TUE AM News: Bank CEO survey reflects economic stability; Talking Trade with Rocío Rivera Barradas, of the General Consulate of Mexico in Chicago

— Bank executives in Wisconsin say the state is in a much better position going into 2022 than at this point last year, as rebounding industries contribute to economic stability. 

That’s according to the latest Bank CEO Economic Conditions Survey from the Wisconsin Bankers Association, in which 79 percent of respondents last month ranked the state’s current economic health as good or excellent. In December 2020, that number was just 42 percent. 

Still, the year-end picture has worsened slightly from the previous survey conducted mid-year 2021, when 91 percent of respondents said the state’s economic health was good or excellent. The percentage of those choosing “excellent” decreased from 15 percent in the prior survey to 6 percent in the latest survey. 

Meanwhile, the outlook for the state’s economy over the next six months has dimmed somewhat compared to both the mid-year survey and the previous year-end survey, as fewer respondents expect the state’s economy to grow over that period. 

About 21 percent said they expect the Wisconsin economy to improve in the next six months, while 15 percent said it would weaken and 64 percent expect it to stay the same. 

By comparison, 48 percent of respondents to the last mid-year survey expected the state economy to grow in the following six months, while 39 percent expected it to weaken and 13 percent expected no change. In the previous year-end survey, 45 percent expected growth, 14 percent expected a weakening economy and 41 percent expected no change. 

As Wisconsin bank CEOs eye trends for 2022, some of their top concerns include inflation, new variants of COVID-19 that may arise, workforce shortages and supply chain problems hampering business growth. 

“Wisconsin bank CEOs are in a unique position to gain insights into the microeconomic activities in their markets given the critical roles they play as lenders, advisors, and community leaders,” said WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels. “As such, they often see developments occurring before economic trends are widely identified.” 

The survey invitation was sent to 229 contacts between Dec. 14-24 by email, and 80 bank CEOs provided responses via online survey software.

See more survey results: https://www.wisbank.com/2021/12/wisconsin-bank-ceos-report-positive-economic-conditions/ 

— The latest episode of “Talking Trade” features Rocío Rivera Barradas, consul of economic affairs at the General Consulate of Mexico in Chicago. 

Barradas highlights difficulties related to trading with China and other Asian countries due in part to COVID-19 factors. She notes the auto industry has been struggling amid the pandemic, contrasting that with the success of the medical industry and strong Mexican beer sales in Illinois. 

Also due to the pandemic and related trade challenges, Barradas says more U.S. companies “are looking again to Mexico” to relocate some of their operations. 

“Here at the consulate, we receive many questions and requests about finding suppliers in Mexico,” she said. “Also finding companies that can’t manufacture products that they used to buy from China — now they want to buy it from Mexico.” 

Watch the show here: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/talking-trade-with-rocio-rivera-barradas-of-the-general-consulate-of-mexico-in-chicago/ 

See more episodes of “Talking Trade”: https://www.wisbusiness.com/category/talking-trade/ 

— MilliporeSigma has been awarded a $136.7 million federal contract to construct a new production facility in Sheboygan. 

The facility will be used to produce lateral flow membranes, which are used in rapid diagnostic test kits sold by the company’s business customers. These kits can be used to test for infectious diseases including COVID-19, influenza and malaria, as well as for other applications like drug testing, animal health and more. 

The company — representing the U.S. and Canadian life sciences business of Merck KGaA based in Germany — says demand has been rising for these lateral flow membranes during the pandemic. 

“With this critical investment, we are expanding much-needed access to essential diagnostic testing as a trusted partner to the world’s most sophisticated diagnostic manufacturers,” said Jean-Charles Wirth, head of the applied solutions business unit at MilliporeSigma. 

The contract was awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The move is meant to “ensure secure local supply and production capacity for critical products” related to pandemic preparedness, a release shows. 

See the release: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/milliporesigma-announces-136-7-million-us-government-contract-award-for-new-lateral-flow-membrane-production-facility-in-sheboygan-wisconsin-301451656.html 

— Airports in Wisconsin are receiving nearly $40 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2022 through the new infrastructure law, according to figures from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport is set to receive nearly $9 million, while Dane County Regional Airport and Truax Field will get just over $5 million. Appleton International Airport is getting over $3 million and Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport is set to receive about $2.8 million. 

Meanwhile, Central Wisconsin Airport is getting over $1.6 million, La Crosse Regional Airport is getting nearly $1.4 million, and Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport and Chippewa Valley Regional Airport are each getting around $1 million. Others around the state are getting between around $100,000 and $800,000 in federal funding. 

Nationwide, $2.89 billion is going to U.S. airports in fiscal year 2022 due to the infrastructure bill, the FAA website shows. These funds can be used for runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability projects as well as other improvements. 

Marty Piette, director for Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport, says officials are still evaluating options for how to use the funds. But he says it’s likely they’ll be “focused on facility and utility upgrades, such as improving utility access to our business park sites, as well as purchasing additional large equipment for fire and safety purposes.”

He estimates funding plans will be finalized in the first quarter of the year, with projects “most likely” starting in the second half of 2022. 

See a map identifying funding recipients: https://www.faa.gov/bil/airport-infrastructure 

See the GRB release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/green-bay-austin-straubel-international-airport/ 

— Wisconsin is getting about $1.5 million in federal emergency relief funds to address impacts of flooding on tribal lands, a release from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows. 

The funding was announced recently by the agency’s Federal Highway Administration as part of a $1.39 billion funding package going to 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Through funding reimbursement, the dollars are meant to help cover the cost of repairs to roads and bridges damaged by weather events including floods and wildfires. 

See more funding details: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/erelief.cfm 

— The state Department of Health Services is backing the recommendation from federal officials that the isolation period for asymptomatic people with COVID-19 be shortened from 10 days to five. 

In a statement, DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake notes scientists have found the majority of viral transmission occurs “early in the illness,” leading the CDC to reduce the recommended length of isolation. Still, she says those who are infected should still wear a mask for five days following isolation. 

“Following an exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should get tested on day five after exposure, and if symptoms occur, quarantine immediately until a negative test confirms those symptoms are not due to COVID-19,” she said. 

She says increased testing will help health officials in the state identify cases of the highly contagious omicron strain, “so that we can learn more about this latest variant and get an accurate picture of disease activity in our state.” 

The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the state was 5,392 cases per day on Jan. 2, the latest day for which these figures are available. On Dec. 29, a record high 7,880 new confirmed cases were added to the state’s tracking system, exceeding the prior record set in November 2020. 

The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene dashboard shows 511 cases of the omicron variant have been identified in Wisconsin in the past 30 days, though the true number is likely higher due to the delays involved in sequencing and reporting. 

Meanwhile, DHS is asking residents to be patient as the state awaits allocation of the newly approved oral antiviral medications for COVID-19. The FDA recently issued emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir treatments. 

“The federal government will begin allocation of these medications shortly and DHS is preparing for this medication to become available to eligible Wisconsinites within the coming weeks,” DHS Deputy Secretary Deb Standridge said in a recent statement. “At this time, we know that the initial supplies will be limited and we ask for everyone’s patience.” 

She notes these medications reduced hospitalization and death rates in COVID-19 patients, but aren’t meant to be substitutes for vaccination. 

See the release on the new isolation guidance: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/news/releases/122821.htm 

See the antivirals release: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/news/releases/122321.htm 

See the latest state COVID-19 numbers: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/cases.htm 

— Dodgeville is getting a $250,000 state grant from WEDC to support a planned expansion of the Access Dodgeville Dental Clinic. 

The clinic will be able to serve up to 2,000 more patients each year after the approximately $775,000 expansion is complete, a release from the agency shows. The clinic currently provides dental care to about 4,000 people per year, with the majority of those patients being “underserved, underinsured and at or below the federal poverty level.” 

The clinic will be doubling the size of its space while also installing an elevator and upgrading its HVAC system. 

The clinic is operated by Madison-based Access Community Health Centers. According to an economic modeling study conducted by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the project could indirectly create 61 jobs in the region on top of the 25 jobs being created directly. 

Funding for the project comes from the agency’s Community Development Investment Grant Program. 

See the release: https://wedc.org/blog/city-of-dodgeville-receives-250000-state-grant-to-support-expansion-of-dental-clinic/ 


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– Brunswick Billiards to be acquired by Indiana sporting goods company

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– With $137 million contract, MilliporeSigma will build a new production facility in Sheboygan


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