WED AM News: Wisconsin small businesses landed over $1B in federal contracts last year; Extreme drought area shrinking, though dry conditions persist

— Wisconsin small businesses last year secured more than $1 billion in federal contracts for the second year in a row, according to the latest U.S. Small Business Administration figures. 

The federal agency this week announced more than $5.9 billion was spent on federal contracts in Wisconsin in fiscal year 2022, including nearly $1.03 billion — or about 17 percent — going to small businesses. In fiscal year 2021, those figures were about $6.1 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively. 

Since 2010, the figure for small businesses in the state hadn’t exceeded $900 million, even in years when the total amount going to all Wisconsin businesses was higher. 

In a statement on the numbers, SBA Wisconsin District Director Eric Ness touted the impact of federal contracts for the state economy, calling it “a powerful tool for entrepreneurs to open new and stable revenue streams” for their companies. 

“SBA resources like the 8(a) Business Development Program are vital to companies like Great Lakes Power Vac and others to creating new jobs, build stronger communities and improve the quality of life for everyone living in the Badger State,” Ness said. 

The agency’s release spotlights this Pewaukee-based small business, with founder and President Greta Smith-Bemi crediting SBA programs for helping the company land other government contracts. 

“Working on federal projects helped GLPV to professionalize and refine our programs to fulfill numerous quality assurance requirements,” Smith-Bemi said in the release. “In the long run, this has been a benefit in working with other clients.”

The SBA figures include a regional breakdown as well, showing 21.87 percent of purchases made by the federal government last year across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin were from small businesses. 

See the release: 

— While less of the state is now experiencing extreme drought, dry conditions persist throughout much of Wisconsin, holding back crop growth. 

The USDA’s latest crop progress report, covering the week ending Sunday, shows topsoil moisture levels worsened compared to the prior week. 

“Scattered rains slowed the effects of drought in a few portions of the state; however, many areas remain very dry,” report authors wrote. 

According to the federal agency’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, corn “silking” was 25 percent complete at the end of last week. That’s one day behind last year’s rate and five days behind the five-year average. Silking is one indicator of the corn plant’s growth. 

Meanwhile, 57 percent of the state’s soybean crop had bloomed — two days behind last year and three days behind the average, the report shows. 

Still, harvesting of winter wheat is proceeding in-line with last year and the average, while harvesting of oats is ahead of both last year and the five-year average rate. 

And though more than 70 percent of the state is still experiencing moderate to severe drought, the percentage under extreme drought conditions has fallen somewhat, from 10.3 percent on July 18 to 8.7 percent as of yesterday. That’s according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. 

A total of 4.9 million Wisconsin residents are in areas of drought. That number has fallen by 9.5 percent since last week. 

See the latest crop report: 

See the NIDIS site: 

See an earlier related story: 

— Five startups have made it to the finalist stage in this year’s Pressure Chamber competition, hosted by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. 

The chamber yesterday announced the companies that will be pitching to a live audience in late August during Forward Fest, an annual technology and entrepreneurship festival held in the state. The winner of Pressure Chamber receives the “golden suitcase” award, and gets a chance to meet with Silicon Valley investment firms in the fall during a visit organized by the chamber. 

“We are excited to welcome another compelling group of finalists to the Pressure Chamber stage as we continue to strengthen connectivity with key investment hubs and amplify our region’s economic momentum,” Chamber President Zach Brandon said in a statement. 

This year’s finalists include: 

*AyrFlo Innovation Labs, which has a respiration monitoring system used in post-surgical settings. 

*Child Health Imprints, which has developed a diagnostic tool for neonatal intensive care units. 

*RadUnity, a company that has created technology for improving consistency for medical imaging. 

*SPEAK.STUDIO, which has an online content creation platform used for podcasting. 

*Yam Education, which has built a platform to provide U.S.-licensed community college degrees, diplomas and certificates in Africa. 

All finalists are based in the greater Madison area. 

See the release: 

— The Department of Workforce Development has announced about $1.3 million in new worker training grants for a dozen businesses in the state. 

The funding from the state’s Wisconsin Fast Forward program will support up to 714 workers getting occupational training, according to yesterday’s release. Ranging from $5,000 to $400,000, each grant requires a 50 percent cash or in-kind employer match. 

Recipients also have to meet these requirements to get funding: 85 percent of participants must complete the training; 65 percent must gain employment or advancement; and 75 percent of incumbent trainees must get a raise. 

See more details and the list of grant recipients here: 

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

— Medicare beneficiaries filled more insulin prescriptions after the Inflation Reduction Act established a $35 cap on out-of-pocket costs for the medicine, according to a UW-Madison study. 

Meanwhile, Pivotal Health has expanded its house call services to northeastern Wisconsin, the Madison-based company announced recently.

<i>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</i> 

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