THU AM News: Latest cohort announced for Black Founder Accelerator program; Evers provides update on Main Street Bounceback grants

— The five startup companies named to the latest cohort of Northwestern Mutual’s Black Founder Accelerator program are developing solutions for financial services, insurance and digital health. 

The Milwaukee-based company yesterday announced the names of the startups participating in the program, run in partnership with gener8tor. The Black Founder Accelerator supports U.S. tech startups led by Black entrepreneurs. 

According to the release, Black founders receive less than 1 percent of all venture capital. This initiative aims to help address that disparity. 

The 12-week program includes two cohorts of five companies per year. Each participating company receives a $100,000 investment and gets access to mentors and guidance, as well as venture capital partners. 

“This next class of five startups builds upon the success of the 10 founders we were proud to team up with in 2021,” Craig Schedler, managing director of Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, said in a statement. “This group was selected based on their unique business models and drive to build tech solutions that help people live longer, better, and healthier lives across multiple areas of focus.” 

The cohort announced yesterday is the first of two for this year, including startups from Georgia, Colorado, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Selected startups include: 

*Pagedip of Colorado, which has a digital tool for creating and sharing smart documents with analytics on reader focus. It’s led by founder and CEO Sherisse Hawkins. 

*Pruuvn of Georgia, a credentialing business using blockchain technology for contractor verification, onboarding and compliance. It was founded by CEO Bryan Hobbs. 

*SnapRefund of Pennsylvania, which has a payment platform for businesses such as insurance carriers. Cody Eddings is the startup’s founder and CEO. 

*Stimulus, also of Pennsylvania. This company aims to improve transparency and diversity in the purchasing process with a scoring system. It’s headed up by founder and CEO Tiffanie Stanard. 

*And Xcellent Life, of Tennessee, which has a digital health platform that incorporates predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to deliver personalized health insights. Victor Brown is the founder and CEO. 

See the release: 

— Over 5,200 businesses and nonprofits have been approved for $10,000 Main Street Bounceback grants since the state began awarding them last August, Gov. Tony Evers announced. 

A total of $75 million has been allocated for 7,500 recipients to get the grants, which are awarded through regional development partners of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 

According to a release from the guv’s office, Evers gave this update during a visit to Stoughton while announcing a $76,100 Community Development Investment grant for the city. The funds will be used to rehabilitate an unoccupied building and help open a home furnishing gallery and woodworking space called Grand Inspired. 

“Our Main Street Bounceback grants are helping transform downtowns from Stoughton to Superior and everywhere in between,” Evers said in the release. 

Since the program began in 2013, WEDC has awarded nearly $34.8 million in CDI grants to 166 communities. Funded projects are expected to generate over $517 million in capital investments in Wisconsin. 

See the release: 

— WEDC is authorizing up to $450,000 in state income tax credits to support a litter box manufacturer’s planned $10.7 million expansion in Juneau. 

In a release, Whisker says this facility expansion will help the company meet “spiking product demand.” The company makes self-cleaning litter boxes. According to a release from WEDC, the expansion is expected to create 150 jobs over the next two years. 

Whisker can earn the tax credits over the next three years by hitting certain benchmarks for job creation and capital investment, the release shows. 

“The incentives from WEDC and the support we got from the community, with regards to our ability to add more land and continue growing in the city we were already in, reassured us that we’re in the right place and that our investment deserves to stay in Juneau,” Jacob Zuppke, CEO and president of Whisker, said in a statement. 

WEDC says an economic modeling study estimates the project could indirectly create 70 jobs in the region on top of the 150 direct jobs. Those jobs would generate $417,196 in state income tax revenue over a five-year period, according to the release. 

See more project details: 

— Municipalities facing issues raising revenue hit legal challenges as they looked for new ways to fund transportation improvements, a new Wisconsin Policy Forum report shows. 

Several Wisconsin municipalities are experimenting with assessing transportation utility fees to property owners as a way to fund transportation maintenance and improvement projects. The Wisconsin Policy Forum report shows the town of Buchanan and the village of Pewaukee are implementing the additional fees as a way to offer transportation services while they struggle with limits on shared revenue and property tax levies. 

The new tax is meant to treat transportation infrastructure such as roads the same way municipalities treat utilities such as water and electricity. 

Pewaukee assesses a base fee to all properties in addition to usage fees based on the use and size of the buildings on the property. Buchanan, located in Outagamie County, also assesses a base fee, but its base fee varies depending on the property’s land use type. Buchanan’s transportation utility fee also assesses a trip-generation fee using a formula meant to determine the number of vehicle trips per property within the town.

Instead of the more common wheel tax fee, TUFs are meant to more evenly distribute the tax burden among taxpayers. Proponents of TUFs argue wheel tax fees disproportionately burden low-income taxpayers, according to the report. 

But those new funding sources face legal challenges.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is suing Pewaukee over the new fee. The group argues imposing the tax violates Wisconsin’s property tax levy limits in the uniformity clause of the state Constitution. 

Wisconsin Policy Forum in its conclusion notes the results of legal battles over the fees will likely influence municipalities’ decisions on implementing TUFs. 

While the group notes municipalities could use federal pandemic relief dollars and money from this year’s federal infrastructure bill, it also notes that spending could be offset by inflationary issues such as rising labor and material costs. 

See the report:

— The DNR will be taking public comments through Aug. 12 on a contract with Serigraph for the West Bend company to maintain its current status in the Green Tier program. 

According to a release from the Department of Natural Resources, the printing company joined the program as a Tier 1 participant in 2006 before moving to Tier 2 in 2011. The Green Tier program provides a framework for companies to reduce environmental impacts and risk. 

The contract in question will allow the company to maintain its Tier 2 status for two facilities in West Bend. The release shows the proposed contract includes future goals such as reducing hazardous air pollutant discharges and energy consumption, as well as installing new solar panels. Serigraph currently has an environmental management system in place. 

According to the DNR, the contract will enable the company to be covered by the Green Tier Registration Operation Permit, which requires that facilities maintain air emission levels below 80 percent of major source thresholds. 

Serigraph CEO Sean Torinus says the company has held Tier 2 status in the program longer than any other participant. 

“We celebrate the positive impact our efforts to protect the environment have had on our community and commit to continuing those efforts into the future,” he said in the release. 

See more details: 

— Alliant Energy has announced a new program in which participating customers allow the company to adjust their smart thermostat during “occasional periods of extreme temperatures.” 

The Madison-based utility says the program will help its customers lower their energy usage during peak demand spikes. Customers with smart thermostats who enroll in the Smart Hours program get a $25 payment for signing up and another $25 incentive for each summer and winter season. 

According to a release from the company, the program will help Alliant Energy use more environmentally friendly energy sources to provide electricity on very hot or cold days. Alliant says it can “keep electricity costs lower” for all of its customers by relying on “cleaner, more energy-efficient sources.” 

“For customers, this is a simple way to save money and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time,” said Kari Gehrke, manager of demand-side management for the utility. 

See the release: 

— Marshfield Clinic Health System says a newly announced partnership with DispatchHealth will improve health care access for rural patients in Wisconsin. 

DispatchHealth, based in Colorado, provides in-home medical services including diagnostics and acute care. The partnership with MCHS expands the company’s footprint to Wisconsin, according to CEO and co-founder Mark Prather. 

“Our unique care model enables our partners to extend their reach to patients in rural communities,” he said in a statement. 

A release shows the partnership aims to reduce non-emergency visits to the emergency department, lower medical costs and improve health outcomes for MCHS patients. 

The new service is now available to residents of parts of western Wisconsin including Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Altoona and surrounding communities. Starting tomorrow, residents of Stevens Point, Marshfield, Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding areas will also have access.

“The face of health care is evolving faster than ever, and we are evolving along with it,” MCHS CEO Dr. Susan Turney said in the release. “This partnership and the value it brings to our patients aligns with our commitment to bring high-quality health care services close to, and in this case inside, the homes of our patients.” 

See the release: 

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# Nearly half of Wisconsin businesses plan to raise wages by more than 4% in 2022, WMC survey finds

# Partnership receives $500K to cut Milwaukee-area carbon emissions and utility bills

# Alliant Energy to pay customers $25 to take over their thermostats at peak times



– Wisconsin’s small grains yields looking adequate


– Evers announces $76,100 investment to redevelop Stoughton Doughboy building


– Inflation hits another 40-year high. What does that mean for shoppers and the next Fed rate hike?

– Even with recession fears, 62% of Wisconsin employers plan to add jobs

– Future 50 winners for 2022 announced


– Green Bay businesses offer free tuition, housing to 50+ NWTC manufacturing students


– New events venue with dining business to open on Madison’s east side in 2023


– Aon renews its relationship with Packers by moving its offices from downtown Green Bay to Titletown District


– Wisconsin doctor buys Illinois buildings to offer abortions

– Second case of monkeypox in Wisconsin, Mayo Rochester now testing

– Versiti acquires Missouri-based Ethical and Independent Review Service

– Unclear state laws leave Wisconsin health care providers unsure of reproductive care


– Rite-Hite is starting to move employees from Brown Deer to its new Walker’s Point headquarters. It will eventually have 300 workers.


– Neumann proposes subdivision with at least 260 units on contested Delafield site


– On Retail: A brighter corner on State Street and a larger space for Red Square Flowers

– Kohl’s finalizing downtown Milwaukee location in former Boston Store


– ‘The ideas are endless’ for Wisconsin’s new club space in nearly complete Camp Randall renovation

– New Berlin’s OAW Sports Complex collapsed just 9 months after opening. What’s next for the sports complex?


– Be MKE: Bastille Days, new Wisconsin State Fair foods and too many restaurant closings

– Return of leisure, business travel lifts Journeyman Hotel’s summer demand, new GM says


– Dane County airport getting $2.6M from infrastructure bill

– How Green Bay travelers save money on flights despite surging airfare costs


– Editorial: Crooked Wisconsin Supreme Court majority gave a pass to shady regulators


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