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MADISON - Wisconsin ranks 32nd in private-sector job growth
Wisconsin ranks 32nd in private-sector job growth and lags behind the national average for the 12-month period that ended in June, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Private-sector jobs grew by 1.45 percent in Wisconsin from July 2013 through the end of June, and that trailed the national average of 2.3 percent growth. Wisconsin ranked 32nd nationally in private-sector job growth and trailed other Midwest states including Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

The less reliable monthly accounting from the state also released Thursday had more positive numbers. It showed unemployment dropped from 5.4 percent to 5.2 percent between October and November, the lowest it's been since the recession. The national unemployment rate was 5.8 percent for the month. That monthly report also showed that Wisconsin added 16,500 private-sector jobs in November.

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OSHKOSH - Oshkosh Corp. lands two military contracts worth $100 million
The U.S. Army has awarded two contracts to Oshkosh Corp. worth nearly $100 million.

The Army awarded the company a $67 million contract for 256 Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles trucks and trailers.

The Army also awarded a $32.3 million modification contract to upgrade 300 Mine-Resistant All-Terrain Vehicles, or M-ATVs, according to the Department of Defense Web site.

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MADISON - YouTube buys Madison start-up Vidmaker
Vidmaker, a Madison startup that lets people work together to create videos online, says it has been bought by YouTube and its parent company, Google. Terms have not been disclosed.

Vidmaker describes itself as a “collaborative online video editor.” It lets people create videos together in real time, from different locations, working with video and sound from sources such as Dropbox and Google Drive, and share the projects either through Vidmaker’s platform or on YouTube.

Vidmaker is the latest of several Madison companies to be acquired by tech industry giants in recent years. Others include Locomatix, bought by Twitter.

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MENASHA - Azco expands fabrication shop
Azco Inc., an industrial construction an fabrication company, has expanded its fabrication shop in the Town of Menasha in response to an increased demand in production.

The company added 12,000 square feet to the facility at 2150 Holly Road to provide for a new heat treat furnace, additional welding stations and increased production capacity. Azco, an employee-owned company, will work with UA Local 400 to hire additional workers.

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MADISON - GOP lawmakers object to $197 million Hill Farms redevelopment
Three Republican lawmakers are questioning the state’s decision to move ahead with a $197 million redevelopment of the Hill Farms state office building on Madison’s West Side.

In an open letter to Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, Reps. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, and Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, highlighted a $750 million tax increase proposed by Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb, whose department is headquartered at the Hill Farms building. The proposal is meant to address a looming shortfall in the transportation fund, estimated at $680 million in the 2015-17 biennium.

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MADISON - State companies invited to join WEDC trade trip to Mexico
Wisconsin companies looking to do business with the state’s second-largest export destination can get help with practical details and meet potential partners on a March 1-7 Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. trade venture to Mexico.

With stops in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, the program is to include one-on-one meetings with potential customers and other in-market partners selected by WEDC staff based on information about export goals and needs provided by the companies.

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HOBART - Village plans '100 percent walkable' downtown
Hobart has been a village for 12 years. Now it's getting a downtown.

Hobart Crossing, a 180-unit luxury apartment project was approved this week by the Village Board. It will be the first phase of a mixed-use development designed to become the village's central business district, hugging Wisconsin 29 east of North Overland Road.

The larger project, which could be a $250 million investment, will include commercial, retail and recreational elements on about 75 acres, Village Administrator Andrew Vickers said. The pedestrian-centric development will include a central village green, trails, a community center and public gathering area. The commercial area will include two retail anchors, one of which could be a grocery store, many smaller shops and service business, and office buildings.

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PORTAGE - PendaForm cited by OSHA in August chemical spill at Portage plant
A thermoforming manufacturing company has been ordered to pay $25,000 in fines after receiving seven citations that it mishandled a chemical spill in August.

PendaForm Corp. received citations for seven serious violations, according to a “Citation and notification of penalty” document issued Nov. 6 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

PendaForm entered into an informal settlement agreement with OSHA in the spill that occurred Aug. 25, said Chad Greenwood, assistant area director of OSHA’s Madison office.

According to the citations, PendaForm failed to have employees use proper equipment to handle the chemical spill, train its employees in the proper procedure to clean it up, or have an emergency response plan to deal with hazardous spills.

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GREEN BAY - Curly's construction means 77 temporary layoffs
Delaware North Sportservice notified the state it will temporarily lay off 77 employees of Curly's after the football season while the Lambeau Field restaurant is being relocated.

The restaurant is moving from the second floor to the main floor in the Lambeau Field Atrium as part of the Green Bay Packers' ongoing renovation and expansion of the stadium. The restaurant's current location will be home to the Packers Hall of Fame.

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NEENAH - Menasha Packaging buys new printing press
Menasha Packaging is purchasing new equipment in response to growing customer demand.

The company is adding a Bobst Central Impression Flexographic 90SIX Printing Press that will double its capacity for preprinted linerboard orders.

The press is expected to be in production within 12 to 14 months.

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FOND DU LAC - School building projects boom this year
More than $76 million in school building projects are moving forward around the Fond du Lac area and others are in the planning stages.

As school facilities age, upgrades are needed to repair failing roofs and heating and cooling systems, as well as transforming into technology-friendly facilities.

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LA CROSSE - Board says yes to Park Plaza sale, landfill area purchase
The La Crosse County Board focused Thursday on land transactions, authorizing the sale of its long-vacant Park Plaza property while at the same time moving to acquire an empty house and acreage on Hwy. 16 just north of the county landfill for future development.

The pending Park Plaza deal was particularly satisfying for several on the board, as the county has struggled to find a buyer since gaining title to the 5.8-acre former Holiday Inn site through foreclosure in 2001.

Looking to take over the property is Water Place One LLC, which already owns 4.13 acres just to the north on Barron Island along with a sliver of waterfront along the county’s parcel.

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MADISON - Walker touts property tax relief throughout Wisconsin
Gov. Scott Walker embarked on a "property tax relief" tour throughout Wisconsin on Wednesday, stopping in Madison to address the Senate Republican caucus.

Walker commended lawmakers for their role in lowering taxes, focusing heavily on the property tax relief provided through aid to schools and technical colleges. The governor signed into law last spring $400 million in relief to technical schools in hopes of lowering their levies.

Walker said the difference in what a typical homeowner owed for property taxes in December 2010, compared to December 2014, is $141.

The governor has committed to furthering tax cuts in his next budget.

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GREEN BAY – Brown County blocks sales tax referendum proposal
Brown County voters will not have a chance to cast their ballots next April on whether the county should establish a new sales tax.

The County Board voted Wednesday against holding an advisory referendum on creating a new sales tax when an existing Lambeau Field tax expires.

The board's action followed a lively debate about whether the county needs additional revenue and whether voters would tolerate a new tax precisely when an old one is going away.

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APPLETON – Health care costs soar in Fox Valley
Health insurance costs have climbed faster in Northeastern Wisconsin than anywhere else in the state over the past 14 years, according to an annual report released this week.

The cost of monthly premiums for large group plans in Green Bay ballooned 366 percent since 2000, a rate that greatly outpaces any other metro area in the state, according the ninth annual Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Rankings Report.

The region had the lowest-cost premiums for large group insurance pools in 2000, but high rates of inflation have since pushed premium costs well above the state average.

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