WED AM News: Businesses urged to be diligent and careful in navigating sanctions; Broadband task force releases second annual report

— A trade compliance expert with Rockwell Automation is urging businesses to be diligent and careful as they navigate the web of international sanctions. 

Claudia Wolske, global export manager for the Milwaukee-based company, explained that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February upset the international trade arena. 

Sanctions leveled against Russia, their resulting impacts, as well as pre-existing trade issues with China were all discussed yesterday during an event in Johnson Creek, organized by the Madison International Trade Association and International Credit Executives. 

“Currently there is over 30 countries that have implemented sanctions against Russia,” Wolske said. “So if your organization has multiple jurisdictions — if you have legal entities in the EU, in Canada and other countries — you have to be mindful of that.” 

She noted Rockwell is one of more than 600 companies that have suspended operations in Russia or otherwise left the country following its aggression against Ukraine. 

Ngosong Fonkem, a Milwaukee-based trade compliance lawyer with the Chicago law firm Page Fura, highlighted a three-pronged approach to recovering from or preventing trade disruption. This strategy involves anticipating possible impacts of global shifts, conducting data analysis as part of a cost-benefit analysis, and ultimately responding in a way that mitigates disruption. 

Fonkem described a “seismic trade shift” that’s significantly disrupting global trade flows on a global scale. He expects that complication to continue for the foreseeable future, “in light of the current geopolitical tensions as well as the ongoing trade tension between the U.S. and China for global leadership” in economics and technology. 

“I believe that any company or business that operates within this … complex global trade environment must have a plan on how to manage global trade risk,” he said. 

Wolske also noted 80 percent of all Russian banks have been sanctioned, and urged attendees to determine which banks they’re using to avoid running into any compliance problems. 

She suggested monitoring and screening all banks used for payments to vendors and for payroll, reviewing and approving all payments to various government entities, and continuously monitoring changes to the global regulatory landscape. 

Fonkem was the featured guest on an episode of “Talking Trade” in September 2021. Watch the video here: 

— The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access’ second annual report shows the state has disbursed or committed nearly $300 million to expanding broadband in the state. 

That includes $105 million in federal funding, the report shows. The funding either has already provided or will provide access to new or improved service for 387,000 homes and businesses in Wisconsin. 

The Wisconsin Broadband Office, part of the state Public Service Commission, estimates 650,000 state residents don’t have access to the infrastructure needed for broadband internet. That’s defined as 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload.

In the report, PSC Commissioner Rebecca Valcq notes the WBO also estimates 650,000 state residents cannot afford broadband. 

“Simply getting everyone access to 25/3 service may not be enough for Wisconsin residents to fully engage in all the benefits of broadband internet,” she wrote. “Affordability and adoption (including broadband-capable devices and digital literacy) must be part of the solution.” 

The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $65 billion nationwide for broadband expansion efforts, according to the report. Valcq says state officials are “working to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars” of this funding to connect communities in Wisconsin. 

The report provides some updates on the goals set out in the task force’s 2021 report. It shows the state has boosted participation in a voluntary internet service provider data collection program while getting a larger volume of data overall. 

Of the approximately 100 residence-focused providers of fixed internet, 64 participated in the program in December 2020 and 21 provided data at the household and business level, the report shows. By December 2021, 68 providers participated and 46 provided that granular information. Report authors note submission of this granular data has risen by 120 percent since the last report. 

This year’s report also includes a number of recommendations such as creating a guide for local “digital equity” planning efforts, encouraging and supporting participation of tribal governments in broadband expansion programs, creating a statewide “digital navigator” network to help get more people connected, sustaining state funding for its broadband expansion program, among others. 

See the release: 

See the full report: 

— A recent Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce survey shows more employers are planning to raise wages by over 4 percent this year as they compete for talent. 

The latest results from the group’s Wisconsin Employer Survey show 46 percent of respondents expect to increase their hourly wages by 4.1 percent or more in 2022. WMC says that’s “roughly double the number that said they would just a year ago and a 12-point jump from January.” 

And many more employers are offering remote or hybrid work options than before the pandemic, results show. Before the pandemic hit, about 10 percent of responding businesses offered these options. That’s risen to 37 percent in the latest survey. 

In a statement included in the report, WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer notes companies in the state are still struggling to hire workers despite “historic inflation and a looming recession.” In line with previous surveys, 85 percent of respondents said they’re having trouble with hiring. 

“To attract and retain top talent, businesses are listening closely to what their employees want,” Bauer said. “That is why we are seeing wages rise faster than in recent memory and more companies offering increased flexibility like remote work.” 

While 36 percent of respondents said the labor shortage is causing their hiring woes, 45 percent said a lack of qualified applicants is to blame, and 8 percent said unemployment benefits are too generous. 

Still, 62 percent said they expect to have more workers in the next six months, while only 5 percent expect to have fewer workers. Thirty-four percent don’t expect any change. 

For the summer 2022 edition of the Wisconsin Employer Survey, WMC tapped 216 member employers of “all sizes, industries and geographic locations.” 

See the full survey: 

— The head of Versiti in Milwaukee says the acquisition of Ethical and Independent Review Services will help the organization expand the scope of its research. 

The blood health organization yesterday announced it has acquired Missouri-based E&I, which provides independent institutional review board services for research efforts involving human subjects. That includes social and behavioral research as well as trials of biopharmaceuticals and medical devices.

“Versiti and E&I share a mission-focused approach to advancing medical science and patient care through clinical trials,” Versiti President and CEO Chris Miskel said in the release. 

Versiti has over 2,000 employees at locations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Texas. 

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. 

See the release: 

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# Covid-19 changed consumer, dining habits – and permanently reshaped commercial real estate

# Hard Rock appears to be ready to back another bid to open a Kenosha casino

# ‘We lost a lot more than that’: The toll of losing 40K Wisconsin dairy farms in 4 decades



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– Milwaukee considers appeal to block UW System demolition of former Columbia hospital

– Massachusetts firm buys spec industrial building under construction in Caledonia


– Hard Rock appears to be ready to back another bid to open a Kenosha casino


– COVID-19 patients using remote monitoring portal had 32 percent lower hospitalization rate, study shows


– Updated: Fitchburg Starbucks workers overwhelmingly reject union


– Neenah Paper, SWM complete merger, announce new name for $3 billion business

– Stock House Brewing for sale because brewery could not satisfy owners’ growth goals


– Germantown will need denser, more affordable housing to accommodate growth, draft plan says

– Apartments planned near Downer Avenue business district receive first city approval. They face opposition from some neighborhood residents.

– Affiliate of Hard Rock negotiating 59-acre land purchase along I-94 in Kenosha


– Wheel & Sprocket seeking to redevelop Brookfield location into mixed-use project

– New concept at Kohl’s aims to highlight brands with diverse ownership

– Hy-Vee, restaurants and a brewery among Green-Bay area businesses opening later this year


– Milwaukee startup receives $100K through Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund

– Almost 20 food-based businesses were displaced by the fire at Oak Creek’s Common Cookhouse. What’s next for them?


– Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Jamie Dinan considers buying French soccer team

– Bucks’ Bobby Portis becomes city’s ‘hype-man’ under Visit Milwaukee partnership

– Titletown will add new tenant to the U.S. Venture Center


– Beltline Flex Lanes to open Wednesday to alleviate rush hour traffic


– From the Milwaukee Business Journal Editor: Dear RNC, you’re more than welcome here


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