Humana may be for sale
May 29, 2015 01:16 PM
Louisville-based Humana Inc., which provides health insurance for thousands of Wisconsin residents, may be for sale, according to a report today by The Wall Street Journal.

The company has received indications of takeover interest and is working with advisers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to explore its options, including a sale, according to the report.
Such a transaction could trigger a wave consolidations in the industry, analysts said.
Humana is one of five health insurers that bankers and analysts have long considered ripe for consolidating in the industry. Besides Aetna and Cigna, the other major insurers are UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest by revenue, and Anthem Inc.
Humana receives the bulk of its revenue from patients using Medicare, the federal health-insurance system for older Americans that is often administered by private insurers.
The Affordable Care Act has created millions of potential new customers by requiring individuals to have health insurance.
"While impossible to predict timing, there is a consistent theme of consolidation being openly discussed by a number of management teams in the sector," J.P. Morgan analysts wrote in a recent research note.
Humana posted pretax income of about $1.1 billion on revenue of $48.5 billion last year. In the first quarter, its membership rose to 14.2 million customers and revenue jumped 18 percent.
According to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, Humana ranks fourth in market share in the state, trailing only UnitedHealthcare of Wisconsin, Security Health Plan of Wisconsin and Network Health Insurance Corp.

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BizTracker: Manufacturing sector continues to contract
May 29, 2015 12:01 PM
A key measure of Milwaukee-area manufacturing activity once again indicated contraction in May. The seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers Index was below 50 for now the second month in a row, according to the Marquette-ISM Report on Manufacturing.

Read more in the BizTimes BizTracker, which tracks local, state and national economic data.

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Survey: Wisconsin's small business economic sentiment improves
May 29, 2015 10:27 AM
Wisconsin’s small businesses reported feeling “somewhat positive” about the economy in April, an improvement over April 2014, according to a new survey from Bloomberg and

The April Small Business Sentiment Survey polled 14,357 small business respondents nationwide, including 218 in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin ranked 28th nationwide in terms of overall economic sentiment in April. Nationwide, sentiment was somewhat positive, the same as a year ago.

Since the end of 2013, Wisconsin’s small businesses have become about 20 percent more optimistic. Respondents were very optimistic about their current financial conditions, ranking 10th nationwide, but were less optimistic about their future profitability, and reported expected decreases in May profits.

When asked “How do you think your company’s financial condition will be three months from now?” 54 percent of those surveyed said “a little better,” while 24 percent said substantially better and 21 percent said “about the same.”

Asked “How do you expect your company’s profitability (net earnings after taxes) to change over the next three months?” 42 percent of respondents said they expect a 1 to 10 percent increase, 31 percent expected it to remain the same and 23 percent expected it to increase by more than 10 percent.

In terms of employment, the majority of respondents expect both their number of employees and those employees’ compensation to remain about the same over the next three months.

“We are excited to be able to reveal this new survey, which will capture the sentiment of over 10,000 small service providers nationwide on a monthly basis,” said Jon Lieber, chief economist at Thumbtack. “Many of these businesses have few or no employees, and are often overlooked in other widely tracked business surveys. We hope by drawing attention to them we can offer new insights into what’s happening in a part of the American economy that is difficult to study.”

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Uline buys site for new office building
May 29, 2015 11:15 AM
Uline purchased a 20-acre site from the Village of Pleasant Prairie, where the company plans to build a new office building, for $4.4 million, according to state records.

The site is located on 120th Avenue, a frontage road along I-94 and near the Uline corporate headquarters campus in Pleasant Prairie.

Uline plans to build a new 298,000-square-foot office building on the site. The new office building is expected to have 500 employees, which is expected to grow to 800 in the future.

Earlier this year Uline indicated that it plans to submit final site and operational plans to the village in July or August and then begin construction. Construction is expected to be complete in early 2017.

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Bead&Button Show to draw 13,000
May 29, 2015 09:56 AM
Milwaukee will play host to its 15th Bead&Button Show next week, drawing about 13,000 attendees from around the world to the area.

The Bead&Button Show, hosted by Waukesha-based Kalmbach Publishing Co. will be held from June 1 to 7 at the Wisconsin Center downtown. The show, one of Milwaukee’s largest annual consumer shows, has an estimated economic impact of $1.7 million.

More than 800 classes and workshops will be offered, from beginner to advanced levels, on topics including: beading, jewelry-making, wirework, metalwork, metal clay, polymer clay and glass bead-making.

An Artisan Jewelry Marketplace runs from June 5 to 7, at which jewelers and artisans network and vendors sell finished jewelry, beads, gemstones and accessories.

The marketplace is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Entry vouchers can be printed at or picked up from the box office.

Bead Artists Against Breast Cancer, a silent and live auction of beads, jewelry, books and supplies, will also be held during the event to raise money for breast cancer research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

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Hispanic Chamber names Maria Watts Latina Leader of the Year
May 29, 2015 11:08 AM
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin has named Maria Watts its Latina Leader of the Year.

Watts is the Transform Milwaukee project manager for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. She started working on the public-private economic revitalization campaign in 2012, and has enlisted more than 100 partners and stakeholders from across the city to help create a transformation agenda for Milwaukee.

WHEDA, is a public body corporate and politic that provides low-cost financing for housing, small business and agricultural development, has invested $114 million in the first three years of the Transform Milwaukee program, and has also garnered $178 million in public-private contributions.

Watts has worked with the Milwaukee Latino and broader communities for 23 years, 16 of which have been at WHEDA. Through her work at the agency, Watts has helped public and private organizations grow using its resources. She previously worked as a housing coordinator at La Casa De Esperanza and as an assistant vice president for Tri-City National Bank. Watts also has served on several boards of directors, and currently serves as vice chair of the board at United Migrant Opportunity Services.

“I’m thrilled that Maria Watts has been chosen for this prestigious award,” said Wyman Winston, executive director of WHEDA. “Maria’s remarkable passion for WHEDA, Transform Milwaukee and the Hispanic community makes her deserving of this honor from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. I congratulate her for an award-winning commitment to improving Wisconsin’s economy.”

Watts received the award on May 18 at the 27th annual Salute to Hispanic Women Conference and Latina Leadership Luncheon at the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

“I’m deeply honored and feel so incredibly blessed to receive this award,” Watts said. “After working in the Hispanic community for more than two decades, I strongly believe that our relationships and our ability to leverage our expertise and resources can truly bring success. The award, I’m so fortunate to receive, belongs to all who are working to make an impact for residents throughout Milwaukee and Wisconsin.”

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Milwaukee Biz Blog: Horse trading produces convoluted arena deal
May 29, 2015 10:48 AM
The Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee is meeting in executive session today to discuss a deal to generate $250 million in public financing for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee.

BizTimes executive editor Steve Jagler explains why the pact may be one of the most convoluted and complex public financing agreements in professional sports history. Read more about the politics that are driving the agreement in today's Milwaukee Biz Blog.

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Milwaukee Biz Poll: Should the Fed raise key interest rate?
May 29, 2015 11:35 AM
Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen recently said she expects the central bank to increase its benchmark short-term interest rate later this year if the economy continues to improve.
Should the Federal Reserve Bank raise its benchmark short-term interest rate this year? Vote now and view the results so far by answering today's Milwaukee Biz Poll question.

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Weekend Preview
May 29, 2015 11:13 AM
The great Milwaukee weekend is upon us, and OnMilwaukee has rounded up all the fun options ahead, from beer tasting to comedy shows.

Read all about it in the Weekend Preview. OnMilwaukee is a media partner of BizTimes Media.

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Morning Headlines: French company announces $11.5 million expansion in Portage
May 29, 2015 11:15 AM
A global plastics company announced Thursday an $11.5 million expansion of its plant in Portage, aided in part by $700,000 in state tax credits.

Read more in today’s Wisconsin Morning Headlines.

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Nonprofit Weekly: Radiothon raises more than $1.3 million for Children's Hospital
May 29, 2015 11:41 AM
A 36-hour radiothon, now a tradition spanning 18 years, raised more than $1.3 million for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Read more in today’s Nonprofit Weekly.

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Public financing could cover half of costs for new arena
May 28, 2015 10:41 AM
State, local and Milwaukee Bucks officials are in the final stages of negotiating an agreement in which the public financing would cover approximately half of the costs of a $500 million new arena in downtown Milwaukee.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement as it stands now, according to sources:
  • The State of Wisconsin would pay $4 million per year - $80 million in all - to cover $55 million in bonding plus interest.
  • The state would also absorb $20 million in debt from the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
  • The state would be responsible for collecting another $80 million in debt currently owed to Milwaukee County.
  • The City of Milwaukee would build a $35 million parking structure and provide $12 million in tax incremental financing from ancillary development near the new arena.
  • The Wisconsin Center District would use its existing car rental, hotel and food and beverage taxes to pay off $93 million in bonds.
The public financing would be matched by $150 million from current Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan and $100 million from former owner Herb Kohl.
Under terms of the deal being negotiated, the boards of the Wisconsin Center District and the BMO Harris Bradley Center would be merged in to a new “super board” that would oversee the new arena and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. The Marcus Center is currently owned by Milwaukee County. The Wisconsin Center District currently operates the Wisconsin Center convention center, the Milwaukee Theatre and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panther Arena. All of those downtown entertainment assets would be overseen by one board.
The Bucks are proposing to build the new arena on a site north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Along with a modern-looking, 700,000-square-foot, 17,000-seat arena, the Bucks’ plans call for a 60,000-square-foot public plaza that would exist as an entertainment site, known as the “live walk,” which would include a public space with a canopy and a beer garden at North Fourth Street and West Highland Avenue.

A mixed-use entertainment district would be built around the arena, including much of the vacant land in the Park East corridor. That development would encompass 1 million square feet, according to the Bucks’ plans, with space for hotels, residential units, offices, retail, arena parking and entertainment amenities. Additionally, the Bucks announced plans to construct a state-of-the-art practice facility on the west end of the Park East property. The Bucks’ current practice facility resides in leased space at the Archbishop Cousin Center in St. Francis.

Leading the design of the new entertainment hub is Populous, a Kansas City, Mo.-based architecture and planning firm. The Bucks have appointed Populous to oversee a group of global, national and local architects, including HNTB, also of Kansas City, and Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects.
According to architect Greg Uhen, the design of the space would create “connective tissue” that would connect the Park East property to other successful neighborhoods and developments in Milwaukee, including the former Pabst Brewery, Schlitz Park, Bronzeville, the Milwaukee Riverwalk, Old World Third Street and the Wisconsin Center District.
The principals in the negotiations hope to produce a final agreement by Friday. The state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will meet in executive session on Friday at 10 a.m. in Madison. An item on the agenda of the meeting is listed as “Sports and Entertainment District.”
Two aspects of the deal that are still being negotiated include the naming rights for the new arena and an agreement about which entities would be responsible for any cost overruns for the construction project.
The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and Hard Rock International had offered in February to contribute $220 million for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee if Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker would have approved of construction of a new casino hotel and casino in Kenosha. Walker, a presumed presidential candidate, rejected the Menominee proposal.
After a groundbreaking in Portage today, Walker told The Associated Press he believed an arena financing agreement is close and he is hopeful to announce it by the end of the week.
Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin, a powerful conservative advocacy group today denounced the proposed public financing plan for a new Milwaukee arena. AFP state director David Fladeboe issued the following statement: “Our position remains unchanged: the new Buck stadium proposal is still a bad deal for Wisconsin taxpayers. Government shouldn’t be in the business of financing private sports stadiums. The current deal is based on fuzzy math, complicated accounting and taxpayer dollars. Whether it comes from the state, the county, the city or other authority, these are taxpayer dollars. This proposal needs to be rejected and the people of Wisconsin need to be protected.”

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Modine records Q4 loss on currency headwind
May 28, 2015 10:32 AM
Racine-based Modine Manufacturing Co. today reported its fourth quarter and fiscal 2015 results.

The thermal management technology and solutions manufacturer recorded a net loss of $3 million in the fourth quarter, or a 7 cent loss per share, compared with net income of $119.7 million, or $2.49 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Operating income totaled $5.2 million in the fourth quarter, down from $6.7 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue was $363 million in the quarter, down from $390.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Modine attributed the 7 percent sales decrease mainly to the strength of the U.S. dollar, which resulted in a $36 million negative impact on sales, compared to the prior year quarter. The company also created a $3.2 million reserve for legal expenses in Brazil, a $7.8 million impairment charge related to goodwill in South America, and $1 million in restructuring expenses in North America, Europe and South America during the quarter.

“This was a solid quarter with year-over-year improvements in gross margin and adjusted operating income,” said Thomas Burke, Modine president and chief executive officer. “We achieved these results in the face of significant market and currency headwinds.”

For the full year, Modine reported net income of $22.8 million, or 45 cents per share, down from $131.9 million, or $2.72 per share, in 2014.

The company’s 2015 operating income was $52.7 million, up from $37.2 million last year.

And full year revenue totaled $1.5 billion, flat from 2014.
Modine attributed an increase in gross profit margin to a higher sales volume and lower warranty costs. It also recorded a $7.8 million goodwill impairment charge, $4.7 million in restructuring expenses and a $3.2 million gain on the sale of a wind tunnel during the year.

 “I am pleased with our fiscal year results,” Burke said. “Despite challenging markets and negative currency impacts, we improved our gross margin, generated earnings growth and delivered earnings within the guidance provided at this time last year. We continue to focus on improving our cost structure and operating scale production facilities around the world.”

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Marquette Law, Public Policy Forum create Milwaukee cultural needs site
May 28, 2015 10:56 AM
Marquette Law School and the Public Policy Forum have developed a new website to gain input on how to fund Milwaukee's cultural and entertainment needs.

Among the topics to be addressed on the site are whether more public funds should be used to fund “quality of life” attractions like the Milwaukee Symphony, Milwaukee County Parks and the Milwaukee County Zoo, and where those funds should come from.

The site is designed to gain insight from area residents about the cultural and entertainment assets in the region, and gather ideas about financing options for the facilities. Through a simulation, visitors to the site can construct a funding plan and determine revenue options to pay for that plan, and then publish their proposals on social media.

The Public Policy Forum released a report in September that detailed $445 million in cultural asset funding that will be needed over the next 20 years. The figure includes funding a new arena, completing deferred maintenance and making capital improvements to the Milwaukee region's cultural institutions, like the Milwaukee Art Museum, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and Milwaukee County Zoo.

The organizations plan to launch the site during On the Issues with Mike Gousha on Thursday, June 4, from 12:15 to 1:15 at Eckstein Hall on Marquette's campus. PPF president Rob Henken and Marquette Law School associate dean for academic affairs, Professor Matt Parlow, will discuss the site with Gousha. Registration for the event is available here.

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Wipfli adds cybersecurity offering
May 28, 2015 11:19 AM
Wauwatosa-based accounting and consulting firm Wipfli LLP announced it has added a cybersecurity offering to its Risk Advisory and Forensic Services practice.

The firm added the service as a result of the growing number of cyber attacks and data breaches occurring in the marketplace. Additional expertise from the employees of Assurity River Group, which Wipfli acquired in November, also made the expansion possible.

The cybersecurity offering will help clients identify, protect, detect, respond to and recover from cybersecurity risks through services including: cybersecurity risk assessment, IT security, vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, social engineering, cybersecurity policy development, incident response and handling services, cybersecurity training and awareness, vendor management, business continuity, disaster recovery planning and digital forensics.

“Cybersecurity is no longer just an IT issue, it is top of mind for the c-suite and board of directors,” said Bob Cedergren, Risk Advisory and Forensic Services practice leader. “With breaches occurring on a daily basis, our clients are more and more concerned with protecting their data. It’s no longer a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’ We can help our clients stay vigilant and be confident in their security measures.”

The Risk Advisory and Forensic Services Practice also offers information technology risk assessments, disaster recovery, and IT security program and policy development.

“We go beyond focusing on just tools and technical solutions to support cybersecurity,” said Jeff Olejnik, director in Wipfli’s Risk Advisory and Forensic Services practice and former CEO of Assurity. “We work with our clients to create an internal culture of security awareness, we help management make better decisions on how to manage risks, and provide value-added response services to minimize the damage from a breach or cyber-incident.”

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