Wisconsin governor’s race remains tight
August 27, 2014 12:38 PM
The latest Marquette University Law School Poll results released today gave supporters of both Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke reasons for optimism.

The results of the latest poll were mixed. Walker leads among registered voters, but Burke leads among likely voters.

Walker garnered 47.5 percent of registered voter support, while Burke held 44.1 percent.

Among likely voters, however, Burke was at 48.6 percent and Walker had 46.5 percent of potential votes.

Each of the poll questions were within the poll’s statistical margin of error, said poll chief Charles Franklin. He said the results have been “remarkably flat” from poll to poll.

In the new MU Law Poll, 815 registered voters were interviewed by landline and cell phone, with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 points. The sample included 609 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 points. The polling was done Aug. 21-24.

In July’s poll, Walker held 45.8 percent among registered voters and Burke was at 44.8 percent. And among likely voters in July, Burke held 46.8 percent and Walker was at 46.3 percent.

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Potawatomi withholds payment to state
August 27, 2014 11:58 AM
The Forest County Potawatomi Tribe is withholding its annual shared revenue payment to the state of Wisconsin as Gov. Scott Walker’s administration considers whether or not to approve the Menominee Tribal Nation’s proposed Hard Rock casino project in Kenosha.

The Potawatomi failed to make its payment to the state that was due on June 30, according to a report submitted by Administration Department Secretary Mike Huebsch on Tuesday to Walker.

Huebsch’s report says that the state’s gaming compacts with three tribes, the Ho-Chunk Nation, Potawatomi and Lac du Flambeau, indicate that the state must indemnify them or offset them for losses if a casino is built in Kenosha. The Lac Du Flambeau tribe waived its claim in October and the Ho-Chunk Nation’s compact has a “relatively clear and defined process that addresses the state’s obligations,” to compensate for a Kenosha casino, Huebsch said in his report.

“We have reached an agreement with the Ho-Chunk Nation,” Huebsch’s report to Walker states. “As prescribed by the (Gov. Jim) Doyle compact with the Ho-Chunk Nation, if you approve the Kenosha casino, the Ho-Chunk Nation’s annual revenue sharing payment would decrease by the impact caused by the Kenosha casino.”

However, the Potawatomi compact does not contain a clear definition of indemnification for a Kenosha casino, Huebsch says.

“Substantial challenges lie ahead with the Potawatomi,” he said in the report. “The Doyle compact with the Potawatomi basically says the state must enter into arbitration to create a compact amendment that establishes a process. This compact amendment must then be submitted to the federal government. It appears the complicated provisions may have been designed to block a Kenosha casino.”

Huebsch did not disclose the amount of the withheld Potawatomi payment.

In a letter to legislators Tuesday, Walker said, “at least one of the tribal governments appears to believe that they could recover $100 million from the state, plus millions more through the process spelled out in the compacts and through the withholding of compact payments.”

Potawatomi spokesman George Ermert also declined to disclose the amount of the payment withheld.

“According to the terms of the Forest County Potawatomi Community’s compact, the tribe may get a reduction in, or refund of, the payments made to the state of Wisconsin should the state approve another casino within 50 miles of the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee,” Ermert said in a statement. “The state may end up owing the Potawatomi money should the Kenosha casino be approved. Consequently, Potawatomi put its 2014 state compact payment in a segregated/reserve account.”

The Potawatomi’s decision to withhold its payment to the state is, “having a significant impact on the status” of the state budget, Walker said.

“Terms of the compacts approved by former Gov. Doyle could lead to a significant financial problem for the state of Wisconsin if a casino is approved in Kenosha before we have reached agreements with the impacted tribes,” Walker said in his letter to legislators. “This has already had a negative impact on the current budget and could very well create a program for future budgets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Needless to say, we are moving forward with legitimate caution as we cannot risk putting that size of a hole in the current and future state budgets.”

Walker must make a decision on whether or not to approve the Kenosha casino by Feb. 19, 2015.

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Zepnick proposes Menomonee Valley site for new arena
August 27, 2014 11:19 AM
State Rep. Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee) today added the latest wrinkle to the civic discussion about where and how to finance and build a new arena, proposing a new location in the Menomonee River Valley.

Zepnick sent a letter to new Milwaukee Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, urging them to consider building the arena north of the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

Zepnick said the project could be funded by “a more traditional TIF (tax incremental financing)” model. The new arena should be built west of the 16th Viaduct on the current site of Marquette Athletic Fields, which could be relocated, Zepnick said.

“The location I have in mind, follows the thinking and planning that I believe is necessary for a successful project regardless of where it ends up: careful and minimal use of public dollar with no tax increase, connecting to a larger vision for Milwaukee's downtown, seeking out a distressed or ‘under-utilized’ piece of land, and importantly strong connections to the Interstate and transit system,” Zepnick wrote. “Not one penny of this would come from a sales tax increase.”

The existing BMO Harris Bradley Center site could be sold to help offset some of the construction costs for a new arena, Zepnick said.

“Similarly, that area of downtown would become cleared for construction when it comes to an expanded Convention Center. Re-opening parts of Fourth Street or Fifth Street as well as Highland Avenue and using transit as a connector, could mean a seamless ‘district’ which goes from Amtrak station/Grand Avenue on the South and the existing Wisconsin Center footprint, all the way north to the Pabst development and Park East Corridor,” Zepnick said. “This would allow for hotel, commercial and retail developments, and importantly housing. Expanded downtown housing is critical to improving the utilization of land west of the river and would help bridge Wisconsin Avenue up to McKinley where the new Interstate ramps effectively serve a future marketplace at Park East. This bodes well for King Drive development over the long haul.”

Last week Milwaukee Alderman Joe Davis Sr. proposed increasing the city’s bonding authority by $100 million during the upcoming 2015 budget process to give the city more flexibility to help finance a new arena.

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Milwaukee Public Library seeks development partners
August 27, 2014 12:42 PM
The Milwaukee Public Library is seeking private sector real estate development partners to do mixed-use developments of library sites, similar to projects done for the Villard Square Branch and for the East Branch on North Avenue, which is part of HSI Properties' The Standard at East Library project that is under construction.

The Milwaukee Public Library is asking developers to submit information on current and potential projects that could be compatible with a library, for four neighborhood libraries in the city that are slated for replacement. MPL today released a request for interest from developments interested in doing mixed-use projects with libraries to replace the: Forest Home Library, 1432 W. Forest Home Ave.; Mill Road Library, 6431 N. 76th St.; Martin Luther King Library, 310 W. Locust St,; or Capitol Library, 3969 N. 74th St.

“We are excited to hear from developers in the community that have an interest in working with us,” said Library Director Paula Kiely. “Over the last six years, MPL will replace four of our neighborhood libraries with mixed-use buildings much like we are doing at the new East Branch and the recently opened Villard Square Branch (at 5190 N. 35th St.). This is an exciting venture for MPL and for city residents who will benefit from having a new, technology-rich 21st Century library in their neighborhood that is also a catalyst for economic and neighborhood development and stability.”

The city has budgeted $22.4 million for the library projects. MPL says it plans to spend $4.4 million to $4.5 million on each library. In all, five branch libraries will be renovated or replaced. The Tippecanoe Library will be fully renovated, but will remain in the same building at 3912 S. Howell Ave.

An open house about the library projects will be held on Monday, Sept. 8, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Forest Home Library, 1432 W. Forest Home Ave.

Statements of interest from developers are due by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30. More information is available at:

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M-WERC forms Energy Innovation Center partnership
August 27, 2014 11:26 AM
As the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium works to recruit startups for its newly announced Energy Innovation Center, it is turning to a Boston-based group of startup companies to learn best practices in the build out process.

M-WERC, a public/private partnership within the energy, power and control cluster that focuses on industry research, workforce development, policy and collaboration, has launched a partnership with Greentown Labs, a Boston incubator in the clean technology and clean energy sphere.

Through an initial six-month partnership, M-WERC will learn how Greentown Labs has attracted startups, what services and offerings the group provides, how its startup tenants interact and what the entire ecosystem of its innovation hub looks like – all lessons the consortium aims to transfer to the Energy Innovation Center.

Within the EIC, a $9.6 million project announced earlier this month, M-WERC is bringing together corporations, academic institutions, government entities, researchers and startups all driving advancements in the energy, power and control industry. The goal is to maximize the talents and capabilities of the region’s energy, power and control cluster.

The center will be housed in a 65,000-square-foot space in the Century City Tower, formerly the Eaton Corp. research building, located in Milwaukee’s 30th Street Industrial Corridor.

With room for 60 occupants, the EIC currently consists of two tenants – Alliance Federated Energy and the Manufacturing Diversity Institute – and will look to the expertise and experience of Greentown Labs as it accelerates its recruitment efforts.

Greentown Labs currently houses more than 45 member startup companies and supporting organizations, according to its website

Jeffrey Anthony, director of the EIC, described Greentown Labs as a “pioneer” and a “thought leader” in the clean energy sector and startup space.

While the two incubators have different visions and focus areas with their hubs, Anthony said M-WERC will “inherit the operations manual from Greentown Labs” and adapt its structure to fit the EIC.

The incubators have been in talks since January.

“It became apparent that they’ve had a very successful kind of ramp up in their efforts and have enjoyed a lot of success and a lot of publicity and are really making a difference out there in the clean energy sector with regard to startups,” Anthony said.

In return, M-WERC will demonstrate to Greentown Labs how it creates “roadmaps” in energy-related sectors. The roadmaps, focused on technological advancements in energy, paint a picture of how specific technologies are developing. The roadmaps point to market opportunities for industry corporations, research gaps that need filling by academic institutions, and business opportunities for startup companies.

M-WERC has identified six areas to explore through roadmaps, including industrial energy efficiency, distributed energy resources, and energy storage.

M-WERC’s roadmap concept was one that piqued the interest of Greentown Labs during a meeting the two incubators held last week in Milwaukee, according to Anthony.

Following that first meeting, M-WERC plans to head to Boston for a week in October to see Greentown Labs firsthand.

Anthony said that while the partnership is set to run six months, there is potential for an extension, depending on how much value both organizations derive from their exchanges.

M-WERC and the EIC are also exploring potential partnerships with at least three other organizations across the country that are well-versed in business startups and technology development, Anthony said.

Construction for the EIC is slated to start next month with a second phase kicking off in October 2015. M-WERC hopes to complete construction by mid-2016.

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Three regional companies named to Inc. 500 list
August 27, 2014 11:46 AM
Three southeastern Wisconsin companies ranked in the top 500 of Inc. Magazine's 2014 Inc. 500|5000 list, which recognizes the 5,000 fastest growing private companies across the country.

The New York-based publication has been compiling a list of high-growth companies for the past 33 years.

Companies listed among the top 500 include: Mequon-based Equipatron, which was ranked 101; Mt. Pleasant-based VPCinnovations, ranked 193; and Hartland-based EmbedTek, ranked 358.

Those companies will be featured in Inc. Magazine’s September issue.

The 2014 list of 5,000 fastest growing companies cited 70 Wisconsin-based businesses.

Regional companies ranked include: Milwaukee-based 7Summits; Brookfield-based Cielo; Hartland-based Johnson Creek Enterprises; Franklin-based More Than Rewards; West Bend-based Delta Defense; Brookfield-based Patina Solutions; Pewaukee-based Tim O’Brien Homes; Milwaukee-based Super Steel; Franklin-based ESC Services; Wauwatosa-based MARS IT; Kenosha-based Xten Industries; Milwaukee-based Stella & Chewy’s; Brookfield-based Concurrency; Pewaukee-based SunVest Solar; West Allis-based Commercial Bargains; Menomonee Falls-based Wireless Logic; Milwaukee-based Zeon Solutions; West Allis-based Solaris; Milwaukee-based Alpha Source; Brookfield-based Centare; Milwaukee-based Core Creative; Elm Grove-based Krueger Communications; Port Washington-based Allen Edmonds; New Berlin-based HNI; Milwaukee-based TMI Consulting; Milwaukee-based Symmetry; Milwaukee-based Quest CE; Germantown-based Enviro-Safe Consulting; Brookfield-based QPS Employment Group; Milwaukee-based Badger Alloys; Hartland-based Batteries Plus Bulbs; Brookfield-based Codeworks; and Waukesha-based Central Office Systems.

For the magazine’s complete list, visit

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BMA Milwaukee names new directors
August 27, 2014 11:24 AM
The Business Marketing Association Milwaukee chapter has named its board of directors for the 2014-’15 program year.

Andrea Hubbert, principal at Hub+company, will serve as president. She is the first African-American woman to be named BMA chapter president.

Another 15 marketing experts will also serve on the board. They are: Melissa Farrington-Redlich, Johnson Controls Inc., president-elect; Christopher Vitrano, Nelson Schmidt, immediate past-president; Neille Hoffman, Aurum Design, secretary; Marvin Mason, Crisis Prevention Institute, treasurer; Brent Kaufman, Ascedia, programs; John Suarez, Coleman Cable and Meredyth Hunn, Northwestern Mutual, membership; Melissa Thorson, Inpro Corp., member benefits; Carley Bielawski, Bader Rutter, communications; Jocelyn Fischer, Inpro Corp., special events; Andrea Tarrell, HNI, young professionals; and James Wolter, AJ Media Source, Siobhan Marks, XXL Marketing+Design, Erica Conway, C2, and Scott Bucher, Traction Factory, members at large.

“As one of the fastest growing chapters in the nation, BMA Milwaukee is poised to lead the local business marketing community,” Hubbert said. “We are strengthened by the high caliber of our membership and a slate of cutting-edge programming, which kicks off in the coming weeks. I am inspired by the potential of this organization to drive growth and innovation within southeastern Wisconsin’s marketing community.”

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The Next Stage: Creating Massive Action in Your Business
August 27, 2014 11:30 AM
BizTimes Media and ActionCoach of Elm Grove have created a new workshop series to guide business owners and C-level executives through steps that are critical to growing their businesses.

The series, titled “The Next Stage: Creating Massive Action in Your Business,” will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 18, with the event “Define Your Culture, Shift Your Business: How Culture Impacts Performance in Your Organization.”

The event will feature keynote speaker Anne Nimke, co-founder and chief executive officer of The Good Jobs Inc., and a panel of business experts who will discuss how businesses can leverage their corporate culture to boost their competitive advantage.

The workshop will run from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Hotel, 375 S. Moorland Road in Brookfield, and the cost is $30. Additional workshop sessions are scheduled for each quarter. For more information on the series, visit

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Milwaukee Biz Blog: Government plan hurts people with disabilities
August 27, 2014 11:33 AM
Imagine a plan designed to help people with disabilities find jobs in the community that left 78 percent of these people worse off than they were before.

Read more in today’s Milwaukee Biz Blog by David Ordan of Milwaukee’s Eisenhower Center.

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Morning Headlines: Northern Wisconsin communities finally get high-speed internet
August 27, 2014 11:34 AM
Following four years of installation, several far northern Wisconsin communities now have high-speed Internet that’s as fast as metropolitan-area connections.

Read more in today’s Wisconsin Morning Headlines.

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Real Estate Weekly: GSA eyes St. Francis building for FBI office
August 27, 2014 11:35 AM
An office building on the lakefront in St. Francis appears to be the leading candidate to land the Milwaukee-area FBI office, according to commercial real estate sources.

Read more in today’s Real Estate Weekly.

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Northwestern Mutual kicks off tower construction
August 26, 2014 12:31 PM
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. hosted a celebration this morning to mark the end of demolition work and the start of construction work for the $450 million, 32-story, 1.1 million-square-foot Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons office building on its downtown Milwaukee campus.

The new building will replace a 16-story, 452,000-square-foot office building on the campus that has been demolished. The demolition work began in December.

Planning for the new building began about four years ago.

“I’m so glad this day is finally here,” said Northwestern Mutual Chief Executive Officer John Schlifske. “All of the years of planning and demolition work is over. This is not a groundbreaking, because we broke ground long ago. But now we’re going to see something rise out of the ground.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett thanked Schlifske and the company’s board for investing in the city.

“(Schlifske) could have made the decision to build this anywhere,” Barrett said. “I believe that they decided to build here because they believe in this city. You have to have people that believe.”

Northwestern Mutual has committed to have at least 40 percent of the workers on the project be city residents and is supporting worker training efforts for construction workers for this and other future construction projects in the area. The project will employ about 1,000 construction workers.

“A lot of the work is going to be done by people that live in this city,” Barrett said. “A lot of people are critical of people in this city, but I have to tell you, they want to work.”

The city is providing $54 million in tax incremental financing for the project.

“We decided this partnership is critical to the future of the city of Milwaukee,” Barrett said.

The project will capitalize on the Northwestern Mutual campus location near the lakefront, Schlifske said. In addition to the building, the project will create a three acre public green space with gardens, trees, a water feature, tables, benches and walkways.

“We are in probably one of the most beautiful places in Wisconsin and maybe the United States,” he said. “(Investing in downtown Milwaukee) is the right thing to do for Northwestern Mutual. I’m so excited that the right thing to do for Northwestern Mutual is also the right thing to do for the City of Milwaukee.”

The new building will enable Northwestern Mutual to keep 1,100 of its employees on the downtown campus and will provide space to eventually add 1,900 additional employees. The company currently has a total of 3,000 employees in downtown Milwaukee.

The project is expected to be complete in 2017. The building will be 550 feet tall, about the same height as the 100 East building downtown and second to only the 601-foot tall U.S. Bank Center as the tallest building in the city and the state.

A team of Gilbane Building Co. and Milwaukee-based C.G. Schmidt Inc. is the general contractor for the project. New Haven, Conn.-based Pickard Chilton is the design architect for the project. Houston-based Kendall/Heaton Associates is the architect of record for the project.

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Cab companies sue city
August 26, 2014 12:57 PM
Several taxi cab companies filed a lawsuit in federal court against the City of Milwaukee this week in an attempt to block a new ordinance passed by the Common Council in July to eliminate the city’s cap on taxi cab permits and establish regulations for ride sharing services.
The move is intended to enable drivers for tech-based ride sharing services, like Uber and Lyft, to obtain permits to operate legally in the city. The legislation passed by aldermen included requirements for driver background checks and vehicle inspections, regulations that the ride sharing services opposed.

Taxi cab companies upset that the cap on the number of taxi permits in the city, currently at 420, would be lifted.

“Having previously limited the number of taxicab permits and required taxicab owners to go to a secondary market and spend thousands of dollars (sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars) to obtain a city permit, the city now has irrationally destroyed all value of those permits,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit was filed by Joe Sanfelippo Cabs Inc., G.C.C. Inc., Roy WMS Inc., Frenchy’s Cab Company Inc. and 2 Sweets LLC. It was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The case will be heard by Judge Lynn Adelman.

The cab companies also say the city’s new ordinance, “creates an irrational, two-tiered regulatory system that unconstitutionally harms the economic property interests of taxicab permits holders.”

“The ordinance… allows 'network' based service providers to operate in an essentially free market system with little or no oversight, while continuing to subject traditional taxicab drivers to antiquated, economically oppressive regulations,” the lawsuit states. “In particular, the Milwaukee ordinance allows 'network' based drivers to use practically any vehicle and charge any fare while requiring taxicab drivers to use specific vehicles, charge city-set rates, and incur multiple city-mandated expenses.”

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Harley introduces 2015 models
August 26, 2014 11:44 AM
Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motor Co. today introduced its full line of 2015 motorcycle models.

They include: the Road Glide Motorcycle; the Road Glide Special Motorcycle; the Freewheeler Trike; the Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low/Ultra Limited Low Motorcycles; the CVO Street Glide Motorcycle; and the CVO Road Glide Ultra Motorcycle. The Softail Models also have a new braking system.

Earlier this summer, Harley unveiled the Road Glides and the Project LiveWire electric motorcycle.

The Freewheeler Trike has a new rear body shape that gives it a low, lean profile. The Electra Glide models have new ergonomic enhancements and Project Rushmore features. The CVO Street Glide has a new audio system that plays through four bi-amped front and rear three-way speakers. And the CVO Road Glide Ultra is a super-premium touring motorcycle with luxury features.

There are eight new paint colors for 2015 and additional customization is available with hundreds of new Genuine Motor parts and accessories. The company also released new Genuine MotorClothes products.

Continuing its focus on customer-driven innovation and design, the new models also included fan input.

"The broad 2015 Harley-Davidson model lineup demonstrates our commitment to delivering amazing products to our customers through world-class, customer-led product design," said Matt Levatich, president and chief operating officer. "We are one with our riders around the world, and everything we do is about delivering what they expect and deserve from Harley-Davidson."

The new models will be available beginning today at Harley dealerships.

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American Metal Technologies acquires Ohio die casting company
August 26, 2014 12:35 PM
Sturtevant-based American Metal Technologies LLC has acquired Kotobuki-Reliable Die Casting Inc.

Xenia, Ohio-based Kotobuki-Reliable manufactures precision machined aluminum die castings in a variety of alloys. It previously had Japanese owners.

AMT is a precision machining company that primarily serves tier 1 customers in the automotive, truck and off-highway market segments. The growing company’s owners decided to pursue a vertical integration strategy targeting high-pressure aluminum die casting firms, with the help of Milwaukee-based investment bank Promontory Point Capital.

The acquisition will allow AMT to have greater influence over the sourcing and quality of its aluminum casting requirements while improving its relationships with key customers, according to Promontory Point, which evaluated acquisition candidates and served as financial advisor in the transaction.

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