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MADISON – Walker plans to sign right-to-work bill on Monday
Gov. Scott Walker told Wisconsin's business leaders Wednesday that he plans to sign a right-to-work bill into law early next week, calling it a "tremendous tool" that will help the state's economy.

Walker, a likely presidential candidate, drew applause at the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce business day event when he referred to the right-to-work proposal, which he says he'll sign Monday. Wisconsin will become the 25th state with a law that bars businesses entering into contracts with unions that require workers to pay union dues.

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HOWARD - Meijer plans supercenter near U.S. Highway 41
Michigan mega-retailer Meijer says it wants to build a supercenter at the intersection of Shawano Avenue and U.S. 41.

The 192,940-square-foot store would be on 15.75 acres on the southeast corner of the intersection, across Shawano Avenue from Fleet Farm, according to a proposal filed with the village. Meijer said the store would employ 200-250 people.

Also, Fleet Farm told the village it would build a new store when U.S. 41 reconstruction at the intersection was complete.

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ASHWAUBENON - Sideline Sports Bar closes near Lambeau Field
Sideline Sports Bar, one of the earlier property acquisitions by the Green Bay Packers, closed last weekend, clearing the way for more clearing the way.

The team owns 62 parcels of land west, south and east of Lambeau Field. It plans on developing the land west of the stadium to provide it with non-football sources of income and razed buildings in that area since last summer. The most recent to come down was the building that housed The Blind Ref restaurant.

The team completed the purchase of the Road Star Inn adjacent to Sideline Sports Bar on Feb. 9. It is likely those two buildings will come down soon.

The Packers own all the land in the block bounded by Lombardi Avenue, South Ridge Road, Brookwood Drive and Marlee Lane. They have not revealed their development plans for the area.

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WISCONSIN RAPIDS - City eyes downtown development
City officials have a plan to revitalize the downtown with a building that might host housing, shops and restaurants.

Wisconsin Rapids officials have been working to buy property in the triangular-shaped block bordered by Market, Jackson and Second streets, across from the Wood County Courthouse, Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink said.

Once the city owns the property, it plans to find developers who will commit to building a multi-story structure that might possibly hold apartments, government offices, retail space and restaurants, Vruwink said.

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WISCONSIN RAPIDS - Mead Witter buys River Block building
While city officials work on developing a block on the east side of the Wisconsin River, a non-profit foundation has made significant purchases in 21/2 blocks on the west side of the river.

The Mead Witter Foundation purchased the River Block Building, 111 W. Jackson St., the parking lot on Jackson Street, between Second and Third avenues, and the parking lot on First Avenue, between West Grand Avenue and Johnson Street, from NewPage Wisconsin System, according to records in the Wood County Register of Deeds Office. The purchase for $1.5 million occurred Feb. 13.

Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink said he’s pleased the properties are in local control.

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ARCADIA – Mayor says Ashley Furniture’s decision 'potentially devastating'
Mayor John Kimmel described Ashley Furniture Industries’ decision not to pursue $6 million in state tax credits to expand its manufacturing facility is “potentially devastating” to Arcadia’s downtown.

The decision, which Ashley announced Tuesday, may prevent the city from undertaking a flood-control project that relied on a $6 million tax credit that the company planned to donate to the city, Kimmel said.

The city has sought ways to prevent flooding since a September 2010 flood caused millions of dollars in damage downtown, Kimmel said, adding that the cost of a solution is more than the city of 2,929 can bear.

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EAU CLAIRE - City studying downtown parking
Four decades ago a six-story cement parking ramp was built as part of the Ray Wachs Civic Center to house vehicles of people visiting Eau Claire’s downtown.

The gray structure across from City Hall along South Farwell Street was intended to help free up parking downtown. But since its construction the structure often has been mostly empty as motorists have sought street-side parking spaces instead of paying to park in the ramp.

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MADISON - GrocerKey wants to put grocery buying at shoppers' fingertips
A Madison entrepreneur wants to make it easier to shop for groceries with the click of a mouse instead of walking through long aisles, and to help independent grocers at the same time.

Jeremy Neren launched the website GrocerKey.com this week, and hopes it will become the EatStreet of the grocery business.

EatStreet is a Madison mobile and online restaurant ordering business that now has 80 employees and lists more than 15,000 restaurants in 125 cities.

For now, GrocerKey is teaming with an unnamed, local grocery store, offering same-day delivery in downtown Madison.

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WISCONSIN RAPIDS - Riverview, Aspirus merger completed
The new owner of Wisconsin Rapids' only hospital plans to increase the health services available in the community.

Riverview Hospital Association and Aspirus, a Wausau-based not-for-profit health care system, finalized a merger Tuesday that had been in the works for months.

The affiliation — announced in October — brings the number of Aspirus hospitals to a total of eight in Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Aspirus also has close to 30 clinics in Wisconsin and Michigan.

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ARCADIA - Ashley Furniture turns down controversial $6 million tax credit
Arcadia-based Ashley Furniture has decided not to pursue a $6 million tax credit that the state’s job-creation agency board approved last year with terms that would have allowed the company to cut its state workforce in half.

The company also has decided voluntarily to return $256,706 in tax credits for a separate project that was supposed to create 225 jobs by this year.

Since January 2012, the company has created 87 positions as part of an $8 million expansion of its Whitehall operations. WEDC awarded the company $675,000 for that project in 2013.
The company employs 4,500 people in Wisconsin and has added 350 jobs over the past three years, the company said Tuesday.

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MADISON - New Oscar Mayer president named
Mark Magnesen will be the new president of Madison-based Oscar Mayer.

Magnesen, 50, has been with Oscar Mayer’s parent company, Kraft Foods, since 1991, primarily in finance positions. Most recently, he was general manager of the Planters nuts business.

Magnesen will work out of Madison, said Oscar Mayer spokeswoman Sydney Lindner. Oscar Mayer has 7,000 employees, with 1,200 of them in Madison.

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MADISON - American Family Insurance net income up 36%
American Family Insurance saw its net income increase 36 percent in 2014, despite a surge in auto claims tied to icy roads and more homeowner claims due to freezing pipes and ice dams in the frigid first part of the year.

The Madison-based insurer of autos, homes, health, farms and businesses in 19 mostly Midwestern states also added $384 million to its policyholder equity, taking that key fund to almost $7 billion, according to an annual report released by the company Tuesday. To be used to protect customers from extraordinary catastrophes and other unplanned financial losses, the fund has been steadily rebuilding in recent years — it increased $444 million in 2013, for example — since falling sharply during the 2008 financial crisis.

Net income in 2014 was $515.2 million, up 36 percent from $378.8 million in 2013.

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MADISON - With right-to-work poised to pass, Minnesota Republicans target Wisconsin businesses
With Wisconsin poised to become a right-to-work state by the end of the week, Republican lawmakers in Minnesota are reaching out to Wisconsin businesses and encouraging them to cross the border.

Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo, the Republican chairman of the Minnesota House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee, sent letters this week to two Wisconsin businesses offering assistance in relocating their headquarters to Minnesota.

The letters went to Hoffman Construction and Rock Road Companies, Inc., both union contractors who privately contract with the International Union of Operating Engineers. Owners of both businesses testified against the Wisconsin Legislature's fast-tracked right-to-work bill in public hearings before lawmakers.

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APPLETON - Riverfront gains building for artists
One of the plainest vanilla buildings in Appleton is about to gain a whole lot of color.

A former paper company office in Appleton's flats is becoming The Draw, a place for artists to work and socialize. It will include gallery space, leased private art studios and community workshop rooms with a darkroom, art library, small coffee shop and possibly a kiln.

The building is the 5,200-square-foot white boxy structure at 800 S. Lawe Street overlooking the Fox River's Lock 3

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JANESVILLE - City says plans to redevelop former Kmart are on fast track
Plans to redevelop the former Kmart site are on a fast track, city officials confirmed Tuesday.

Economic Development Director Gail Price would not provide details, but he said the city is in talks with a developer who wants to tear down the 46-year-old former Kmart building at 2233 Humes Road and build new on the site.

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