THU AM News: Banks have strong start to 2022, WBA report shows; DWD announces Fast Forward grant recipients

— Banks in the state have “started the year 2022 strong” despite concerns about rising inflation, according to the Wisconsin Bankers Association.

Total assets at Wisconsin banks increased about 5 percent over the 12-month period ending March 31 to exceed $143 billion, the latest WBA release shows. At the same time, total deposits rose about 7 percent over the year to reach over $118 billion. 

The group also points to a roughly 21 percent decline in noncurrent loans and leases over the year as evidence that customers are in a good financial position. WBA notes credit quality “continues to improve” as more borrowers are keeping up with payments. 

Still, the release shows that supply chain challenges and worker shortages “continue to inhibit business growth and cause hesitancy among business owners to take out loans.” Commercial and industrial loans declined about 14 percent over the year to just under $16 billion at the end of March. 

Meanwhile, residential lending slowed slightly as the state’s housing market “remained a hot seller’s market,” the release shows. Residential loans declined 0.22 percent over the year. 

“Wisconsin’s banking industry stands poised to meet the banking needs of Wisconsinites in 2022 as government pandemic relief funding phases out,” WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels said in a statement. “Bankers will be keeping a close eye on global supply chain and geopolitical issues as well as the Fed’s rising interest rates going into the rest of the year.”

See the release: 

— The Department of Workforce Development has announced $700,000 in Wisconsin Fast Forward grants for training programs in technology, manufacturing, health care and construction. 

DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek says these awards are expected to benefit 383 individuals, including existing employees and job seekers. After most of these training programs, the workers and trainees involved will receive pay increases, the DWD release shows. 

The largest grant, with nearly $400,000, is going to the MKE Tech Hub Coalition. This Milwaukee-based organization is partnering with Max Technical Training on a program for currently unemployed trainees, the DWD release shows. 

In the manufacturing sector, about $200,000 in grants is going to three employers: MacDonald & Owen Lumber Co. of Polk County, with $128,000; MetalTek International of Jefferson County, with $54,000; and Visions Upholstery & Canvas of Brown County, $20,420. 

In the health care space, Luther Manor in Milwaukee County is getting $40,370 and the NEW Dermatology Group in Brown County is getting $31,730. 

Meanwhile, Stratford Homes in Marathon County is receiving a $25,575 grant to train workers in construction skills. 

See more details in the DWD release: 

— WEDC has announced manufacturer Merz North America will be spending $8 million to expand its facilities in Sturtevant and Franksville. 

To support the expansion, which is expected to create 35 jobs, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. says it’s authorized up to $160,000 in state tax credits for the company. Merz North America can earn the credits over the next three years by meeting job creation targets. 

According to a WEDC release, the North Carolina-based company aims to triple its current output of a million syringe assemblies per year through expansion efforts. Dean Erickson, VP of facilities operations at Merz’s Sturtevant facility, says the company is responding to increased worldwide demand. 

“There really isn’t any aspect of our production line, production facility and manufacturing buildings that we’re not making some changes to,” he said in the release. 

See more project details: 

— The latest USDA crop report shows planting of corn, oats and potatoes in Wisconsin is lagging behind the five-year average. 

At the end of last week, corn planting was 61 percent complete, which is 10 days behind last year and three days behind the average. Oats planting was 75 percent complete, which is over two weeks behind last year and five days behind the average. And potato planting was 80 percent complete, 11 days behind last year and three days behind the average. 

Warming temperatures this month have enabled more fieldwork to take place at farms around the state, USDA reports show. But the latest report suggests farmers are still playing catch-up after “wet and cold” soil conditions earlier in May limited the amount of fieldwork that could be done. 

Meanwhile, soybean planting was 49 percent complete, which is nine days behind last year and in line with the average pace. 

See the USDA report here: 

— A recent study involving UW-Madison researchers found Black and Hispanic children across the country were at “significantly increased risk” for developing asthma compared to white children. 

The study was conducted by a research group directed by Dr. James Gern, professor of pediatrics and medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Researchers looked at data from 5,809 children born in the United States over 40 years, focusing on asthma and the more common symptom of wheezing.

While children born in low-income areas with higher population density and poverty rates had increased rates of asthma, the researchers also found these variables “did not significantly modify the association between race and ethnicity and risk for asthma incidence.” That means Black and Hispanic children included in the study had higher asthma risk than white children regardless of their socioeconomic environment. 

“This study found that poverty and low-income status is associated with asthma, but that’s not all,” Gern said in a release from the university. “There are other things that we need to identify that are also associated with increased asthma rates in Black and Hispanic children.”

The Childhood Respiratory and Environmental Workgroup, or CREW, includes 12 medical centers focused on understanding what causes asthma and related conditions. This study is the first of three planned research phases for CREW and was published this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. 

See the full study: 

See the release: 

— Wisconsin’s birth rate increased in 2021 for the first time in at least five years, according to the latest provisional data from the CDC. 

A report from the agency’s National Vital Statistics System shows the state had a total of 61,719 births last year. That’s slightly higher than the prior year’s total of 60,491, though it remains below the numbers seen in the several years before that. 

Earlier CDC reports show Wisconsin had 63,270 births in 2019, 64,098 in 2018 and 64,975 in 2017. 

The uptick in Wisconsin’s birth rate last year coincides with an increase in the U.S. birth rate in 2021, which rose about 1 percent over the year to over 3.6 million. 

See the latest CDC report: 


# Kohl’s braces for bidders revising down offers -sources

# Baby formula shortage: What Wisconsin families can do to navigate it

# Lifelong learners: For older students at UW-Madison, guest auditing keeps them young



– Ag deputy secretary Bronaugh coming to Wisconsin


– AGC survey: No improvement for work zone safety in past year


– MMSD community input meetings on strategic framework begin Wednesday


– Making MYAC a premiere youth arts destination: Q&A with Chad Tessmer


– USDA to gather info on local-level conservation practices

– Harvest levels approved for 2022 fall elk hunt in Wisconsin

– Lac du Flambeau tribal youth are taught the time-honored tradition of spearfishing


– Torzala Brewing set to open in Bay View’s Lincoln Warehouse in June


– ‘Toxic work environment’ in Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office pushes employees to the brink

– Advocate Aurora discloses price it paid to acquire medical alert firm


– Dept. of Workforce Development hands out $700K in worker training grants


– Former Bader Rutter CFO pleads not guilty in $2.7M embezzlement scheme

– Federal lawsuit alleges price gouging by Advocate Aurora


– Merz North America expanding Racine County operations


– Some Wisconsin lawmakers call for action on gun reform following deadly Uvalde school shooting

– Wisconsin Democrats renew call for votes on gun safety bills

– Records: Scott Walker urged DNR appointee Prehn to stay on past term


– More apartments envisioned for Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View


– Water bottling plant decision delayed by Eau Claire City Council


– Bidders lowering offers for possible Kohl’s deal: Reuters


– Things to do in Madison, including Brat Fest and flamenco

– Food vendors showcase offerings at Summerfest preview party


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

Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce: 30 professionals graduate from Leadership Fox Cities class

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative: Supports second trade dispute with Canada