WED AM News: Milwaukee-area companies adjusting pay ranges to attract talent; “WisBusiness: the Show” with Thomas Jeffries of Xylome

— In a recent survey of Milwaukee-area companies, 90 percent of responding organizations said they’ve adjusted employee pay ranges for 2022 to help with recruitment. 

The survey was conducted earlier this month by human resources firm MRA, which has offices in Waukesha as well as in Illinois and Minnesota. It tapped 159 metro Milwaukee companies with questions about how they’re attracting talent amid fierce competition for workers. 

Seventy-four percent of respondents in the region said they’re “occasionally to very frequently” offering candidates starting salaries outside of the typical range. And 37 percent said they’re offering a signing bonus to some, or all, of their new hires. Of that number, 75 percent have some sort of retention requirement, typically for at least one year of employment. 

The survey found sign-on bonuses for executives were more likely to be above $5,000 while bonuses for production, office workers and technical positions typically ranged between $500 and $2,500. 

Meanwhile, 72 percent of respondents are providing a referral bonus for employees, often between $500 and $1,000. While referral bonuses appear to be fairly popular, just 14 percent of respondents said they’re offering an attendance bonus and 8 percent are offering a retention bonus. 

“The lack of popularity of these variable pay options could be explained by the increased starting wage & salaries of existing positions,” report authors wrote. “As organizations make decisions to increase base pay, hoping that may help attendance and retention, incentivizing may not seem as necessary.” 

Respondents were located in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha and Washington counties, ranging from under 24 employees to 1,000 or more. The survey was distributed via a digital link and results were analyzed using a platform called Qualtrics. 

See the full report on the survey results: 

— The job in highest demand in southeastern Wisconsin is registered nurse, based on an analysis of job openings over the past six months. 

Susan Koehn, vice president of talent and industry partnerships for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the M7, gave an overview of data on high-demand positions during the MMAC’s latest webinar. 

In the seven-county region surrounding Milwaukee, 24,023 postings reflecting 7,191 unique registered nurse openings went online in the past six months, Koehn said. She noted the category had a three-to-one “posting intensity” ratio, meaning each job is posted three different times or in three different places. 

The position with the second-highest demand based on postings includes laborers and freight, stock and material movers, with 31,321 total postings and 5,069 unique openings. Many of these workers are in the warehousing and distribution sector, which she notes is a growing industry in the region. 

“Here the posting intensity is a whopping six-to-one, which is extremely high as this number goes,” she said. “Posting intensity can almost be seen as a proxy for desperation level, as I’m sure any of you hiring for these positions can relate to.” 

While the number of unique openings for customer service representatives is nearly as high as for laborers, at 5,027, the posting intensity is much lower with 18,621 total posts. That equals out to a ratio of about four-to-one. Koehn said that disparity may be due to customer service jobs being easier to fill, as many “meet job seeker preferences for remote options and flexibility.” 

She noted demand is “really high” for digital jobs, with many postings for software developers, testers and other computer-focused occupations. At the same time, she said job seeker interest has shifted toward job postings that are more likely to be remote, based on data from, a popular job search website. 

“As a result, job seeker interest in some in-person sectors like home health, manufacturing and loading and stocking is well below the national trend,” she said. “Those of you hiring for these roles may be struggling to find workers, and may need to consider wage increases, hiring incentives or extra benefits to attract new candidates.” 

Watch the video with her presentation here: 

— In the latest episode of “ The Show,” Xylome founder Thomas Jeffries details the Madison-based company’s work to create a healthy yet environmentally sustainable substitute for palm oil.

Jeffries was one of three winners in the rapid-fire “Elevator Pitch Olympics,” held during the recent Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium.

Also, in this edition of “The Show,” Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still talks about the group’s policy initiatives in the state Capitol and beyond. “The Show” also highlights the upcoming Wisconsin Tech Summit, which will be held in-person March 14 at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.

Watch the show here: 

— Thirty-six Wisconsin farm groups are getting up to $40,000 through the latest round of DATCP’s Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants program. 

The funding will support farmer efforts to work with conservation groups to address soil and water issues in their local areas. Grant recipients must partner with a county land conservation entity, the UW-Extension, the state Department of Natural Resources or another nonprofit conservation group. 

Grants range from $3,250 up to the cap of $40,000, with a total of $1 million allocated in this latest round. The funds cannot be used for real estate, loans, equipment or lobbying, according to the DATCP release. Each funded group must start off with at least five farmers in the watershed. 

Since funding for the program was first allocated in the 2015-17 state budget, seven rounds of grant awards have been provided, the release shows. While the 2021-23 budget authorized $1 million for annual program funding, grant requests for 2022 reached nearly $1.2 million. 

Brian Malszewski, member of the Buffalo-Trempealeau Farmer Network, says the grant program has helped the group stay together and motivated members “to do more.” 

“It not only has opened doors to more communication on cover crop practices amongst the group, but with other groups throughout the state,” he said in the DATCP release. “It has personally held me accountable, and because of this program our team of farmers has gone above and beyond.”

Seven of the 36 recipients are getting the grants for the first time. 

See the full list of recipients here: 

— The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the state has fallen below the peak from the previous major surge in 2020, reaching 5,562 cases per day. 

That’s compared to 6,495 cases per day on Nov. 17, 2020. And it’s well below the more recent peak of 18,861 cases per day on Jan. 19, 2022, which was caused by the surge in omicron cases. 

Along with declining case numbers, COVID-19-related hospitalizations also continue to fall, according to data from the Wisconsin Hospital Association. 

The total number of COVID-19 patients in Wisconsin hospitals is at 1,498, including 312 intensive care patients. Those numbers have decreased by 402 and 75 over the past week, respectively. The overall hospitalization figure has fallen from the recent peak of 2,278 patients on Jan. 12. 

While the seven-day average for new COVID-19 deaths remains below the levels seen in late 2020 at 22 deaths per day, it hasn’t seen the same decline as the case numbers and hospitalizations. Because deaths are considered a lagging indicator, trends are usually seen in these numbers several weeks later.

See the latest case numbers: 

See the WHA site: 

— Health officials say the FDA granting full approval for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in adults provides “further confirmation” that the vaccines are safe and effective. 

The approval comes after the federal agency last year fully approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 16 and older. 

In a release, Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake is urging those who have waited to be vaccinated “to do so now and join their nearly 3.7 million fellow Wisconsinites” who’ve gotten at least one dose of a vaccine series. 

Stephanie Schauer, immunization program manager for the agency’s Division of Public Health, calls the approval “another important milestone” that builds on evidence of the vaccines’ efficacy. She says it’s “more important than ever” that eligible residents get vaccinated to protect themselves and others. 

The DHS site shows 63.3 percent of state residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 59.4 percent have completed the vaccine series. 

See the release: 

See the latest vaccination numbers: 

— Kenosha will be launching a chapter of startup accelerator gener8tor’s gBETA program with financial support from a Workforce Innovation Grant. 

The city’s grant of up to $990,000 is part of the $59.5 million announced last year by Gov. Tony Evers, according to a release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The gBETA program provides training and coaching services for entrepreneurs, as well as opportunities to compete for funding. The release shows the program is meant to help “any entrepreneur” but will focus on supporting women and minority groups. 

“This program will reach out to a diverse group of entrepreneurs and lead to increased business start-ups by women and people of color creating opportunity and jobs in our neighborhoods,” said Mayor John Antaramian. 

Abby Kursel, a partner at gener8tor, says the organization has yet to select a local director but has already gotten an “outpouring of support” in the area for launching the new program. The group’s website shows the program is slated to begin in Spring 2022 with specific dates to be determined. 

See the WEDC release: 

See details on the gBETA program: 


# GOP education bills expected this week would dissolve Milwaukee school district and expand charter, choice schools

# Proposal would demolish Atwood neighborhood church for apartments

# Plan proceeds to offer college classes to Wisconsin inmates



– Wisconsin’s all milk price peaks at $21.60 in December


– C.D. Smith submits lone bid for UW-Oshkosh’s Clow Hall renovation

– Mandel Group breaks ground on $30 million apartment building in Waukesha

– Waukesha Civic Theatre prepares to break ground for expansion


– MATC’s Walter Lanier leaves college to lead African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee


– Applications being accepted for Leopold Conservation Award


– Dog-friendly sandwich shop in Shorewood opening location in Third Ward


– Wisconsin nursing home closures prompt request for more state aid


– Enerpac CFO planning to leave company by end of April


– How a Milwaukee nonprofit puts working mothers first — for clients and staff


– Assembly bill would require financial literacy credit to graduate high school in Wisconsin


– Major restoration would add 182 apartments neighboring Walker’s Point and Third Ward

– Chicago firm plans to redevelop historic warehouse buildings near Walker’s Point


– Kohl’s sets date for fiscal year-end results; no update on unsolicited bids


– Wisconsin hires Bobby Engram as offensive coordinator


– New transportation program connects Milwaukee residents to suburban jobs

– Despite December dip, Mitchell Airport traffic ends 2021 up 72%


– Orion Energy Systems buys Pewaukee-based Stay-Lite Lighting


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

AARP Wisconsin: Plan to provide 4 heaters for winter festival wins AARP Wisconsin grant

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.: Homegrown entrepreneurs

Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection: Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants awarded to 36 farmer groups