Obama to attend Laborfest in Milwaukee Monday
August 28, 2014 09:23 AM
President Barack Obama plans to attend Laborfest in Milwaukee on Monday.

The event, held at Henry Maier Festival Park each Labor Day, is hosted by the Milwaukee Area Labor Council AFL-CIO. Barbara Toles of the Labor Council confirmed Obama will be visiting Laborfest, but details are still being finalized.

“The details about that have not been solidified at this point and we’re waiting for information from the administration,” Toles said.

Obama previously spoke at the event in 2008 and 2010, according to BizTimes media partner WISN 12 News. The event runs from noon to 5 p.m. Monday.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore said she was notified of the president's visit Wednesday by the White House.

She said the city has a long history in the contributions of organized labor.

"I am so excited to hear that President Obama is visiting Milwaukee,” Moore said. “He is very popular here, very welcomed. Of course, Monday is Labor Day, and in Milwaukee, we are very proud of our labor traditions, and as you know, there are many labor unions that were born right here in Wisconsin.”

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Wisconsin banks increase lending
August 28, 2014 12:25 PM
Wisconsin’s banks reported combined net income of $472 million through the end of the second quarter, down from $495 million in net income through the end of the second quarter of 2013, according to the Quarterly Banking Profile released today by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The report included 255 reporting institutions, down from 261 last year. Total assets were $101 billion, up from $97.3 million in the second quarter of 2013. Total deposits were $78.6 million, up from $77.5 million a year ago.

Lending was up, with $69.8 billion in total loans and leases, compared to $67.3 billion in the second quarter of 2013.

"Wisconsin's banks demonstrated their continued support of the state's businesses with a dramatic 12 percent increase in commercial lending over the past year,” said Rose Oswald Poels, president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Bankers Association. “The industry marked a strong growth in key categories including overall lending as well as showing a decrease in delinquencies compared to last year. These signs sharply illustrate that Wisconsin's banks continue to play a critical role as economic drivers in supporting businesses and consumers."

Green Bay-based Associated Bank N.A. topped Wisconsin banks, reporting $49.2 million in net income for the quarter. The bank has $25.5 billion in total assets.

Next was Madison-based John Deere Financial f.s.b., with $20.6 million in quarterly net income, followed by Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management, with $7 million in net income for the quarter.

Racine-based Johnson Bank, with $7 million, and Baraboo-based The Baraboo National Bank, with $6.2 million, rounded out the top five.

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FIS to close Brown Deer business unit, lay off 32
August 28, 2014 10:06 AM
Jacksonville, Fla.-based FIS plans to close its print and mail business unit in Brown Deer and lay off 32 workers there.

The Brown Deer location is at 4900 W. Brown Deer Road. The company will consolidate its operations within other FIS facilities, according to a WARN notice filed with the state.

Layoffs will begin on Oct. 27 and will happen in phases until the work has been transferred, ending around March 31, 2015.

Affected employees were notified Tuesday. There are 25 hourly and seven salaried positions impacted by the closure, including mail processing clerks, operations analysts and print and insert operators.

None of the employees will have bumping rights. They will be paid all earned wages and agreed upon benefits, as well as severance payments.

FIS, which was formed when Fidelity National Information Services Inc. acquired Brown Deer-based Metavante Technologies Inc. in 2009, is one of the world’s largest providers of banking and payment technologies. It serves more than 14,000 financial institutions and businesses in more than 100 countries.

The company last year closed its Schlitz Park facility in Milwaukee and laid off about 300 employees.

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Koss reports loss, suspends Mexico operations
August 28, 2014 10:41 AM
Milwaukee-based Koss Corp. has reported a fiscal fourth quarter loss of $2.2 million, or 29 cents per share, compared to net income of $4.6 million, or 62 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Sales at the high-fidelity headphone manufacturer were $6.2 million, down from $9.9 million in the same period a year ago.

For the full year, Koss reported a net loss of $5.6 million, or 75 cents per share, compared to net income of $5.4 million, or 74 cents per share, in 2013.

Sales for 2014 were $23.8 million, down 33.3 percent from $35.8 million in 2013.

Koss attributed the losses to increased industry competition and lower export sales, especially in Europe.

The company plans to suspend operations in Mexico until demand picks up for the products made there.

"The company had extremely disappointing results in the past fiscal year and in the quarter ended June 30, 2014," said Michael Koss, president and chief executive officer. "We experienced major setbacks in export sales, particularly in Europe. That drop in sales was significant enough for us to suspend operations in Mexico until sales volumes support enough demand for the products being produced there. In addition, with the changes that need to be made to the Striva Wi-Fi headphone technology, we wrote off the capitalized software costs as well as the related tooling and inventory. These three factors resulted in a significant loss in the fiscal year 2014. Conversely, in the fourth quarter last year, the company recorded the gain from settling the lawsuit with the former auditors."

"Increased competition in our industry has played a role in the setback, but we believe the severe reduction in 2014 export sales was also driven by certain economic challenges, struggling economies, and available credit for retailers and distributors. In addition, one of our largest European distributors reported overstocked inventory levels on a broad range of items on hand, including Koss products," Koss said. "The company still believes in the viability of the Striva Technology but has temporarily suspended its research and development effort in this area until our base business is restored to more profitable levels. Furthermore, we continue to believe that a manufacturing presence in Mexico has future strategic value and may resume production there if key economic factors improve to justify it."

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Scott Whitley named president of Tenth and Blake Beer Co.
August 28, 2014 11:33 AM
MillerCoors Brewing Co. has announced that Scott Whitley will become president and chief beer merchant at Tenth and Blake Beer Co., the craft and import division of Chicago-based MillerCoors LLC.

Tenth and Blake brews some of its beer at Milwaukee’s Tenth Street Brewery.

Whitley, who will assume his new role Oct. 1, succeeds Tom Cardella, who in July announced he will retire at the end of 2014.

Whitley has 33 years of beer industry experience. He has served as president of Coors Distributing Co. in Denver since 2008, where he grew a diverse portfolio of craft and import brands, including leading brands from Blue Moon Brewing Co. and Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.

He previously held a number of senior roles, including vice president of integration planning at MillerCoors, vice president of global strategy at Molson Coors and chief market development officer at Molson Coors Canada. He holds an MBA from the University of Colorado and a bachelor’s from the University of California-Davis.

Other changes to the MillerCoors senior leadership team are as follows:
  • Chris Kozina, who has served as chairman of the Coors Distributing Co. board since 2011 and chief human resources officer of MillerCoors since 2010, will succeed Whitley as president of Coors Distributing Co., effective Oct. 1. He previously served as vice president of insights and chief of staff at MillerCoors, as well as chief information officer at Miller Brewing Company.
  • Michelle Nettles, who has served as senior director of diversity and integrated talent management since 2011, will succeed Kozina as chief human resources officer, also effective Oct. 1. She previously served as senior director of business diversity partnership, and also led a learning initiative at Marquette University. Nettles has also held several senior roles at Miller Brewing Co., including director of strategic human resources projects and assistant general counsel.
  • Pete Marino will become chief public affairs and communications officer, effective Sept. 1, succeeding Nehl Horton, who is leaving MillerCoors to accept a senior role at a publicly listed company. Marino has served as vice president of communications at MillerCoors since 2012. 

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City to begin accepting applications next week for new taxi permits
August 28, 2014 12:07 PM
City of Milwaukee officials will hold a news conference Tuesday morning to kick off the opening of the new taxi cab permit application process.

In July the Common Council approved legislation that eliminated the city’s cap on taxi permits and created a new application process. The legislation was created to enable ride share services like Uber and Lyft to operate legally in the city.

“For the first time in decades, applicants for a public passenger vehicle permit to operate a taxi in Milwaukee will be able to apply without regard for a cap on the number of permits issued, and receive provisional permission to begin operating the day of their application,” Ald. Robert Bauman said. “(The new permit application process) creates a level playing field for all drivers while ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers.”

However, several taxi cab companies filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city this week in an attempt to block the new ordinance. The taxi cab companies are upset that the cap on taxi permits has been lifted and say the new ordinance creates a two-tiered regulatory system that hurts taxi permit holders.

Nevertheless, city officials are moving forward with plans to allow applicants to apply for taxi permits without any cap. Bauman said the first 10 applicants will receive a commemorative gift.

City officials are asking applicants to visit to prepare their application materials ahead of time.

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Seester’s Mexican Cantina in Pewaukee suffers damage from fire
August 28, 2014 10:43 AM
A fire Wednesday night at Seester’s Mexican Cantina in downtown Pewaukee caused fire, smoke and water damage that will keep the restaurant closed for at least a couple of weeks.

The restaurant is located in the Old Main Street development, built in 2002 by Siepmann Realty in downtown Pewaukee.

A small electrical fire started in Seester’s kitchen, said Siepmann Realty President Jim Siepmann. The cause is yet to be determined, he said. The building’s sprinkler system extinguished the blaze, he said.

“The sprinkler system worked beautifully,” Siepmann said.
Siepmann also praised the work of the Village of Pewaukee Fire Department.

“The fire department was incredible,” he said. “They did a great job. Otherwise we’d be having a whole different discussion.”

Fire fighters opened windows of the building’s upstairs office tenants, mitigating smoke damage. Despite minor smoke damage, those tenants remain open for busiess Siepmann said.

The Chocolate Factory restaurant in the building suffered some smoke and water damage and is closed today, but could open as early as Friday, he said.

A crew from Paul Davis Restoration began work last night to clean up the damage.

“The restoration company got in so quick and did such a great job,” Siepmann said.

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Roadrunner completes acquisition of Active Aero Group
August 28, 2014 10:16 AM
Cudahy-based Roadrunner Transportation Systems Inc. announced Wednesday that it has completed its previously announced acquisition of Belleville, Mich.-based Active Aero Group, a supply chain solutions provider specializing in sensitive or time-critical freight.

The total purchase price was approximately $115 million in cash and was funded with borrowings under Roadrunner’s credit facility.

“As we have indicated, the ability to provide air and ground expedited services to meet customers’ total transportation needs has been a key strategic objective for Roadrunner,” Mark DiBlasi, president and chief executive officer of Roadrunner, said when the acquisition was announced. “Active Aero’s strong position in the marketplace is based upon the high quality of its service offering and personnel and its unique blend of expedited services. As a result, we believe Active Aero represents an ideal match with our strategy and an excellent platform for growth in expedited services globally.”

Active Aero offers ground and air expedited services, mainly in the United States and Mexico. It uses spot bid technology, controlled capacity, a unique procurement system and multi-modal offering to efficiently meet time-critical logistics challenges.

Active Aero reported $265 million in revenue in fiscal 2014 and is expected to be accretive to Roadrunner earnings in its fourth quarter.

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Milwaukee Biz Blog: Missing in governor race: health cost budget buster
August 28, 2014 12:09 PM
One of the major political footballs in this year's campaign for Wisconsin governor is how many people should be on the state's BadgerCare/Medicaid program. It is a legitimate issue, raised by the Obamacare offer of 100 percent coverage for three years for adding impoverished enrollees.

Read more in today’s Milwaukee Biz Blog by John Torinus of Serigraph Inc.

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Morning Headlines: Team Industries to add 155 jobs in expansion
August 28, 2014 12:11 PM
Team Industries is expanding its main fabrication building in Kaukauna to add equipment and expand its welding/fabrication capabilities.

Read more in today’s Wisconsin Morning Headlines.

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Bubbler Weekly: BizTimes Media extends nomination deadline for Nonprofit Excellence Awards
August 28, 2014 12:12 PM
BizTimes Media has extended the nomination deadline for the inaugural BizTimes Media Nonprofit Excellence Awards to Friday, Sept. 12.

Read about the awards in today’s Bubbler Weekly.

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Wisconsin governor’s race remains tight
August 27, 2014 12:38 PM
The latest Marquette University Law School Poll results released today gave supporters of both Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke reasons for optimism.

The results of the latest poll were mixed. Walker leads among registered voters, but Burke leads among likely voters.

Walker garnered 47.5 percent of registered voter support, while Burke held 44.1 percent.

Among likely voters, however, Burke was at 48.6 percent and Walker had 46.5 percent of potential votes.

Each of the poll questions were within the poll’s statistical margin of error, said poll chief Charles Franklin. He said the results have been “remarkably flat” from poll to poll.

In the new MU Law Poll, 815 registered voters were interviewed by landline and cell phone, with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 points. The sample included 609 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 points. The polling was done Aug. 21-24.

In July’s poll, Walker held 45.8 percent among registered voters and Burke was at 44.8 percent. And among likely voters in July, Burke held 46.8 percent and Walker was at 46.3 percent.

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Potawatomi withholds payment to state
August 27, 2014 11:58 AM
The Forest County Potawatomi Tribe is withholding its annual shared revenue payment to the state of Wisconsin as Gov. Scott Walker’s administration considers whether or not to approve the Menominee Tribal Nation’s proposed Hard Rock casino project in Kenosha.

The Potawatomi failed to make its payment to the state that was due on June 30, according to a report submitted by Administration Department Secretary Mike Huebsch on Tuesday to Walker.

Huebsch’s report says that the state’s gaming compacts with three tribes, the Ho-Chunk Nation, Potawatomi and Lac du Flambeau, indicate that the state must indemnify them or offset them for losses if a casino is built in Kenosha. The Lac Du Flambeau tribe waived its claim in October and the Ho-Chunk Nation’s compact has a “relatively clear and defined process that addresses the state’s obligations,” to compensate for a Kenosha casino, Huebsch said in his report.

“We have reached an agreement with the Ho-Chunk Nation,” Huebsch’s report to Walker states. “As prescribed by the (Gov. Jim) Doyle compact with the Ho-Chunk Nation, if you approve the Kenosha casino, the Ho-Chunk Nation’s annual revenue sharing payment would decrease by the impact caused by the Kenosha casino.”

However, the Potawatomi compact does not contain a clear definition of indemnification for a Kenosha casino, Huebsch says.

“Substantial challenges lie ahead with the Potawatomi,” he said in the report. “The Doyle compact with the Potawatomi basically says the state must enter into arbitration to create a compact amendment that establishes a process. This compact amendment must then be submitted to the federal government. It appears the complicated provisions may have been designed to block a Kenosha casino.”

Huebsch did not disclose the amount of the withheld Potawatomi payment.

In a letter to legislators Tuesday, Walker said, “at least one of the tribal governments appears to believe that they could recover $100 million from the state, plus millions more through the process spelled out in the compacts and through the withholding of compact payments.”

Potawatomi spokesman George Ermert also declined to disclose the amount of the payment withheld.

“According to the terms of the Forest County Potawatomi Community’s compact, the tribe may get a reduction in, or refund of, the payments made to the state of Wisconsin should the state approve another casino within 50 miles of the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee,” Ermert said in a statement. “The state may end up owing the Potawatomi money should the Kenosha casino be approved. Consequently, Potawatomi put its 2014 state compact payment in a segregated/reserve account.”

The Potawatomi’s decision to withhold its payment to the state is, “having a significant impact on the status” of the state budget, Walker said.

“Terms of the compacts approved by former Gov. Doyle could lead to a significant financial problem for the state of Wisconsin if a casino is approved in Kenosha before we have reached agreements with the impacted tribes,” Walker said in his letter to legislators. “This has already had a negative impact on the current budget and could very well create a program for future budgets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Needless to say, we are moving forward with legitimate caution as we cannot risk putting that size of a hole in the current and future state budgets.”

Walker must make a decision on whether or not to approve the Kenosha casino by Feb. 19, 2015.

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Zepnick proposes Menomonee Valley site for new arena
August 27, 2014 11:19 AM
State Rep. Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee) today added the latest wrinkle to the civic discussion about where and how to finance and build a new arena, proposing a new location in the Menomonee River Valley.

Zepnick sent a letter to new Milwaukee Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, urging them to consider building the arena north of the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

Zepnick said the project could be funded by “a more traditional TIF (tax incremental financing)” model. The new arena should be built west of the 16th Viaduct on the current site of Marquette Athletic Fields, which could be relocated, Zepnick said.

“The location I have in mind, follows the thinking and planning that I believe is necessary for a successful project regardless of where it ends up: careful and minimal use of public dollar with no tax increase, connecting to a larger vision for Milwaukee's downtown, seeking out a distressed or ‘under-utilized’ piece of land, and importantly strong connections to the Interstate and transit system,” Zepnick wrote. “Not one penny of this would come from a sales tax increase.”

The existing BMO Harris Bradley Center site could be sold to help offset some of the construction costs for a new arena, Zepnick said.

“Similarly, that area of downtown would become cleared for construction when it comes to an expanded Convention Center. Re-opening parts of Fourth Street or Fifth Street as well as Highland Avenue and using transit as a connector, could mean a seamless ‘district’ which goes from Amtrak station/Grand Avenue on the South and the existing Wisconsin Center footprint, all the way north to the Pabst development and Park East Corridor,” Zepnick said. “This would allow for hotel, commercial and retail developments, and importantly housing. Expanded downtown housing is critical to improving the utilization of land west of the river and would help bridge Wisconsin Avenue up to McKinley where the new Interstate ramps effectively serve a future marketplace at Park East. This bodes well for King Drive development over the long haul.”

Last week Milwaukee Alderman Joe Davis Sr. proposed increasing the city’s bonding authority by $100 million during the upcoming 2015 budget process to give the city more flexibility to help finance a new arena.

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Milwaukee Public Library seeks development partners
August 27, 2014 12:42 PM
The Milwaukee Public Library is seeking private sector real estate development partners to do mixed-use developments of library sites, similar to projects done for the Villard Square Branch and for the East Branch on North Avenue, which is part of HSI Properties' The Standard at East Library project that is under construction.

The Milwaukee Public Library is asking developers to submit information on current and potential projects that could be compatible with a library, for four neighborhood libraries in the city that are slated for replacement. MPL today released a request for interest from developments interested in doing mixed-use projects with libraries to replace the: Forest Home Library, 1432 W. Forest Home Ave.; Mill Road Library, 6431 N. 76th St.; Martin Luther King Library, 310 W. Locust St,; or Capitol Library, 3969 N. 74th St.

“We are excited to hear from developers in the community that have an interest in working with us,” said Library Director Paula Kiely. “Over the last six years, MPL will replace four of our neighborhood libraries with mixed-use buildings much like we are doing at the new East Branch and the recently opened Villard Square Branch (at 5190 N. 35th St.). This is an exciting venture for MPL and for city residents who will benefit from having a new, technology-rich 21st Century library in their neighborhood that is also a catalyst for economic and neighborhood development and stability.”

The city has budgeted $22.4 million for the library projects. MPL says it plans to spend $4.4 million to $4.5 million on each library. In all, five branch libraries will be renovated or replaced. The Tippecanoe Library will be fully renovated, but will remain in the same building at 3912 S. Howell Ave.

An open house about the library projects will be held on Monday, Sept. 8, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Forest Home Library, 1432 W. Forest Home Ave.

Statements of interest from developers are due by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30. More information is available at:

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