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Feingold will vote against another term for Bernanke; Conference Board says economy is in ‘early recovery’; Baird and Johnson companies rank among best workplaces; Wisconsin credit unions continue to grow

Feingold will vote against another term for Bernanke

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has expressed his opposition to another term for Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

“A chief responsibility of the chairman of the Federal Reserve is to ensure a sound financial system. Under the watch of Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve permitted grossly irresponsible financial activities that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Under chairman Bernanke’s watch predatory mortgage lending flourished, and ‘too big to fail’ financial giants were permitted to engage in activities that put our nation’s economy at risk. And as it responds to the crisis it helped to usher in, the Federal Reserve under chairman Bernanke’s leadership continues to resist appropriate efforts to review that response, how taxpayers’ money was being used, and whether it acted appropriately. When the full Senate considers his nomination, I will vote against another term for chairman Bernanke.”

In 1999, Feingold voted against repealing the Depression-era safeguards put in place to protect businesses, investors and consumers. In 2008, Feingold voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and in 2009 voted against authorizing more funding for TARP.

Conference Board says economy is in ‘early recovery’

The leading U.S. economic indicators increased 1.1 percent in December and have risen for nine consecutive months, suggesting "that the pace of improvement could pick up this spring,” according to The Conference Board.

Eight of the 10 leading indicators improved in December, reflecting a broad-based gain that points to "an economy in early recovery," said Ken Goldstein, an economist for the Conference Board, a private research organization that analyzes economic data provided by other organizations.

The organization said, "Economic conditions should continue to improve in the near term.”

The Conference Board’s four coincident indicators – industrial production, payrolls, business sales, and income – are the same ones used by an academic committee of historians who rule on when recessions end and expansions begin. The committee has not made a judgment yet, but most economists believe that ultimately it will say the recession ended last summer.

In the past six months, the leading indicators have risen 5.2 percent, with eight of 10 indicators rising over that period.

In December, gains in the leading index were propelled by the interest-rate spread, building permits, jobless claims and stock prices. Consumer expectations, vendor performance, the real money supply and capital goods orders also improved. The other two leading indicators – factory workweek and consumer goods orders – were steady in December.

Baird and Johnson companies rank among best workplaces

Robert W. Baird and Co. Inc. in Milwaukee, Johnson Financial Group in Racine and S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. in Racine rank among Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies To Work For” in 2010.

Baird ranks 11th on the list. Fortune magazine wrote: “No Wall Street blues here. Investment adviser continued to hire throughout 2008 and 2009, screening applicants via rigorous interviews to ensure that they passed the firm’s ‘no a—hole’ rule.” Fortune said Baird’s most common salaried job, a financial analyst, has an average annual pay of $117,650, while its most common hourly job, client relationship assistant, is paid $42,537.

“Being recognized as a great place to work helps us attract and retain the best people, which really goes to the heart of our ability to provide our clients with the best financial advice and service,” said Paul Purcell, chairman, president and CEO of employee-owned Baird. “That’s why our commitment to being a great place to work is a key strategic priority. It enables us to provide the expertise and continuity that our clients really appreciate, particularly in turbulent times like those we’ve experienced recently.”

Johnson Financial Group ranks 22nd on the list. Fortune magazine wrote: “Employees who fall on hard times know they can count on Johnson for support. For instance, pay will be kept intact while an associate is out due to crisis. Says CEO Richard Hansen: JFG will always, “do what is right.” Fortune said JFG’s most common salaried job, a commercial relationship manager, has an average annual pay of $112,296, while its most common hourly job, universal banker, is paid $41,446.

S.C. Johnson & Son ranks 83rd on the list. Fortune magazine wrote: “For the first time in 92 years no profit-sharing checks were issued, but the household-products maker was able to stick to its 123-year-old no-layoff policy.” Fortune said S.C. Johnson’s most common salaried job, senior research assistant, has an average annual pay of $113,381, while its most common hourly job, administrative assistant, is paid $46,473.

This is the 10th year that S.C. Johnson has earned a spot on the list. The company provides on-site child care for its employees.

"It is an honor to be recognized for the 10th time," said Fisk Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of the company. "S.C. Johnson has a long history of being recognized as a great place to work and we are thrilled to be on the list, especially when many companies are facing uncertainties."

The top five-rated companies on the list were SAS, Edward Jones, Wegman’s Food Markets, Google and Nugget Market.

To view the entire list, visit

Wisconsin credit unions continue to grow

Wisconsin credit unions saved state residents almost $200 million on a range of financial services during 2009 and grew their membership by 2.39 percent in the 12 months ending September 2009, according to the new annual report for the Wisconsin Credit Union League.

While for-profit banks’ asset and loan levels declined during the year, according to the Credit Union National Association, not-for-profit credit unions saw growth in both those categories of 9.26 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively.

“Credit unions stepped up to help struggling consumers in ways other lenders wouldn’t, precisely because their role is to help people, not chase profits,” said Brett Thompson, president and chief executive officer of the Pewaukee-based Wisconsin Credit Union League.

“Members flocked to credit unions to refinance high-cost mortgages obtained elsewhere, consolidate debt, sort out budget issues or seek help when faced with a job loss or health problem,” said Kevin Hauser, CEO of Westby Co-op Credit Union and board chair of the state organization.

Hauser said small business owners increasingly turned to credit unions for loans as other lenders cut back.

“Many (entrepreneurs) had either been turned away by for-profit banks or – despite having significant equity, assets and stellar credit histories – had bank lines of credit inexplicably withdrawn, threatening job losses and even the viability of otherwise sound enterprises,” Hauser said.


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