THU AM News: Videography startup wins Doyenne pitch contest; Council calls for changes to groundwater standards

— A videography startup working with businesses and nonprofits in Madison has won the Doyenne Group’s annual 5x5x5 pitch contest. 

Jamie Perez, a former TV news reporter and founder of Beyond Words Productions, pitched her company yesterday during the virtual competition. It was held as part of Forward Festival, an entrepreneurship and technology event series being held this week in Madison. 

“I was able to leave news behind but I was unable to put the camera down and leave storytelling behind,” she said yesterday. “My passion is in telling compelling and compassionate and heartfelt stories, so that’s what I continue to do to this day.” 

The contest is meant to help early-stage startups jumpstart their businesses, as part of Doyenne’s mission to advance women- and minority-led entrepreneurship in the state. Perez beat out four other competitor entrepreneurs for the $5,000 prize, which she plans to use for better camera equipment and hiring. 

Perez said she aims to create emotional connections through her video projects, helping clients reach customers in a transparent and organic way. She caters to “underserved” organizations in Madison such as social enterprises with limited production budgets. 

“Those businesses are often very mission-driven and have a lot of really good emotive stories,” she said. “I’m helping people reach new audiences. So I’m not just providing them with video, but I’m giving them tips on how to master the social media algorithms … my videos are helping specifically with fundraising, storytelling, hiring, marketing.” 

This year’s pitch competition was the 12th held by the Doyenne Group, according to co-founder Heather Wentler. She said 93 percent of past winners have been women and about half were minority entrepreneurs. 

“We work with women and marginalized entrepreneurs from across Wisconsin, and we’re starting to see broader reach,” Wentler said. “The main area of entrepreneur that we focus on are in the early-stage phase of their company.” 

Other competitors in yesterday’s pitch contest gave presentations on an urban cultural arts program, technology for desalination and treatment of wastewater, an environmentally conscious meal kit business, and a virtual assistant program. 

See more on Perez and the other entrepreneurs here: 

— In a report to state lawmakers, the Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council is calling for new health-based groundwater standards, among other changes. 

According to a release from the state Department of Natural Resources, the council yesterday delivered its annual report to the Legislature. 

Along with new groundwater standards incorporating recommendations from health officials, the report includes recommendations aimed at protecting groundwater from pollution by nitrates and other agricultural runoff, and addressing the impacts of hazardous PFAS chemicals. 

Jim Zellmer, the council’s chair and deputy division administrator for the DNR’s Environmental Management Division, notes keeping groundwater clean is critical for consumption as well as farming and other industries such as brewing. 

“Adopting groundwater standards are key for all council member agencies in their continuing work to ensure every Wisconsinite has access to clean, safe drinking water,” he said in the release.

See details of the report here: 

See the DNR release: 

— In the latest Marquette Law School Poll, inflation topped the list of concerns for registered voters in Wisconsin. 

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they’re very concerned about inflation, while 27 percent said they’re somewhat concerned and 4 percent said they’re not too concerned. 

A release from the university shows concern about inflation has come down from the prior survey in June, when 75 percent said they were very concerned. The shift comes as gasoline prices have fallen from their recent peak this summer and the core inflation rate has also declined slightly, the release notes. 

Other top issues for voters include gun violence, crime, abortion policy, public schools, taxes, climate change, illegal immigration and coronavirus. 

The poll tapped 811 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone Aug. 10-15. 

See more survey results:

— The GOP co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee say they will make changes to the state’s plan for opioid settlement funds.

Dem Gov. Tony Evers and AG Josh Kaul ripped them for the move, saying it will delay getting needed resources to communities impacted by the epidemic.  

The Department of Health Services recently submitted an updated proposal to JFC for how Wisconsin should use the $31 million in opioid settlement funds awarded to the state for this year. The plan proposes using funds for a variety of mitigation, treatment and recovery efforts. 

In a statement yesterday, the committee’s co-chairs — Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, and Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green — say they’ve been working to ensure funds are going toward “impactful programs without duplicating our efforts.” 

“We will swiftly improve the plan to promptly distribute these funds to help combat the opioid crisis that continues to ravage our state,” they said in the statement. 

The state received an initial payment of $6 million at the start of the month, with the rest coming later this year. The $31 million this year is part of an overall settlement total of over $400 million coming to Wisconsin. 

The co-chairs did not immediately respond to inquiries about how they will change the plan. 

Meanwhile, Evers says communities around the state “need these funds now.”

“For these legislators to turn their backs on the people of Wisconsin, especially given increases in substance misuse and the mental and behavioral health challenges our state is facing today in the wake of the pandemic, it simply defies logic,” he said in a release. 

And Kaul argued “there’s no good reason for Republican legislators to stand in the way” of the settlement funds being distributed. 

See the co-chairs’ statement: 

See the DHS plan: 

See the guv’s release: 

— Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Nathan Houdek says the newly enacted federal Inflation Reduction Act will “have a significant impact” on lowering prescription drug costs for seniors in the state. 

According to a release from the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, the law allows Medicare to negotiate prices of the most expensive prescription drugs to lower costs. And it caps out-of-pocket costs for drugs at $2,000 per year for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, the release shows. 

Houdek, who chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Reducing Prescription Drug Prices, says these changes represent “a historic step” to improve affordability and health care access for Wisconsin residents.

Plus, the law extends health insurance subsidies for plans that are expected to save the average enrollee more than $700 per year, according to OCI. 

“With these subsidies in place, we look forward to encouraging more enrollment in the affordable, high-quality plans available to Wisconsinites when the Open Enrollment Period begins in November,” Houdek said in the release. 

See more on the Inflation Reduction Act in a White House fact sheet: 

See the OCI release: 

— Immuto Scientific has been awarded a $2.5 million federal grant from the National Institutes of Health.

According to a release, the Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant will expand the Madison-based company’s research and development efforts. 

CEO Faraz Choudhury says the funding will help “advance drug discovery against challenging targets.” 

The company’s technology helps companies understand how effectively a drug binds to its target to improve the effectiveness of the drug.

See more at Madison Startups: 

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