen percent are not in favor of the requirement. 

Meanwhile, 64 percent of respondents said the state Public Service Commission should require developers to report to the public how many Wisconsin workers are employed at these projects. That includes 78 percent of responding Democrats, 56 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of independents. Eighteen percent of respondents disagree. 

The survey also found 57 percent of responding voters want to see more renewable energy development in the state, such as solar and wind projects.

WIIN had previously commissioned a study from Forward Analytics that found the in-state economic impact of such projects is significantly larger when they’re constructed by a local workforce rather than out-of-state workers. 

See the full survey results here: 

Listen to a podcast with WIIN Executive Director Robb Kahl discussing the earlier study: 

— Workers who recently completed apprenticeship programs at Wisconsin technical colleges report median annual earnings of $80,000. 

That’s according to the annual Apprenticeship Completion Report from the Wisconsin Technical College System. It included results of a survey sent to 1,220 people who got an apprenticeship completion certificate in 2019-20 and completed their instruction at a Wisconsin technical college. A total of 343 individuals provided responses. 

Across various industries, the median annual self-reported earnings range from $75,000 for maintenance mechanics to about $114,000 for welding/pipe fabrication. 

The report also notes apprenticeship participation has increased by 29 percent over the past five years. 

“Given Wisconsin’s workforce challenges, it is also clear why it is increasingly important to promote interest in apprenticeship and assure access for historically underrepresented populations, including women and people of color,” report authors wrote. 

Just 35 of the 1,220 recent graduates highlighted in the report are female. 

Of respondents who indicated where they are employed, 96 percent said they were working in Wisconsin and 61 percent said they were working in the area where they received their training. 

See the full report: 

— The UW Board of Regents has voted unanimously to name Jay Rothman, chair and CEO of Foley & Lardner, the new System president.

He is the first non-interim leader in the System’s more than 50-year history to come from a non-academic background.

Rothman earned a bachelor’s degree from Marquette University and a law degree from Harvard Law School. He joined Foley in 1986 and became CEO in 2011.

In a video introduction, Rothman recalled growing up on a small farm in Wausau and working on it until going to law school.

“Having been nearly a lifelong resident of the state of Wisconsin, I have seen firsthand the value that the UW System delivers to this state,” Rothman said. “It’s safe to say the economic vibrancy and success of the state of Wisconsin is inextricably linked to the success of the System and the fulfillment of the Wisconsin idea.”

The regents tapped Rothman, 62, over James Schmidt, chancellor of the Eau Claire campus since July 2013.

He will begin the job June 1 and will earn $550,000 annually, the System said.

Interim President Tommy Thompson plans to step down March 18. Mike Falbo, a former regent president, has been asked to serve as interim president between Thompson’s resignation and Rothman taking the job.

See the release: 

— A new study led in part by UW-Madison researchers provides further evidence that the omicron variant of COVID-19 is less severe than previous strains. 

Published Friday in the journal Nature, the study explored the impact of omicron in rodents. Researchers found that four different types of mice and two types of hamsters exposed to omicron “experienced less severe disease” than with earlier strains, including the delta variant. 

Infected animals lost less weight and had milder symptoms, with “no significant changes” in their lung function. According to a release from the university, these results were surprising to scientists. Earlier analysis of the virus suggested its numerous mutations would enable it to attach to cells more effectively. 

But in animals that were genetically modified to have human ACE2 receptors — which enable the virus to infect cells — illness was still not as serious as with earlier variants. 

While efforts to better understand the latest variant continue, earlier research found that omicron spreads more rapidly in the upper respiratory system rather than lower in the lungs. This could help explain why the variant is more contagious while causing less severe disease. 

The findings outlined in the study come from the SARS-CoV-2 Assessment of Viral Evolution, or SAVE, program of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. The release notes the work was led by scientists at UW-Madison and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, with many other research groups around the world contributing. 

See the release: 

See the full study: 

— AARP Wisconsin is calling for nursing homes in the state to require COVID-19 booster shots for residents and staff. 

Interim State Director Christina FitzPatrick points to “alarming data” from the CDC showing 2,358 new COVID-19 cases were seen among nursing home staff in the state during the two-week period ending Jan. 16. Meanwhile, 763 cases were reported among Wisconsin nursing home residents during the same period, according to the AARP release. 

“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant over the past weeks poses a significant risk for residents and staff of nursing homes who have not been boosted,” FitzPatrick said in the release. “For their sake, we must act now and make the delivery of booster shots to nursing home residents and staff our highest priority.” 

As of mid-January, the CDC site shows 73.5 percent of fully vaccinated nursing home residents at reporting facilities in Wisconsin had received an additional primary or booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. For nursing home staff in the state, that number was 36.9 percent. 

See the CDC data here: 

See the AARP release here: 

— Forward Bank CEO Bill Sennholz says a $250,000 WEDC grant has had a “large cascading impact” in Park Falls. 

The agency’s Community Development Investment Grant helped the city pay for infrastructure and street improvements for a larger city park, as well as a site for a new Forward Bank building. 

“The effects of one grant will continue to ripple out into the community for years to come as improvements continue to be made,” Sennholz said in a WEDC release. 

Agency officials attended the bank’s opening last week along with Mayor Michael Bablick. 

He noted the city’s downtown has seen “very little renovation or new buildings” in the last 50 year but the WEDC-supported redevelopment has “reset the clock.” With Forward Bank now located in the new building, its former downtown space is occupied by NorthLakes Community Clinic. 

Night and Day Construction owners Katie and Paul Freiburger have since purchased and renovated two other downtown buildings: a retail building near the new park with space for three tenants, and the Park Theatre. A women’s clothing store has opened in the retail space, and WEDC says another tenant will be moving in this month. 

“We were excited about what was happening downtown,” Katie Freiburger said in the release. “We wanted to be a part of that. We wanted to give our downtown something everyone could be proud of.”

See more on the community development effort here: 


# Milwaukee attorney and CEO Jay Rothman named UW System president

# Madison’s StartingBlock adds health insurance for co-workers

# A hedge fund has targeted Kohl’s Corp. with an unsolicited $9 billion purchase offer



– State egg production mixed in December


– Design board OKs 28-story Wauwatosa tower

– 28-story apartment and office tower approved in Wauwatosa


– Projects benefiting Great Lakes region receive multi-million dollar boost from infrastructure law


– WBC offering ‘Beef in the Classroom’ education grants

– Board of Regents selects attorney Jay Rothman as UW System president

– Business attorney to be University of Wisconsin’s president

– Foley CEO named next UW System president


– Wisconsin DNR wants federal regulators to revise their air quality designations for 2 lakeshore counties

– Parks director to request ARPA funds for additional study on lead in La Crosse River Marsh


– Intel nearly picked Foxconn site, but chose Ohio instead for massive chip manufacturing complex


– Health official: Omicron has not peaked in Wisconsin

– PHMDC mobile vaccine clinic workers see traffic increase at pop-up locations


– Wisconsin Center District CEO says venue near Summerfest may ‘negatively impact’ Miller High Life Theatre


– Egg & Flour will close Wauwatosa location


– UW volleyball coach Sheffield earned $100k bonus for winning national championship


– $2 million affordable housing pilot planned in Milwaukee by social impact fintech startup


– Residents share mixed feelings over state’s largest proposed renewable energy plant in Dane County


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

AARP Wisconsin: Calls for nursing homes to require booster shots for residents, staff

WPS Health Solutions: Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Trevor Klock honored for Operation Fan Mail

UW-Madison: Omicron causes less severe illness in animal models than previous variants