THU AM News: Report details clean jobs recovery in Wisconsin, Midwest; Officials announce meat processing grants

— Wisconsin’s clean energy jobs recovery is lagging behind the Midwest overall, according to figures released as part of the 2022 Clean Jobs Midwest report. 

Data in the report, from Evergreen Climate Innovations and Environmental Entrepreneurs, show the region overall had regained more than half of the clean energy jobs lost during the pandemic by the fourth quarter of 2021. By comparison, Wisconsin had regained less than a third of the jobs that were lost by that time. 

Between the fourth quarter of 2019 and Q4 2020, the state lost 7,342 clean energy jobs for a decline of 9.6 percent. Between 2020 and 2021, a total of 2,027 jobs were regained in this sector in Wisconsin for an increase of about 2.9 percent. 

But report authors note that clean energy jobs in Wisconsin grew 20 percent faster than the overall economy last year. 

The state had 71,370 clean energy jobs in 2021, according to the report. That includes employees in a variety of industries, including energy efficiency, advanced transportation, grid and storage, renewable energy generation and clean fuels. 

The report also shows the importance of small businesses to this sector of the state’s economy. Last year, 68 percent of clean energy businesses in Wisconsin employed fewer than 20 workers. 

Energy efficiency makes up the largest segment of this industry in Wisconsin by employment, with over 79 percent of the state’s clean energy workforce. This industry covers installation of efficient lighting, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as manufacturing of energy efficient appliances. 

Micaela Preskill, Midwest states advocate for Environmental Entrepreneurs, noted the sector employs more than 714,000 people in the region. She touted federal policies aimed at workforce training, building transmission infrastructure and ensuring the benefits of clean energy reach disadvantaged communities around the country. 

“A transition to a clean economy that supports everyone is within reach,” she said yesterday during a webinar. 

See the data for Wisconsin here: 

— A total of 91 meat processing companies in Wisconsin have been selected for $10 million in funding through the state’s Meat and Poultry Supply Chain Resiliency Grant Program. 

State officials yesterday announced the grants, which provide up to $150,000 in funding for individual projects. According to a release, processors must provide a 100 percent match for the grant total. 

Recipients are located in 48 counties in Wisconsin. They were chosen in a competitive selection process after DATCP got 99 grant applications requesting more than $11.1 million in funding. 

See the list of recipients here: 

See the release: 

— A health tech startup based in Madison wants to use an ultrasound device to monitor patient breathing during medical procedures. 

Dr. Guelay Bilen-Rosas, AyrFlo CEO and an anesthesiologist in UW-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health, discussed the company’s technology yesterday during the Wisconsin BioHealth Summit in Madison. 

She explained standard monitoring processes for patients under sedation — such as measuring oxygen saturation in the blood — are focused on secondary “downstream” effects rather than directly measuring airflow. 

Because this approach is based on physiological metrics that change after respiratory disruption, Bilen-Rosas says some patients end up dying due to reversible breathing problems. 

“Because we do not see the source of those upstream problems, what do we do? We use our experience and expertise as health care workers to supplement that knowledge gap, which is subjective, biased, and depends on our skill levels,” she said. 

In hopes of improving the way that breathing is monitored, AyrFlo is developing a wearable medical device that can be attached to the outside of the patient’s neck. By using ultrasound waves to measure airflow velocity, this device could provide greater insights into patient condition, Bilen-Rosas said. 

“I wanted to actually measure breathing quantitatively, continuously, in real time,” she said. “I wanted to know when the patient’s breathing begins to change, and I wanted to know how much it’s changing and even know what the source is.” 

By diagnosing the cause of breathing problems during procedures earlier with the help of this device, Bilen-Rosas says clinicians can provide better care to their patients. 

See more on the company: 

— State health officials have announced $16 million in grants will fund efforts to improve maternal and child health in Wisconsin. 

Funds will be invested through the Medical College of Wisconsin Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment and the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, with a goal of reducing disparities in health outcomes for mothers and their children. Funding will also go to the Department of Health Services’ Maternal and Child Health Program. 

According to the DHS release announcing the American Rescue Plan Act-funded initiative, the maternal mortality rate for Black women in the state is about five times as high as the rate for white women. And the agency says infants of Indigenous and Latino women are 1.5 times as likely to die before their first birthday, compared to infants born to white mothers. 

“We have to connect the dots to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare if we want to address the health disparities our state has faced for years,” Gov. Tony Evers said in the release. 

The UW SMPH and MCW endowment will use funds for community-centered grant programs focused on social determinants of health, according to DHS. They aim to address factors such as affordable housing, employment, access to doula and midwife programs, training for community health workers and more. 

See the DHS release: 

— A biomedical engineering professor with Marquette University is getting a $3.34 million federal grant for research into mobility for multiple sclerosis patients. 

Brian Schmit is a professor in the Marquette University and Medical College of Wisconsin Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. His project is being funded by the National Institutes of Health, and aims to improve walking ability and balance for MS patients. 

Schmit points to “unmet rehabilitation needs” for people with MS, who often experience nerve damage as a result of the disease. His study will evaluate the effects of high-intensity exercise and balance disruptions during treadmill training on participants who have MS. 

“We hope this will lead to two developments,” he said in a release. “The first is to reduce falls by enhancing balance while walking, which will get better with repeated practice walking on a surface that moves unexpectedly. The second is to improve strength, coordination, and heart and lung capacity to be able to walk faster and farther.”

See the release: 

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