BizTracker: Profits, lending increase at Wisconsin credit unions
May 6, 2015 11:59 AM
Wisconsin’s state-chartered credit unions increased profits by 21.6 percent and ending by 10.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to data released today by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

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

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New Berlin industrial oven manufacturer closes, terminates 37
May 6, 2015 10:23 AM
Thirty-seven employees lost their jobs on Tuesday when Infratrol Manufacturing Corp. in New Berlin closed its business.

The company, which filed for Chapter 128 receivership, notified state and local officials of the closure and layoffs on Tuesday. Receiver Todd Esser, of Milwaukee-based Todd Esser & Associates, and Infratrol president Steven Onsager were not available for comment.  

Located at 2500 S. 162nd St., Infratrol had been designing and building engineered-to-order industrial heat processing equipment since 1956.

In response to recent layoffs at area manufacturers like East Troy-based Erik Buell Racing last month, a Walworth County Manufacturing Job Fair is set for Tuesday, May 19. The fair is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Walworth County Job Center, 400 County Road H, in the South Building at Gateway Technical College in Elkhorn.

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Scholz is new president of Vistelar
May 6, 2015 10:44 AM
Vistelar LLC, a Milwaukee-based conflict prevention and management services company, has named Kevin Scholz as president.

Vistelar, formed in 2009, has experienced explosive demand for its services, which has driven the need for an expanded management team.

Allen Oelschlaeger, chief executive officer of Vistelar and two sister companies, said, "I'm thrilled to have Kevin in this role given his experience in law enforcement - one of primary target markets among the fourteen we serve - and his unique blend of sales, marketing, training and leader-ship experience and academic background, which includes a master's degree in leadership studies from Marquette University."

Scholz said, "I'm excited to lead the best conflict management training organization in the country, with our professional staff and renowned subject matter experts. If people knew the im-pact we have on organizations and individuals, we wouldn't be able to keep up with interest. That's exactly the problem that I plan to make happen and then resolve."

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Harley-Davidson Museum announces new Bikes, Brats & Beer summer tour
May 6, 2015 10:41 AM
The Harley-Davidson Museum will celebrate summer in the city with a new tour developed in partnership with Milwaukee Food & City Tours. The Milwaukee Legends Tour: Bikes, Brats & Beer will be offered Thursdays and Sundays from May 21 to Sept. 6.

“Whether a first-time visitor to the city or a Milwaukee native looking for a unique experience, tour participants will learn something new about local history and culture and have a lot of fun along the way,” said Bill Davidson, vice president of the Harley-Davison Museum based in Milwaukee.

Each three-and-a-half hour excursion kicks off with a guided tour of the museum, highlighting the journey of the Harley-Davidson founders from creating a garage start-up to building the iconic, global brand. Participants will then board a museum bus and take a historical tour focused on Milwaukee’s legendary beer- and sausage-making heritage. The narrated journey through the Menomonee and Miller Valleys and downtown highlights the family mansions of Milwaukee beer barons, Pabst Brewery Complex, Schlitz Park and Usinger’s Famous Sausage Shop.

The tour includes two stops where participants will sample authentic German brats and classic Wisconsin cheeses at Wisconsin Cheese Mart on Old World 3rd Street and beer tastings during a Lakefront Brewery tour. The journey ends back at the museum with the option to experience Bike Night (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) after Thursday tours.

The Milwaukee Legends Tour is offered Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $60 per person and can be purchased at Ticket price includes all-day museum admission along with a 10 percent discount at MOTOR Bar & Restaurant and The Shop. Tour participants must be 21 years or older.

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Fiserv reports strong first quarter
May 6, 2015 11:14 AM
Brookfield-based Fiserv Inc. has reported first quarter net income of $178 million, or 73 cents per share, up from $168 million, or 65 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2014.

The financial technology developer reported operating income of $314 million, up from $271 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue was $1.3 billion in the first quarter, compared with $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2014.

“We are pleased with our strong start to the year,” said Jeffery Yabuki, president and chief executive officer of Fiserv. “Results for the quarter were consistent with our full-year expectations, highlighted by strong operating performance and excellent growth in free cash flow.

“We delivered internal revenue growth of 4 percent against what was by far our most difficult revenue comparison of the year. These results include a 1 percentage point drag on revenue from a combination of currency and lower termination fees in the quarter.”
Fiserv reaffirmed its full-year projection of 5 to 6 percent internal revenue growth and adjusted earnings per share of $3.73 to $3.83.

“We are on track to achieve full-year results within our 2015 guidance, which anticipates stronger results in the second half of the year,” said Yabuki.

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Weyco Group’s first quarter sales a record
May 6, 2015 11:41 AM
Milwaukee-based Weyco Group Inc. has reported first quarter net income of $3.6 million, or 33 cents per share, up from $3.3 million, or 29 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2014.

Operating income at the shoe manufacturer was $5.8 million, up 19 percent from $4.9 million in the same period a year ago.

Quarterly revenue totaled a record $78.1 million, up 4 percent from $74.9 million in the first quarter of 2014. Cost of sales also rose to $49.3 million, from $47.6 million a year ago.

The company saw North American retail sales decline 5 percent, even as U.S. internet sales rose 9 percent. Florsheim Australia and Florsheim Europe saw a $1 million drop in net sales from last year’s first quarter, which the company attributed to negative foreign currency translation.

"We are excited to have achieved record first quarter sales," said Thomas Florsheim, Jr. the company's chairman and chief executive officer. "Our sales increase was spurred by our sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit sales growth for our BOGS brand, as well as strong sales of our Stacy Adams and Nunn Bush products. We look forward to building upon these successes in the second quarter."

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Quad/Graphics’ loss widens
May 6, 2015 10:20 AM
Sussex-based Quad/Graphics Inc. reported a first quarter net loss of $35.2 million, or 74 cents lost per share, compared with a net loss of $9.1 million, or 19 cents lost per share, in the first quarter of 2014.

The commercial printer reported an operating loss of $11.8 million, compared with operating income of 11 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue totaled $1.1 billion, flat from the first quarter of 2014. The company attributed the figure to continued volume and pricing pressures in the printing industry, which were partially offset by higher earnings driven by recently acquired companies.

The company also pointed out its free cash flow in the quarter was $22 million, up $35 million over the first quarter of 2014, due both to working capital improvements and a $10 million termination fee the company received when its acquisition of Courier Corp. fell through.

"Our continued strong cash generation enables us to generate value for the company and for our shareholders despite ongoing industry challenges," said Dave Honan, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Quad/Graphics. "We use our capital to pursue compelling investment opportunities, deleverage the balance sheet through debt and pension liability reductions, and return cash to our shareholders. We continue to believe Quad/Graphics will be a significant free cash flow generator, and we remain confident in our ability to pay down debt and drive future value."

Quad declared a quarterly dividend of 30 cents per share, to be paid out on June 19 to shareholders of record as of June 8.

"Our first quarter results were in-line with our expectations, and we remain on track to achieve our 2015 financial objectives," said Joel Quadracci, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Quad/Graphics. "We remain focused on growing market share, improving productivity, implementing sustainable cost reduction initiatives, and maintaining a strong and flexible balance sheet. We will continue to invest in our existing business while pursuing compelling acquisition opportunities, like Marin's International, a worldwide leader in the point-of-sale display industry, and, more recently, Copac Global Packaging, an international provider of innovative packaging and supply chain solutions. As we move forward, we will continue to transform both Quad/Graphics and our industry with a disciplined approach that creates value for our clients and shareholders."

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Batzner goes back to the future with new name
May 6, 2015 11:00 AM
New Berlin-based Batzner Pest Management announced today that the company is changing its name to Batzner Pest Control as part of a multifaceted rebranding effort.

Founded as Batzner Pest Control in 1946, the restoration of the original name hails back to the foundation of the company that was built on a dedication to provide proven pest control with unparalleled customer service.

With more than 69 years in business and the company now in its third generation of family ownership, the company has added a new tagline of “The Name to Know for Pest Control,” a new logo, a redesigned website and newly designed trucks.

“The decision to rebrand was driven by our strong desire to stay grounded in our roots, culture and long-standing tradition of providing legendary service,” said Jerry Batzner, president and chief executive officer. “With the rebranding, Batzner customers will experience the same guarantee which includes complete customer satisfaction and peace of mind.”

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Morning Headlines: Prevailing wage law debated
May 6, 2015 10:23 AM
Lawmakers, construction companies and local government leaders sparred Tuesday over a Republican bill that would repeal Wisconsin's prevailing wage law, with supporters saying the measure would save money and opponents arguing the law guarantees quality construction and wage equality.

Read more in today’s Wisconsin Morning Headlines.

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Real Estate Weekly: Real estate forum at BizExpo will focus on downtown developments
May 6, 2015 11:45 AM
The 2015 BizExpo, which will be held on Wednesday, May 20 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino Expo Center, will include a Real Estate Forum.

Read more in today’s Real Estate Weekly.

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State legislators debate prevailing wage repeal
May 5, 2015 10:33 AM
The State Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform today is conducting a public hearing on the state's prevailing wage law today.

Senate Bill 49 would eliminate the state's prevailing wage requirement for employees working on publicly financed projects.

Prevailing wages, which are based on surveys of companies, apply to most public works projects and are minimum rates of compensation for workers in individual trades in specific counties. The Department of Workforce Development sets those rates.

Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) said those rates are artificially inflated and cost local and state governments millions more than is necessary. They said their bills would solve that problem by eliminating what they both called an "archaic" law.

Jim Hoffman, president of Black River Falls-based Hoffman Construction Company, which has a union workforce "by choice," testified against the bill to repeal prevailing wages. To be sustainable, Hoffman said his company must be able to provide a "living wage" and benefits to attract the best employees that will provide the best work. Repealing prevailing wage would result in a "race to the bottom" for cheap prices and reduced quality in construction, Hoffman said.

To view the ongoing hearing, visit WisconsinEye.

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Kesslers Diamonds to open store in downtown Milwaukee
May 5, 2015 11:23 AM
Germantown-based Kesslers Diamonds announced that it plans to open a store in downtown Milwaukee in the George Watts & Son Building at 761 N. Jefferson St.

The new store will open Oct. 1, occupying 2,200 square feet of space in the building.

“This is a fantastic and vibrant area, and our store there will give us a strong presence on the east side of metro Milwaukee,” said Richard Kessler, president of the employee-owned company. “With the Pfister Hotel across the street, Northwestern Mutual constructing its new office tower nearby, all the other great businesses and the activities such as Jazz in the Park, it’s a very attractive part of town.”

Kesslers currently has five stores in Germantown, Greenfield, Brookfield, Appleton and Madison. The company also plans to open a store in Grand Rapids, Mich. On Nov. 1.

“With the downtown Milwaukee center, access to a Kesslers Diamonds (store) will be very convenient to anyone I the metro area,” Kessler said.

Kessler said he also is excited about being part of a wedding-focused destination, as the George Watts & Son Building is home to George Watts & Son, Watts Tea Shop, Zita Bridal Salon, and Walny Legal Group.

“Kesslers Diamonds is a perfect fit for us,” said Sam Watts, president and chief operating officer of George Watts & Son. “I was thrilled when Zita Bridal Salon located here nearly four years ago. With Kesslers Diamonds, our building becomes the premier bridal destination. The industry leaders will all be in one location.”

Kesslers Diamonds deals exclusively in diamonds, and claims to be Wisconsin's largest seller of diamonds and diamond engagement rings.

The downtown Kesslers space is being designed by Milwaukee-based Retailworks, Inc. The company said the interior space of the downtown Kesslers store “will be a visual showpiece with unique finishes, specialty lighting, and clever focal points. Key windows will have New York style’ art installations, creating a buzz on Mason and Jefferson streets.” Changed on a regular basis, those displays will become a “must see” for locals and out-of-town visitors, Kessler said.

“We’ll have a very inviting appearance that will have a bit of a twist on the already strong Kesslers Diamond brand design to appeal to the downtown market while respecting the historic integrity of the iconic Watts building,” Kessler said.

The space was made available when DeLind Gallery of Fine Art owner William DeLind decided to retire and close the business. Watts said he immediately thought of Kesslers Diamonds as a new tenant for the space, based on its reputation and the synergies the diamond center would create with the other businesses there.

“One of our great assets is the reputation we’ve earned over our 150 years in business,” Watts said. “When we have space available, we look for stellar businesses that have earned excellent reputations, as well.”

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Invitation to attend the BizExpo
May 5, 2015 09:58 AM
Southeastern Wisconsin business leaders are invited to attend the 11th annual BizExpo, which will take place Wednesday, May 20, at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee.

Registration to attend the BizExpo is free in advance and $20 per person at the door.

With registration, attendees will be able to walk the BizExpo floor and visit more than 125 business exhibit booths, as well as attend 18 business seminars, ranging in topics from sales and management to marketing, crisis management and staffing. To view the roster of business experts who will present seminars, click here.

The BizExpo, which also includes some premium events such as the Women In Business Breakfast, the Bravo! Entrepreneur and I.Q Awards Luncheon and the BizExpo After Hours, is produced by BizTimes Media. To register to attend the BizExpo, visit

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Metal-Era plans to expand plant
May 5, 2015 11:28 AM
Metal-Era, a roof edge and ventilation system manufacturer, plans to add an addition of about 35,000 square feet to its 110,000-square-foot plant at 1600 Airline Road in Waukesha.

The company recently purchased the American Iron & Alloys building next door, which sits on a 6.8-acre site at 1700 Airport Road. Metal-Era bought the property for about $2.2 million from an affiliate of New Berlin-based James Luterbach Construction Co.

The acquisition of that property gives Metal-Era room to build an expansion onto its facility, said company president Tony Mallinger.

“We’re going to be planning an addition between the two buildings,” Mallinger said. “We’re extremely tight on space right now.”

Metal-Era recently added about $800,000 worth of new equipment and has added 15 to 20 employees since late last year, Mallinger said. The company leases about 10,000 square feet of space in Pewaukee.

“We want to bring everything back in house,” he said.

American Iron & Alloys will continue to occupy its building and will lease it from Metal-Era, Mallinger said.

“We’re not going to do anything with that building,” he said.

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Wisconsin Energy earnings fall on acquisition costs
May 5, 2015 12:09 PM
Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Energy Corp. today reported first quarter net income of $195.8 million, or 86 cents per share, down from $207.6 million, or 91 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2014.

The power generation company attributed the decrease to costs incurred in its planned $9.1 billion acquisition of Integrys Energy Group Inc. Those costs impacted earnings by about 4 cents per share.

Operating income was $358.8 million, down from $381.8 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue was $1.4 billion in the quarter, down from $1.7 billion in the first quarter of 2014. The company attributed the decrease to last year’s polar vortex and higher spot market prices for natural gas.

“While this winter was colder than normal, we did not experience the extreme conditions that persisted throughout the winter months last year,” said Gale Klappa, chairman and chief executive officer.
“However, the second month of this year was actually colder than February of 2014, and we delivered more natural gas to our retail customers this February than during any other February in history - exceeding the previous record by 5.5 percent.

“Overall, the quarter was marked by high reliability and effective cost controls. In addition, we continued to see an uptick in customer growth, particularly in our natural gas distribution business.”

Wisconsin Energy has added 9,800 natural gas customers and 6,100 electric customers over the past year.

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