WEC Energy Group reports first quarterly earnings
July 29, 2015 09:51 AM
Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group Inc. today reported its first quarterly earnings.

The company was formed by Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Energy Corp.’s recent $9 billion acquisition of Chicago-based Integrys Energy Group, which closed on June 29. The second quarter results don’t include Integrys’ financial performance.

Second quarter net income was $80.9 million, or 35 cents per share, down from $133 million, or 58 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2014.

The company attributed the decrease to acquisition-related costs, which had a 24-cent impact on earnings.

Operating income was $165.8 million, down from $240.7 million in the second quarter of 2014.

Revenue totaled $991 million in the quarter, down from $1 billion in the same period a year ago.

Residential electricity use was down 5 percent year-over-year. Small commercial and industrial use was up 2.3 percent. And large commercial and industrial use, excluding iron ore mines in Michigan, was down 1.4 percent.

“With our continued focus on cost control, productivity and customer satisfaction, we delivered solid results in the second quarter despite a very cool June that virtually eliminated customer demand for air conditioning across the region,” said Gale Klappa, chairman and chief executive of WEC.

Klappa took the opportunity to reflect on the acquisition of Integrys and look ahead to the company’s future.

“Completing the acquisition of Integrys in late June, just 53 weeks after we announced the transaction, marks a major milestone for our company - a transformational step that will deliver clear and compelling benefits for our customers and stockholders for years to come,” Klappa said.

“Our focus going forward will be on world-class reliability, financial discipline, and exceptional customer care.

“We project our capital investments over the next decade on necessary infrastructure upgrades will be nearly double our standalone plan. And our track record of on time, on budget construction will serve us well as we move forward with the energy and environmental projects that our region needs.”

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Rockwell reports higher Q3 profit despite industrial slowdown
July 29, 2015 10:45 AM
Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc. today reported fiscal third quarter net income of $206.1 million, or $1.52 per share, up from $199.7 million, or $1.43 per share, in the third quarter of 2014.

Operating income was $626.3 million, up from $578.1 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue totaled $1.6 billion in the quarter, flat from the third quarter of 2014.

The company attributed the revenue performance to low industrial growth and the strength of the U.S. dollar.

“I am pleased with our performance in the quarter,” said Keith Nosbusch, chairman and chief executive officer. “We delivered another quarter of solid earnings growth, significant margin expansion, and strong free cash flow despite continued headwinds from currency and a low growth environment. Through three quarters, Adjusted EPS was up 12 percent on lower reported sales. Our results demonstrate excellent execution in these market conditions."

The company also lowered its guidance for the year.

“Given decelerating industrial production growth, we are lowering the midpoint of our full-year organic growth guidance by 1 point. We expect fiscal 2015 reported sales of approximately $6.4 billion, and are narrowing our fiscal 2015 Adjusted EPS guidance range to $6.55 to $6.70.

"We remain focused on innovation, and I am confident in our ability to deliver attractive shareowner returns while we continue to invest in profitable growth opportunities.”

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Survey shows more manufacturers reshoring
July 29, 2015 10:24 AM
About 73 percent of Wisconsin manufacturers surveyed in a new report say they do not source components to foreign manufacturers.

For almost three quarters of the respondents who do source components to foreign manufacturers, those components make up no more than 20 percent of the respondents’ product total costs. This indicates that the bulk of the product costs are still domestic-based costs, most likely generated by more value-added manufacturing activities.

The report, “Reshoring: Is your manufacturing business bringing operations back to the U.S.?,” was conducted by Schenck SC, a CPA and business consulting firm with offices throughout Wisconsin, including Milwaukee.

Eighty-one Wisconsin manufacturers responded to the survey, addressing such issues as factors driving decisions to reshore, how tax incentives influence the decision, and obstacles to reshoring.

Almost a quarter of the respondents either have already reshored manufacturing or they are analyzing the possibility. Although this may be interpreted as a reshoring trend, the survey also indicates 18 percent of respondents are considering increasing their foreign sourcing of product.

Respondents said customer delivery schedules and transportation costs are the leading reasons for reshoring, followed closely by quality issues.

When asked how much additional U.S. tax incentives to reshore would influence their decision, 17 percent of respondents rated that as “highly important.”

The No. 1 obstacle to reshoring, according to respondents, is higher labor costs in the U.S. The next biggest obstacles are lack of skilled labor in the U.S. and regulatory constraints in the U.S.

To view and download the complete analysis, visit

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GPS Education Partners wins national award
July 29, 2015 09:50 AM
At this year's MSSC Leadership Conference in Indianapolis, Butler-based GPS Education Partners received the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) Authorized Center Award, a recognition given to schools and/or organizations who are “exceptional” leaders in MSSC assessment.

MSSC is an industry-led, training, assessment and certification system focused on the core skills and knowledge needed by the nation’s frontline production and material handling workers. GPS said the nationwide MSSC System, based upon industry-defined and federally-endorsed national standards, is the gold standard for frontline industrial training.

Through a partnership with MSSC, funded by Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motor Company, GPS Education Partners is able to provide high school juniors and seniors with the opportunity to earn those nationally recognized certifications.

“Our organization deals with hundreds of secondary school programs throughout the USA,” said Leo Reddy, chair and chief executive officer of the nationwide MSSC. “None, however, have been as successful as GPS Education Partners in enabling high schoolers to secure the full Certified Production Technician (CPT) certification and securing employment. (GPS Education Partners) is a model program for the nation helping … youth enter promising career pathways in the exciting world of advanced manufacturing.”

In addition to receiving that award, GPS Education Partners president Stephanie Borowski received an award “For Outstanding Service to MSSC” at the MSSC Executive Briefing in June.

GPS Education Partners is preparing to implement their nationally recognized model in other states across the Midwest in early 2016. For the first time outside the state of Wisconsin, GPS Education Partners will engage technical colleges, school districts and manufacturers with its education model in an effort to accelerate technical education and promote success in technical careers.

Students who complete GPS Education Partners’ program earn their high school diploma and nationally recognized manufacturing certifications. They experience a career in manufacturing by actively engaging every day for two years in a hands-on, immersive, blended learning setting in local manufacturing companies.

GPS Education Partners has partnerships with more than 115 manufacturers and 35 school districts across the state of Wisconsin. Local partners include Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Generac, HellermannTyton, Milwaukee Public Schools and Waukesha County Technical College.

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State Assembly approves arena financing deal
July 28, 2015 01:07 PM
The state Assembly, by a bipartisan 52-34 vote, today approved the public financing package for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee.

The arena financing deal, approved almost two weeks ago by the state Senate, was approved by the Assembly today without amendments, which means it now goes to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk. The governor has supported the arena project and is expected to sign the bill.

The deal is still subject to approval of the Milwaukee Common Council.

Supporters of the arena project cheered the Assembly vote today.

“Today, our collective effort to create a world-class sports and entertainment district in the heart of Milwaukee took a monumental step forward thanks to the bipartisan leadership of elected officials in Madison,” said Bucks president Peter Feigin. “We’re incredibly grateful for the commitment of state, county and city officials to work together in a historic fashion to help shape this public-private partnership. There’s still work to be done and we look forward to building on this progress with the city and county, but the passage of legislation today makes our future much clearer. The Bucks will not only remain home in Wisconsin, but we’ll soon begin a transformative economic development project that will help revitalize our community and region.”

Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy said the Assembly's arena financing vote today was, “a great bi-partisan step forward toward making Wisconsin a more attractive place to create jobs. Today’s vote is a great example of individuals from every corner of Wisconsin putting aside regional and political differences and working together for the benefit of the entire state. This proposal is a win-win for Wisconsin. Moving forward with the arena project will mean thousands of new Wisconsin jobs, hundreds of millions in increased revenue to the state, and a billion dollars of investment in a catalytic project to transform a currently blighted region of downtown Milwaukee into a vibrant sports entertainment and business district.”

The NBA says a new arena is needed in Milwaukee for the Bucks to stay here long term. The current and former owners of the Bucks have agreed to pay for half of the cost of the $500 million arena, plus any cost overruns and for maintenance and operating costs. State and local officials have been working on a deal to share the other half of the cost between the state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District. The state Senate added a $2 ticket surcharge to the deal for events at the arena. Under that provision, the Wisconsin Center District will get 75 percent of the ticket surcharge revenue and the state will get the remaining 25 percent.

The owners of the Bucks have also pledged to do $500 million in additional mixed-use development around the arena.

Critics of the arena financing deal said it was not an appropriate use of taxpayer funds.

“State taxpayers should not be subsidizing the construction of professional sports facilities,” said Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson.

In today’s Assembly vote, 35 Republicans and 17 Democrats voted in favor of the arena financing deal, while 20 Republicans and 14 Democrats voted against. Read more at, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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State Assembly expected to approve arena deal today
July 28, 2015 12:12 PM
The state Assembly is scheduled to vote today on the public financing package for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee.

During a press conference this morning, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters that the Assembly will pass the arena deal today, and that he expects it to pass without making any amendments to the deal approved almost two weeks ago by the state Senate.

If approved by the Assembly without amendments the deal will immediately advance to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk for approval. The deal is also still subject to approval by the Milwaukee Common Council.

The NBA says a new arena is needed in Milwaukee for the Bucks to stay here long term. The current and former owners of the Bucks have agreed to pay for half of the cost of the $500 million arena, plus any cost overruns and for maintenance and operating costs. State and local officials have been working on a deal to share the other half of the cost between the state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District. State Senate added a $2 ticket surcharge to the deal for events at the arena. Under that provision, the Wisconsin Center District will get 75 percent of the ticket surcharge revenue and the state will get the remaining 25 percent.

The State Senate approved the public financing package for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee by a 21-10 vote. In the bipartisan state Senate vote, 15 Republicans and 6 Democrats voted in favor of the arena financing deal.

A bipartisan vote is also expected today in the state Assembly. Republican leaders in the state Assembly have said that a bipartisan vote, including about 15 Democrats, will be needed to pass the arena deal in that chamber. Several members of the 99-member state Assembly are expected to be absent for today’s vote.

Assembly leadership has agreed to a maximum of one hour and 45 minutes for debate on the legislation, reported today. Read more at, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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Roadrunner acquires Texas trucking company
July 28, 2015 10:39 AM
Cudahy-based Roadrunner Transportation Systems Inc. today announced it has acquired El Paso, Texas-based Stagecoach Cartage and Distribution for about $35 million.

Roadrunner, an asset-light transportation and logistics service provider, will also cover an earnout of up to $5 million. The company used funds borrowed from its credit facility to complete the transaction.

Stagecoach offers truckload and logistics services throughout the southwest and in Mexico. It also provides warehousing and transloading options at its facilities in south-central and western Texas. Its 12-month trailing revenue was about $34 million as of June 30, with EBITDA of more than $7 million. The acquisition is expected to be accretive to Roadrunner’s 2015 earnings.

Roadrunner plans to retain Stagecoach's 250 employees, and add more as the company grows.

“Stagecoach is an extremely high-quality company with a broad service portfolio and an experienced and motivated management team that represents an excellent platform to expand our cross-border services,” said Mark DiBlasi, president and chief executive officer of Roadrunner. “Stagecoach’s strong presence within the El Paso and Laredo markets, coupled with the company’s Mexican Operating Authority, provides us with immediately realizable growth opportunities created by the accelerating demand within the region.”

“We’re very excited to join Roadrunner,” said Scott McLaughlin, president of Stagecoach. “In order to achieve our growth potential, we sought to partner with a larger organization that had the resources and personnel that could assist us in accomplishing our goals. After meeting with several members of the Roadrunner team, it was clear that we shared a very similar cultural and strategic vision. Our organization is confident that as a part of Roadrunner, we can meet and exceed our collective goals.”

Since 2005, Roadrunner has made 34 acquisitions. During that time, DiBlasi has grown its revenue from about $150 million to almost $1.9 billion, both through acquisitions and through organic growth. Through June, the company had 4,171 employees.

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MU Law Poll: Residents from three states support regional cooperation
July 28, 2015 11:48 AM
Residents of northeastern Illinois, northwestern Indiana and southeastern Wisconsin overwhelmingly support cooperation among leaders when it comes to economic development, according to a new Marquette Law School Poll.

Of those who responded to the survey, which included 1,872 residents of the tri-state “megacity” region, 70 percent of the northeast Illinois group, 72 percent of the northwest Indiana group and 61 percent of the southeast Wisconsin group said leaders should work together to promote regional economic development.

About 60 percent from each state indicated support for a common fund that would provide comprehensive transportation planning for airports, railroads, highways and Lake Michigan shipping.

When it came to the licensing of trades and professions, 54 percent of Wisconsinites, 64 percent of Illinoisans and 62 percent of Indianans supported a single license across the three states.

But business attraction was another story. About half of Illinois respondents, 53 percent of Indiana respondents and 60 percent of Wisconsin respondents felt states should keep an individual focus in their efforts to court large companies to their states.

Tourism also favored individualism, with 59 percent of Illinoisans, 58 percent of Indianans and 65 percent of Wisconsinites surveyed supporting independent tourism promotion.

“These results show that there is public support for political leaders to pursue policies of cooperation in areas where shared benefits are high, such as transportation or professional licensing,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll. “On other issues where direct and competing economic interests are at stake, such as tourism or attracting business, politicians are likely to find public disapproval of cooperative efforts. And while Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin residents certainly have their own distinct identities, we found perhaps surprisingly uniform opinions across the three states when it comes to cooperation.”

The survey also included additional questions on workforce preparation, transportation and commuting, and home and community issues. It can be viewed here.

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Silk Exotic again tries to open downtown strip club
July 28, 2015 09:51 AM
The owners of the Silk Exotic strip club in Milwaukee are again trying to open a strip club downtown.

Silk Exotic this week submitted applications to the city for tavern and restaurant licenses to open a location at 804 N. Milwaukee St. The four-story, 48,886-square-foot office building is located at the northeast corner of Milwaukee and Wells streets.

Silk Exotic, located at 11400 W. Silver Spring Road, has tried to open a strip club at several locations in recent years but has been unable to obtain city approval. In 2010, the Common Council rejected Silk Exotic strip club proposals at 730 N. Old World Third St. and at 117 W. Pittsburg Ave. in Walker’s Point. In 2013, Silk Exotic tried unsuccessfully to open approval for plans for a strip club in a city-owned parking structure at 4th Street and Highland Avenue, across the street from the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Last year the Common Council rejected two more Silk Exotic proposals in Walker’s Point at 505 S. 5th St. and 906 S. Barclay St.

Frustrated that they have been unable to gain approval for a location in or near downtown, the Silk Exotic owners sued the city and earlier this year a federal judge awarded the club a $435,000 judgement from the city saying previous ordinances governing the proposed downtown strip club were unconstitutional.

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Wisconsin Bank & Trust reports higher profit following acquisition
July 28, 2015 11:07 AM
Heartland Financial USA Inc. has reported second quarter net income of $15.2 million, or 72 cents per share, up from $10.6 million, or 56 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2014.

The Dubuque, Iowa-based company in January acquired Community Banc-Corp of Sheboygan Inc. and merged it into its Wisconsin Bank & Trust subsidiary, which now has locations across the Milwaukee area. Systems conversion for the transaction was completed on May 15.

According to Heartland’s report, Madison-based Wisconsin Bank & Trust had total assets of $1.2 billion at the end of the second quarter, up from $658.8 million in the second quarter of 2014.

The subsidiary’s net income was $3 million in the quarter, up from $1.3 million in the same period a year ago.

Wisconsin Bank & Trust’s total portfolio loans and leases totaled $876.3 million, up from $496.5 million in the second quarter of 2014.

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Milwaukee Biz Blog: Reorganization of UW colleges just a start
July 28, 2015 11:20 AM
The reorganization of the 13 UW Colleges into four regional groups should be viewed as a first step toward a regional reorganization of the whole University of Wisconsin System. Sadly, the consolidation of the two-year campuses, which now deliver some four-year degrees, was done strictly for budgetary reasons, not with strategic foresight.

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

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Hatching a business: Startups learn to fly in challenging environment
July 27, 2015 10:49 AM
The path to starting a business can be long and winding, and the journey grueling, but several local organizations are trying to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start companies and create more jobs. A growing number of incubators, accelerators and startup communities have popped up in the Milwaukee area over the past five years, in an effort to pool resources to send startups on their way to success.

Read more in the cover story of the latest issue of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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Magnetek to be acquired by Columbus McKinnon
July 27, 2015 10:46 AM
Menomonee Falls-based Magnetek Inc. has entered an agreement to be acquired by Amherst, NY-based Columbus McKinnon Corp. for about $189 million.

Magnetek, which has about 340 employees, manufactures digital power and motion control systems used in applications including material handling, elevator, mobile hydraulic and mining. It is one of North America’s largest independent digital drives, radio controls, software and accessories suppliers for industrial cranes and hoists, and has counted Columbus McKinnon as a customer.

Columbus McKinnon manufactures material handling systems used to lift, position and secure materials. The company would acquire all the shares of Magnetek’s common stock for $50 cash per share under the agreement. Upon completion of the deal, Magnetek would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Columbus McKinnon.

According to the companies, the acquisition will combine their complementary assets to develop broader and more competitive material handling solutions. Both companies’ boards of directors have approved the transaction, and Magnetek’s board has urged shareholders to tender into the offer, which is expected to occur on or before Aug. 5.

“The accretive combination of Magnetek’s technology and ‘smart power’ with our broad line of lifting and positioning mechanical products creates a total solution for our customers,” said Timothy Tevens, president and chief executive officer of Columbus McKinnon. “We believe Magnetek’s technology will enable the industrial world to continue to advance productivity and safety beyond what mechanical solutions alone can offer. Strategically, this acquisition provides an ideal adjacent capability for us to continue to supply our customers with best in class material handling solutions.”

“Our technology and products are a perfect complement for Columbus McKinnon’s products and this compelling combination provides a platform to accelerate growth for both Magnetek and Columbus McKinnon,” said Peter McCormick, Magnetek’s president and CEO. “Our companies have a strong commitment to quality and service and have excellent reputations in the markets we serve with very similar corporate cultures. Importantly, our strong and dedicated team will contribute to what I believe is a formula for success.”

McCormick will remain on board to continue to lead the Magnetek subsidiary and to aid in the integration.

The transaction is expected to close by Sept. 30. The companies expect the combination to result in at least $5 million of cost synergies in the first full year.

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Chicago real estate firm to buy 250 Plaza office building downtown
July 27, 2015 10:52 AM
Chicago-based real estate investment firm Fulcrum Asset Advisors LLC has a contract to purchase the 20-story 250 Plaza office building in downtown Milwaukee, according to commercial real estate sources. The sale is expected to close this week, according to one source.

Located at 250 E. Wisconsin Ave., the 193,031-square-foot 250 Plaza building was constructed in 1973 and has struggled in recent years with a high amount of vacancy. The building’s current occupancy rate is just 31.6 percent, according to one source.

The building was acquired by Lone Star Funds in 2013 for $7.5 million, after the building had gone into receivership in 2009. Its current assessed value is about $7 million, according to city records.

Sources say the building needs significant renovations. But if improved, they say the new owner could take advantage of the building’s Wisconsin Avenue location and attached parking structure.

“It’s got everything going for it,” one source said. “It just needs a little TLC.”

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German manufacturer moving sales, service facility to Racine County
July 27, 2015 11:09 AM
The Racine County Economic Development Corporation announced that a German hand tool manufacturer is locating a regional sales and service facility into the Town of Yorkville's Grandview Business Park.

This marks the second German manufacturing company Racine County has secured as a result of its foreign direct investment and international recruitment activities.

Stahlwille Tools LLC, based in Wuppertal, Germany, designs and manufactures hand and special-purpose tools for the aerospace, energy generation, transportation and general trade industries. It plans to begin operating out of its Town of Yorkville facility by the end of September.

“Once again, Racine County’s strategic position in the center of the Chicago-Milwaukee Corridor played a role in attracting a new business to Racine County,” said Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave. “RCEDC’s commitment to attracting foreign direct investment continues to add to our growing economy and concentration of foreign-owned companies that call Racine County home.”

Stahlwille’s decision to move a facility to Racine County came in the spring when Gov. Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Milwaukee 7 and the RCEDC attended Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade show located in Hannover, Germany.  

A Stahlwille representative attended a breakfast hosted by the Wisconsin delegation, and shared the company’s plan to locate a sales and distribution office in the Chicago area.

The RCEDC helped Stahlwille establish business bank accounts, secure a residence in Racine County, obtain proper insurance and operating permits, and negotiate a lease agreement.   

“The decision to locate in Racine County was made based on a number of key factors,” said Frank Hansen of Stahlwille. “Stahlwille’s management team was interested in a location in northern Chicago due to a large pool of potential customers in the market. After researching differences in taxes, labor laws, financial outlooks and more, the company decided to seek a location in Wisconsin instead.”

He said the final decision to select southeastern Wisconsin was due to meeting with Gov. Walker; Jim Paetsch, M7’s vice president of corporate attraction and expansion; and Logan Dawson, an RCEDC representative.

“In the end, we’re glad we made the choice. We found a very good location to start the business and with a lot of help of the RCEDC and especially Mr. Dawson, our transition was quite easy,” Hansen said.

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