WED AM News: UWM expert expects RNC 2024 will elevate Milwaukee’s national profile; 2022 cranberry crop projected to be 5.2 million barrels

— A finance expert at UW-Milwaukee expects Milwaukee’s national profile will be elevated in 2024 when the Republican National Convention comes to Wisconsin’s largest city. 

“Presumably this is going to be on all the cable news networks, and there are going to be eyeballs on Milwaukee … there could be an impact on tourism just from the exposure,” Michael Farrell, assistant professor in the Lubar College of Business, said yesterday in an interview. 

He explained Milwaukee can leverage the political conference to land other events down the road, using the RNC as a chance to prove itself as a major conference destination on the national stage. 

“So if Milwaukee does a good job with this, that bodes well for future conferences,” he said. “This could help Milwaukee going forward with those types of events.” 

He pointed to Cleveland as a comparison, noting the city has seen long-term benefits after hosting the RNC in 2016 as it invested in infrastructure such as high-speed internet. 

“There was some upgrading involved … having a big event like that, a high-profile event, it’s going to attract investment in ways you wouldn’t think of,” he said. 

Tourism officials estimate the impact of the 2024 convention on the Milwaukee region at around $200 million. While Farrell noted that may be somewhat optimistic, he said what’s more important is where the concentrated impact is funneled. 

“If you look at the whole economy of Milwaukee, this is going to be a pretty small number,” he said. “In terms of annual GDP, it’s about 0.2 percent, ultimately, even if we look at $200 million.” 

Hotels, restaurants and others in Milwaukee’s hospitality industry are expected to see the greatest impact, Farrell noted. And contractors involved with developing the infrastructure and amenities needed to support the conference will benefit from investments in the city. 

Aside from those clear beneficiaries, Farrell said the conference also creates openings for entrepreneurs and members of the gig economy. 

“Even though the effect is going to be concentrated in a few specific industries, it does present an opportunity for someone who’s got a side hustle,” he said. “I imagine something like a large convention like this would have short-term opportunities … it has the potential to affect pretty much anybody who’s interested.” 

— Cranberry growers in the state are expecting to harvest 5.2 million barrels this year, which would be significantly more than last year’s total of 3.9 million barrels. 

That’s according to a release from the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association. The group notes if projections for this year’s crop hold true, Wisconsin will be harvesting more than 63 percent of the U.S. supply of cranberries and more than 50 percent of the global supply. 

This would be the 28th year that Wisconsin has led the country in cranberry production. 

Tom Lochner, the organization’s executive director, says the cranberry industry in Wisconsin generates $1 billion in economic impact. He says growers are reporting a “strong and healthy” crop this year. The cranberry harvest usually begins in late September and lasts through mid-October. 

“We now hope Mother Nature continues to cooperate, and we get some cool fall nights for the berries to reach their dark red color, and then on to harvest, our favorite time of the year,” he said in the release. 

About 21,000 acres across 20 counties in central and northern Wisconsin are used to produce the fruit. Only about 3 percent of this year’s crop is sold as fresh fruit, with the rest being used for juice, sauces, frozen and dried berries and other products. 

Other states with sizable projected crops include: Massachusetts, 1.89 million barrels; New Jersey, 550,000 barrels; Oregon, 510,000 barrels; and Washington, 160,000 barrels. The overall U.S. crop is projected to hit 8.3 million barrels this year. 

See the release: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced a new $10 million grant program in partnership with the DNR for the “replacement, reconstruction, treatment, or abandonment” of contaminated private wells.

The program expands the state’s Well Compensation Program, which aims to boost access to clean drinking water and help private well owners. The new program is estimated to potentially address contamination in 1,036 more wells, according to Evers’ release. 

“Unfortunately, too many families across our state know firsthand how it feels to turn on the tap and not be able to trust what comes out, and many have had to rely on plastic water bottles for drinking water,” Evers said. “So, I am glad to be making this investment today while getting rid of outdated and burdensome requirements that will help ensure more Wisconsinites clean up their wells and keep their families healthy and safe.”

DNR Secretary Preston Cole applauded the funding. 

“Everyone in Wisconsin deserves clean drinking water. This money will be available to private well owners who need help dealing with contaminated groundwater, and DNR is excited to offer this assistance,” Cole said.

Some changes the program will implement include:

*Lowering the thresholds for nitrate-contaminated wells to comply with state public health standards and for arsenic-contaminated wells to comply with federal drinking water standards;

*Making wells with any bacterial contamination that poses a risk to human health eligible for the program; and

*increasing family income limits for grants from $65,000 to $100,000, among other things.

See the release:

— The American Lung Association in Wisconsin is calling for researchers in the state to apply for funding through the group’s 2023-2024 grants cycle. 

Grant applications from researchers in the state and elsewhere are being accepted. Funding will support efforts to improve prevention, detection and treatment for lung diseases including cancer. 

“Here in Wisconsin, we have wonderful research institutions and leading-edge researchers,” Megan Cordova, executive director for the Lung Association in Wisconsin, said in a release. “The Lung Association is committed to supporting the best scientific minds to help develop solutions to alleviate the burden of lung disease.” 

Available awards include: $100,000 for COVID-19 and respiratory virus research; $100,000 for lung cancer research; $75,000 for allergic respiratory disease research; $75,000 for independent investigators conducting basic research; $50,000 for mentored researchers; $50,000 for public policy efforts; and $50,000 for junior researchers exploring certain lung conditions. 

See more details in the release: 

— Dem lawmakers are seeking more federal resources to help fight monkeypox in Wisconsin. 

U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan and Ron Kind and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin are urging federal officials to “remove barriers to testing,” provide more doses of monkeypox vaccine and act to reduce stigma and misinformation about the virus. 

In a letter to leaders of the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC, the lawmakers say Wisconsin’s vaccine allocation addresses just “a fraction” of demand.They say the state needs more doses and HHC should “exercise all available authorities” to ensure high-risk groups are protected. 

They also highlight “missteps” by officials that have delayed vaccine distribution to states and other jurisdictions and resulted in limited vaccine access. And they say more research is needed to “ensure the safety” of the new vaccination protocol that’s meant to stretch available resources. 

This protocol involves a smaller amount of the vaccine being administered through a shallow injection. The lawmakers are calling for more public education to lower apprehension about this method and provide information about its safety and effectiveness. 

The letter also references a recent investigation by CNN showing large commercial labs have refused to draw blood from patients who may have the virus. The recent outbreak of monkeypox has overwhelmingly impacted LGBTQ individuals, they note. 

“As you know, health care services are too often inaccessible for members of at-risk communities, and these reports are all too reminiscent of the nation’s initial response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” the lawmakers wrote. “We must address this crisis, and those at the highest levels of government must make clear that stigma and misinformation will only allow the virus to spread further.” 

See the full letter: 

See the release: 

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