THU AM News: WEI leader says ‘direct pay’ provision in IRA will be a game changer; Senate confirms three Evers cabinet picks

— The head of the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative says federal funding for clean energy job training and a “direct pay” provision in the Inflation Reduction Act will have a major impact in the state. 

WEI Executive Director John Imes called the direct pay aspect of the law a “game changer” for various Wisconsin organizations that have been unable to benefit from tax credit incentives. 

“The municipalities, the co-ops, the churches — they could never play when it came to clean energy because they don’t pay taxes,” Imes said yesterday during a Climate Fast Forward event in Madison. “The direct pay provision in the law, for municipalities … there’s opportunities there that just didn’t exist before, where the Treasury will actually write a check equivalent to what the tax credit is.” 

He expects that change to expand opportunities for community-level solar developments in the state, calling it “incredibly exciting.” He also touted the potential for IRA funding to help create new jobs in the state and attract young professionals to growing clean energy industries. 

Earlier this month, a report from the liberal-leaning Data for Progress organization projected the IRA could help bring more than 24,000 jobs to Wisconsin in the coming years. 

“There’s a tremendous amount of money associated with the IRA for training young people that are in disadvantaged communities to enter this very, very exciting field in terms of clean energy, in terms of use of green infrastructure,” he said. “I view that as one of the best things that this industry will drive.” 

He noted clean energy project developers in the region such as Invenergy are already hiring “nonstop,” and said IRA funding will only add “fuel to the fire.” 

“The opportunities for young people are really unprecedented,” he said. “Whether it’s traditional education pathways or it’s on-the-job training that some of these companies can provide to get people on this path.” 

Also during yesterday’s event, Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy Director Maria Redmond said Gov. Tony Evers has submitted a notice of intent to participate in a “climate pollution reduction fund.” She said this fund will provide $3 million to the state for planning around efforts to address climate change. 

“The requirement is to get a preliminary climate action plan pulled together by March 1, 2024, and that is going to open up significant opportunity at implementation funding … that is what’s super exciting, I think there’s like $250 billion or something for implementation of projects,” she said. “It really positions the state really well that we already have a few plans in place.” 

See more from Redmond on IRA funding in a recent story: 

— The state Senate has unanimously confirmed three of Evers’ cabinet picks.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes was confirmed unanimously in September 2021, and the guv renominated her after winning a second term.

Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers didn’t get a floor vote last session even though she was unanimously backed in committee. 

The Senate previously confirmed Mark Affable as insurance commissioner. But it didn’t take up the nomination of his successor, Nathan Houdek, after he was appointed to the post in January 2022.

Yesterday’s votes were the first on Evers’ cabinet picks after Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, pledged they would start the confirmation process over this session following the guv’s reelection.

Lawmakers approved the three without debate. 

Beyond Houdek and Sayers, the other cabinet members who didn’t receive a floor vote last session include:

*Workforce Development Secretary Amy Pechacek​, who was appointed to the post in December 2020;

*Former Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake, who was appointed interim secretary in January 2021 after Andrea Palm left the job for a post in the Biden administration. Neither received a vote in the Senate, and Evers last month appointed Kirsten Johnson to the job.

*Administration Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld, who was appointed to the post in mid-January 2022;

*Financial Institutions Secretary Cheryll Olson-Collins, also appointed in mid-January 2022:

*Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dan Hereth, who was appointed in July after the legislative session had ended.

— The Water Council is now taking applications for its spring Tech Challenge, which invites researchers, entrepreneurs and others to address specific industry challenges. 

The Milwaukee-based organization is seeking solutions for two focus areas: electrochemical sensors to detect pharmaceutical pollutants in water; and low-cost plastic materials to use in chlorinated water.

Along with a $10,000 prize, participants are competing to get their ideas recognized by the companies that sponsor the contest, including A. O. Smith Corporation, Badger Meter and Watts Water Technologies. All finalists in the contest will present directly to research and development teams from these businesses. 

Applications are due May 1. 

See more contest details: 

— Madworks and StartingBlock are launching a 10-week startup accelerator program in Madison this spring, the organizations recently announced. 

Applications for the program are being accepted through April 7. Wisconsin companies that are accepted will get support for developing financial models, company management training, fundraising education and mentorship.  

The program will run from April 26 to June 29, with weekly group meetings on Wednesdays and individual team meetings on Thursdays, all held at the StartingBlock offices in Madison. 

Participants will also get $6,500 in grant funding per team, a year of StartingBlock membership with dedicated space for Madworks companies, discounts on customer relations management software through Hubspot and other benefits. 

See more program details: 

Apply here: 

— A Florida-based fertility company called INVO Bioscience has announced plans to acquire the Wisconsin Fertility Institute. 

In a recent release, INVO Bioscience said it has signed binding agreements to acquire the Madison fertility center, which provides in-vitro fertilization services. 

INVO CEO Steve Shum said acquiring profitable IVF clinics supports the company’s overall growth strategy. According to the release, the Wisconsin Fertility Institute generated about $5.5 million in revenue and $1.9 million in net income for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2022. 

“The Wisconsin Fertility Institute immediately adds scale and positive cash flow to our operations and we expect to drive incremental growth at the clinic,” Shum said in a statement. 

INVO Bioscience will be paying $10 million over a three-year period on the acquisition, according to the release. 

See more details: 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report … </b></i> 

— After leaving her position leading the state Department of Health Services, Karen Timberlake is joining Children’s Wisconsin as a senior executive. 

And developers and Veterans Affairs officials say a new VA outpatient clinic in Oconomowoc will boost access to primary care, mental health and women’s health services in the area. 

For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

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– Wisconsin milk production up slightly from 2022 output 


– National Exchange Bank president and COO to retire


– Wangard Partners to develop VA clinic for former Olympia Fields site in Oconomowoc

– Sussex advances 26-lot plan that would join a parade of subdivisions now in the works


– Unprecedented investments in Wisconsin climate-smart ag, rural communities 


– Key fundraiser for Milwaukee Public Schools taps new leader


– Landmark climate law includes nearly $20B to help farmers adopt conservation practices


– Ascension Wisconsin’s top exec to leave organization amidst leadership restructuring


– Milwaukee announces lawsuit against Kia, Hyundai over vehicle thefts


– Urban Ecology Center names next executive director as Ken Leinbach plans to step down


– Wisconsin took ‘a big hit’ with paper’s decline, but these mills see a way forward


– Milwaukee area dominates Niche’s best places to live in Wisconsin, but no longer has top spot


– Neenah changes way of calculating street assessments in growth areas


– Kwik Trip growth could fuel need for new distribution center


– Mid West Music Fest announces lineup of 70 artists for 2-day May event in Winona


– Milwaukee-based Returns on Demand wants to remove the stress of returning packages


– GOP state lawmakers announce bill allowing private developers to pursue community solar


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