THU AM News: Paper Council leader optimistic about federal grant proposal; Evers announces grants for tourism projects

— The head of the Wisconsin Paper Council says he’s “very optimistic” about securing an up to $100 million federal grant after Gov. Tony Evers announced the state would provide matching funds for the effort. 

Wisconsin will be pitching in up to $8.2 million in matching funds to support the federal grant application spearheaded by the Paper Council, Evers said yesterday in a release. 

“This is one piece of the puzzle for our application,” Wisconsin Paper Council President Scott Suder told

The proposal from state paper and forestry industry stakeholders was among 60 around the country to get a $500,000 planning grant last year through the federal Build Back Better Challenge Grant program. The release shows applicants were asked to show they can provide at least $20 million in matching funds to qualify for the next round of $100 million grants. 

“We asked the governor to assist us in that effort,” Suder said yesterday in an interview. “We’re very pleased that he has accepted that challenge and is going to provide some measure of matching funds should we receive that grant.” 

Evers and WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo expressing support for the proposal. They noted the coalition has already raised more than $11.8 million from other sources, including businesses, individuals, nonprofits, and tribal and local governments. 

“We want to assure you that the State of Wisconsin remains resolutely committed to ensuring the success of this project as well,” they wrote in the letter. 

The Wisconsin coalition’s initial proposal, titled “A Wisconsin Forest Products Cluster: A Catalyst for Sustainable, Enduring Transformation,” highlighted the 35-county region of northern Wisconsin. It referenced proposed projects including a new research and development facility for the industry, training programs and efforts to create new markets for forestry products. 

By implementing these and other projects in the proposal, the coalition estimates 2,500 new jobs and $2 billion in new economic output will be created over the next decade. The release from the guv’s office shows the state’s paper and forestry industry employs nearly 63,000 workers and makes up nearly $18 billion of Wisconsin’s manufacturing output. 

Suder emphasized the bipartisan support for the application, calling the state pledge “part of a much larger effort from our diverse coalition.” He noted Republicans and Democrats are backing the application, and said a related legislative resolution is expected from both the Assembly and Senate “very soon.” 

“This is really all hands on deck, and it is a really great example of bipartisan cooperation toward a goal of making certain that we’re ready for the future, to focus on innovation, and future markets, and research and development, diversification and diversity for Wisconsin’s forest products industries,” he said. 

The application for the $100 million grant is due March 15, Suder said. He added coalition members will “work right up to the application deadline to make sure that we have every resource available to qualify for this.” 

The Paper Council-led coalition also includes Mid-State Technical College, the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association, the Sustainable Resource Institute, UW-Stevens Point’s Institute for Sustainable Technology, Menominee Nation Tribal Enterprises, and the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry. 

See the letter: 

See the coalition’s proposal overview: 

See the release: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced $21.9 million in grants going to 27 recipients for tourism-related projects around the state. 

Funding from the Tourism Capital Investment Grant Program is going to efforts to “promote, maintain, or bolster” the state’s tourism industry, a release shows. The program is funded by American Rescue Plan Act dollars, and grants of between $29,000 to $3.5 million will be used for buildings, public attractions or travel-related infrastructure. 

“From Green Bay to Hayward to Wisconsin Dells, these capital infrastructure projects will help ensure Wisconsin’s tourism industry — and all the industries that depend on it — continue to be a strong part of our economy,” Evers said in the release. 

Recipients include the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau, Experience Greater Green Bay Corporation, Port Milwaukee, the American Players Theatre of Wisconsin, county governments and local chambers of commerce, sporting and athletics organizations, and a number of other groups. 

See the full list of recipients and awards: 

— A leading expert on COVID-19 in Wisconsin says the effect of “long COVID” on society could be significant, with early impacts likely representing just “the tip of the iceberg.” 

Dr. Nasia Safdar discussed some of the latest research on COVID-19 in a recent UW Now webinar hosted by the Wisconsin Alumni Association. Though she noted “we still have a great deal to learn about” the condition known as long COVID, she said recent findings provide some cause for concern. 

“Unless we plan for this and really invest a lot of efforts to try and figure this out and fix it, we’re going to find ourselves with this next phase of pandemic in a pretty bad situation with long COVID,” she said. 

Under the CDC definition, long COVID — otherwise known as post-COVID-19 conditions — includes new symptoms or persistence of symptoms occurring about 30 days after the initial onset of COVID-19. Safdar highlighted related findings recently published in The Lancet, a weekly medical journal. 

The study included results of an online survey of about 4,000 individuals with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 who had illness lasting over 28 days with onset prior to June 2020. 

“What they found was that a large number of people had symptoms associated with either higher-level cognitive dysfunction — so memory, fogginess — it’s usually pretty vaguely defined by patients because it’s hard to find the words sometimes,” she said. “These are people who were completely doing very well before, got COVID, potentially a mild illness, but yet find themselves struggling to get back to work, for instance.” 

Other major symptoms include general fatigue and post-exercise discomfort as well as sleep issues. She noted the cognitive impact was seen across “people of all ages,” and almost 50 percent of participants said they needed to adjust their work schedule or make other accommodations to go back to work.

These symptoms can be triggered by factors including stress, alcohol, caffeine and starting a menstrual cycle, Safdar explained. She said the information in the study was self-reported, so “there will probably be some refinement” to this understanding as biomarkers and diagnostic tests are developed. 

“But we can’t lose sight of the fact that just because it’s a poorly described syndrome, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist and doesn’t have an impact on people,” she said. 

Safdar added the time to recovery exceeded 35 weeks for the majority of participants. 

“At the very least, when people start to get those symptoms they now have an anchor to say, yes, it’s going to take a while, it will get better but it’s not going to be immediate,” she said. 

— The state has launched a new educational resource through the updated Dose of Reality initiative, providing information aimed at combating the opioid epidemic. 

The original initiative began in 2015 under the state Department of Justice and focused on preventing misuse of prescription painkillers, a release from the Department of Health Services shows. The revamped effort, from both DOJ and DHS, will address all opioids such as heroin and fentanyl. 

The new website includes information on opioid risks, safe storage and disposal of medications, details on the overdose reversal drug naloxone, treatment and recovery options for opioid use disorder, as well as strategies for how to support those with the disorder and at-risk individuals. 

“Everyone living in Wisconsin can make a difference in turning back the epidemic of opioid misuse and overdose,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “It starts with real talks. Having open and honest talks with your family and friends can be tough, but it may be the most important thing you do.”

According to the DHS release, a “key part” of the updated initiative is promoting how to safely store and get rid of unused prescription medications. The next “Drug Take Back Day” in Wisconsin is planned for April 30, and the site includes information for finding permanent medication drop boxes around the state. 

In the DHS release, Gov. Tony Evers notes the state’s opioid problem “tragically has only gotten worse” in recent years. The Wisconsin State Crime Lab reported 51 fentanyl cases in 2015, but that number has since reached 546 cases in 2020. 

“Opioids have ravaged families and communities across our state, and this initiative is just one of the ways that my administration is working to tackle this issue head-on to help folks get on the road to recovery,” Evers said. 

See the new Dose of Reality site here: 

See the release: 

— Reconstructing 23 miles of I-41 between Appleton and De Pere is now projected to cost nearly $1.1 billion, according to a new DOT projection.

The new cost estimate for final design, real estate and construction was included for the first time in the agency’s report to the Transportation Projects Commission.

The project will expand the section of interstate to three lanes in both directions from two and reconstruct bridges and overpasses. Once completed, the interstate will be six lanes from Oshkosh to Green Bay.

Previous estimates on the project cost were in the neighborhood of $1.25 billion. The project is scheduled to begin in earnest in 2025 with a completion date of 2029.

In the report to the TPC, DOT Secretary Craig Thompson updated members of the body on other cost estimates.

For example, the overall estimate for major highway projects and mega projects in southeastern Wisconsin is $27.9 million lower than previously expected.

Meanwhile, projected costs are up $18 million on two projects under consideration: work on the I-39/90 corridor between Madison and the Wisconsin Dells; and U.S. 51 between U.S. 12 and Wisconsin 19 on the east side of Madison.

Read the report:

— The Department of Natural Resources has announced it is extending the public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed relocation of Enbridge’s Line 5 crude oil pipeline.

The public input period on the project that would construct about 41 miles of new Line-5 pipeline while abandoning about 20 miles of old pipeline will now end March 18. The project is intended to move the Line 5 route off of tribal lands of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

See more information on the draft environmental impact statement here:


# Milwaukee’s acting mayor says crime will slow when economic development increases

# New time and revenue tracking platform in Milwaukee forms from previous local firm

# Supply chain, inflation issues remain for manufacturers as growth slows in January



– Wisconsin’s overall cattle numbers rose from last year

– State’s sheep, dairy goat herds were mixed in numbers


– Port Milwaukee, Zoo each get $3.5 million in federal funds for upgrades

– Developer revises biggest piece of full-block project on East Washington Avenue


– ‘Home is here’: Northeast Wisconsin’s surge in diversity forged by opportunity, grit and inclusion


– 19 schools join Wisconsin voucher programs for 2022-23

– COVID accelerates growing MMSD staff shortages

– Classes begin inside new UW-Madison chemistry building


– Past warnings led to expansive investigation, prosecution of sturgeon caviar ring


– Amorphic Beer opens brewery in Riverwest, Eagle Park expands distribution: Beer Biz MKE


– Wisconsin Beef Ambassador applications available

– Good Karma Brands looks to ‘chart its own course’ with new studios, offices at The Avenue


– Madison officials raise concerns over Legislature’s electric vehicle bill

– Milwaukee team optimistic after RNC event in Salt Lake City


– Bronzeville arts center would replace DNR building on King Drive in Milwaukee

– Bronzeville arts group plans cultural center at former DNR building site on King Drive


– Bill would revise certification requirements for residential contractors


– Wisconsin athletes competing at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

– Cushing musher wins fourth Beargrease sled dog race


– Green Bay visitors center gets final $2.5M needed from Evers


– JetBlue Airways will begin Milwaukee service March 27

– Pilot program will allow teen semi drivers as apprentices


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