WED AM News: Business Council director touts supplier diversity programs; State’s COVID burden worsening but manageable, expert says

— The head of The Business Council in Milwaukee says boosting supplier diversity is “necessary” for strengthening the region’s business community. 

“If you don’t see strong businesses in communities that look like you and are participating in the economic wealth creation of said community, your communities are failing,” Marjorie Rucker, the group’s executive director, said yesterday during a webinar hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. 

Rucker and Ugo Nwagbaraocha, president of Diamond Discs International, agreed that incorporating more diverse suppliers helps businesses improve their bottom line. 

Nwagbaraocha, who leads the state chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors, said “there’s a business reason why supplier diversity is good,” noting some of the most successful companies in the world have mature supplier diversity programs. 

“What they realize is, that the communities they serve, it’s important for these communities to thrive and do well. And these supplier diversity programs often are able to generate this type of business within these communities,” he said. “As these communities do well, they’re going to do more business and provide more services and more products.” 

Rucker pointed to a widely cited study from the Hackett Group that found companies with long-term supplier diversity programs see a larger return on investment than businesses without such a program. 

Nwagbaraocha highlighted the impact of these programs on retaining talent — “diverse or not.” And he said intentionally improving supply chain diversity in the region can bring in more companies that serve diverse customers. 

“When you have ethnic, diverse corporations that are driving and doing well, guess what? That also attracts not just those companies but also the corporations that are doing business with those ethnicities, those ethnic groups,” he said. 

He also touted the work of the Business Council, which focuses on developing business relationships and opportunities for its corporate members and other diverse companies. Rucker said the organization has 110 business members spanning 36 industries. 

“When you have strong, vibrant businesses of color or of underrepresented groups, it creates that quality of life, if you will, that we’re looking for,” she said. 

— The head of the Medical College of Wisconsin says the state’s COVID-19 situation is “overall very manageable” despite worsening numbers. 

During yesterday’s MMAC webinar, MCW President and CEO Dr. John Raymond noted most of the pandemic indicators in Wisconsin are showing a slow increase in COVID-19 activity in the state. 

Over the past 10 days or so, he said indicators are “moving unfavorable a little bit faster … than we’ve seen in the previous two months.” 

The latest seven-day average for COVID-19 cases in the state has risen to 1,925 cases per day, the Department of Health Services site shows. That number has more than doubled in the past three weeks. 

And the percent positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has risen to 12.5 percent, continuing an upward trend that began near the end of March. 

On top of the increasing cases and higher positivity rate for tests, Raymond added “we’re probably underestimating the case counts,” though he said that’s no surprise. 

“After a little over two years, people know a lot more about COVID, there are readily available at-home test kits and people just may be quarantining or self-isolating based on the kit availability,” he said. “And those do not get factored into the numbers that are reported by the Department of Health Services.” 

Still, he said the current hospital burden is “totally manageable” and COVID-19 deaths remain “relatively flat to possibly unfavorable.” 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association site shows 288 patients in the state are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 40 intensive care patients. That’s a far cry from the nearly 2,300 patients during the previous peak in early January. 

Meanwhile, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 deaths is 6 deaths per day, showing a slight increase after falling to just 1 death per day at the start of May. 

“All in all, we’re in a very manageable place with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Raymond said. “We’d ask people though to continue to practice some mitigation measures based on whether they’re indoors and interacting with large numbers of people.” 

The state’s COVID-19 outlook is uncertain, he explained, pointing to “huge variability” in pandemic numbers among European countries — even those that share borders. 

“You look at the U.S., and as I said for about the last eight weeks we had a slow rise,” he said. “It was steady until about 10 days ago, and now we can see in some states a clear uptick. But I would call it a wavelet or a mini-surge and not necessarily the kind of surges that we saw earlier. And we hope that trend will continue that way.” 

Track the latest case numbers: 

See WHA’s dashboard: 

— The president of the Wisconsin Board of Nursing resigned to protest Gov. Tony Evers’ veto of legislation to allow registered nurses to be licensed as advanced practice nurses.

In his resignation letter, Dr. Peter Kallio wrote the “veto appeared politically motivated to appease a small group of doctors who want to dictate nursing practice and that, unfortunately, makes this Board of Nursing ineffective.” He accused Evers of “a pure disregard for our profession.”

His term was set to expire in July. Kallio also resigned from the Controlled Substances Board.

SB 394 would’ve allowed advanced practice nurse practitioners to issue prescription orders, among other things.

In his veto message last month, Evers wrote lawmakers failed to address issues raised by parties in the medical profession. He added he objected to “altering current licensure standards for APRNs, allowing practices functionally equivalent to those of physicians or potentially omitting physicians from a patient’s care altogether notwithstanding significant differences in required education, training, and experience.”

The bill was opposed by the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, among others. Those who supported the bill included several associations representing nurses, the Wisconsin Public Health Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

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— Gov. Tony Evers has announced another $25 million is being allocated to the  Main Street Bounceback Grant Program. 

Since first being announced in April 2021, the program has approved $10,000 grants for 4,200 small businesses and nonprofits statewide, helping them move or expand into vacant commercial spaces, a release shows. 

With the latest funding, the program has received a total investment of $75 million, according to the release. The deadline for applying has been extended to the end of December. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds are depleted. 

See more details in the release: 

— The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority has announced $23.3 million in federal and state housing tax credits for projects around the state. 

A WHEDA release says these tax credits will help create 1,466 new housing units through 23 projects in 20 Wisconsin communities. That includes 1,310 low- to moderate-income units for residents earning or below 60 percent of the local median income. 

A total of $10.5 million in federal housing tax credits are going to 14 projects with 700 low- to moderate-income units, and $5.6 million in state housing tax credits will fund nine projects with 610 low- to moderate-income units, the release shows. 

And WHEDA says the state credits being awarded “triggers the availability” of another $7.1 million in federal tax credits covering a smaller percentage — 4 percent, compared to 9 percent for the other federal tax credits. 

WHEDA CEO Elmer Moore Jr. in a statement applauded developer partners for “their commitment to advancing housing equity and economic opportunity” despite challenging market conditions. 

“With thoughtful consideration for this year’s tax credit allocation, we are working hard to get as many projects as possible built so that people can access housing where they want to live, work, raise a family, and prosper,” he said. 

See more details on the tax credits and awarded projects here: 


# State regulators approve large hog farm in Crawford County

# ‘Unlike it’s ever been’: New college graduates are finding jobs sooner, at higher pay

# Gas prices in Milwaukee and Wisconsin reach their highest average price ever



– Crop report shows some activity taking place last week

– Amid objections, DNR approves plans for large-scale hog farm in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area


– How a small, family-owned bank in Greenleaf not only survives, but thrives


– Construction on Wisconsin Center expansion makes progress with concrete pour, tower crane


– After pandemic drop off, travel at Dane County airport is taking off


– Union sues Madison School District over unfulfilled records request

– MTI holds rally demanding better wages for educational assistants


– Busiest concert season in over 15 years for Henry Maier Festival Park begins this week


– Fire danger remains very high across Wisconsin

– Study: Second wolf hunt would have driven Wisconsin’s wolf population to ‘undesirably low levels’


– Locally Sauced food truck hits the Fox Cities scene with local, not low-cal, taco and burger menu


– State providing tax credits for $220M Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals expansion in Verona

– Wauwatosa drug startup targeting menopause, Alzheimer’s, raises seed capital

– Arrowhead breaks ground on up to $250M Verona project, will receive incentives

– Four years after merger, Aurora Health Care stronger than ever, says CEO Skogsbergh


– Wisconsin union organizer says Starbucks fired him days after union vote


– Sale of Milwaukee Brewing Company receives ‘huge wave’ of interest


– Midwestern farmers invited to share thoughts on Farm Bill

– Tony Evers targets climate change despite lack of legislative support


– Affordable apartments in Wauwatosa among this year’s tax credit winners


– Gov. Evers: $25 million more for Main Street Bounceback Grant Program


– $60 million affordable housing project slated for Green Bay’s Shipyard area


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

UW-Whitewater: Alumna Dr. Camelia L. Clarke elected to the Board of Directors of Federated Insurance Companies

Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority: Awards $23.3 million in federal and state housing tax credits for 2022