Regional roundup

Posted on Jan 30, 2020 :: Regional Roundup
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

The Northwoods

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

M&M Community Foundation kicks off its Future Fund program

The Marinette & Menominee Area Community Foundation has launched its Future Fund program for kindergartners in the two counties.

The Future Fund is a long-term savings account designed to encourage hope, build savings, assist with career training and postsecondary education expenses, and increase financial literacy among the area’s youth. It began in the 2019-2020 school year, and officials marked its kickoff with a January event at St. John Paul II Catholic Academy in Menominee, Mich.

All kindergarten students enrolled throughout Marinette and Menominee counties, as well as home school and virtual school students, will have a $50 deposit-only savings account established by the community foundation at a financial institution in their community. Future Fund accounts will grow by additional deposits from the MMACF during the students’ K-12 school career as well as interest earned on the accounts.

“I am very proud of the MMACF board of directors for putting our communities on the leading edge of an initiative that is going nationwide,” said MMACF Executive Director Paula Gruszynski.

interstate 41 Corridor

Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac Counties

TitletownTech leads $8 million funding in digital health firm

TitletownTech is leading an $8 million round of funding for Oculogica, a digital health company. TitletownTech’s venture fund and innovation center grew out of a partnership between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft.

Oculogica has established the new standard of care for concussion diagnosis through the development of the EyeBOX, the first FDA-approved neurodiagnostic device that uses proprietary and innovative technology to track eye movement to determine if a person has a concussion.

“Oculogica has developed groundbreaking technology that will change how doctors, hospitals, parents and athletes diagnose and manage head injuries,” said Jill Enos, managing director of TitletownTech.

“TitletownTech is excited to help enable Oculogica to bring this technology to the larger market.”

Founded in 2013 by Dr. Uzma Samadani in New York, Oculogica began working with TitletownTech in 2019 to further develop its device and technology. Samadani and her sister, Rosina, grew up in Beaver Dam and are lifelong Packers fans.

The Oculogica funding is TitletownTech’s first major investment.

In its concussion diagnosis evaluation, the EyeBOX’s technology requires no baseline testing and uses a noninvasive procedure that lasts less than four minutes and can be administered within minutes of an injury, with immediate results. Oculogica has received a CPT code for insurance reimbursement in record time — less than a year after getting FDA authorization.

Hourly wages rise, unemployment stays low in Oshkosh-Neenah MSA

The Oshkosh-Neenah Metropolitan Statistical Area unemployment rate was 2.7 percent in November 2019, up 0.5 percent from November 2018, according to preliminary data. Wisconsin had an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent, while the U.S. unemployment rate remained at 3.3 percent for the last three months, not seasonally adjusted.

The Oshkosh-Neenah MSA had the seventh-lowest unemployment rate out of 12 MSAs in the state in November 2019, tied with Green Bay and Eau Claire at 2.7 percent. Madison had the lowest with 2.2 percent, followed by La Crosse-Onalaska (2.3 percent), Wausau (2.5 percent), Sheboygan (2.6 percent), and Fond du Lac and Appleton sharing the fifth lowest at 2.5 percent.

Between November 2018 and November 2019, the Oshkosh-Neenah MSA added 400 jobs in education and health services, while professional and business services added 300 jobs. Manufacturing and trade, transportation and utilities added 200 jobs over the last year. Mining, logging, construction and leisure and hospitality increased their workforces by 100 people.

The average hourly earnings of all employees in the Oshkosh-Neenah MSA was $23.34 in November 2019, a 5.51 percent increase from 2018, and the average weekly earnings of all employees was $774.89, a 2.73 percent increase from 2018.

The Lakeshore

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Sheboygan County real estate value grows by 5%, approaches $10B

An analysis shows Sheboygan County’s real estate value grew by 5 percent in 2019 and now approaches a total value of $10 billion.

Growth in real estate value was not the same across the county. The municipalities that grew faster than the county’s average by equalized property value included the Village of Waldo, Village of Oostburg, Village of Glenbeulah, Village of Howards Grove, Town of Mosel, Town of Scott, Town of Rhine, Town of Sheboygan and Town of Herman.

Real estate value growth is a key indicator of an investor’s economic outlook on an area. About 28 percent, or $129 million, of the increase in Sheboygan County’s value came from new construction.

“As real estate sells for increased value, it does so for one primary reason: market optimism or belief that the value of an investment is going to increase with time,” said Joseph Sheehan, executive director of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp. “The collective value of county real estate is a great indicator of the visionary leadership and great work our local employers have provided.”

Door County to install solar grid at business development center

As part of Door County Economic Development’s 2020 capital budget plan, a new solar array will be installed at its Business Development Center (BDC) in Sturgeon Bay.

“We have been quite pleased with the cost savings at the BDC that resulted from our conversion from fluorescent to LED,” said DCEDC Executive Director Jim Schuessler. “We have enjoyed significant savings following the investment we made in early 2019, and that savings also represents a reduction in our overall carbon footprint.”

Funding for the project included a grant through WPPI Energys Renewable Energy Grants for Non-Profits program, with the assistance of Sturgeon Bay Utilities. The installation date has not yet been set, but the parameters of the grant require that it be installed no later than Aug. 6.

Acuity reaches all-time high with written premium of $1.66 billion

Fueled by a record-setting $277.5 million in new business in 2019, Acuity Insurance reached an all-time high in written premium of $1.66 billion in 2019, an increase of more than $115 million over 2018.

“We’ve now achieved 10 straight years of positive revenue growth. And, for the past 20 years, Acuity has consistently grown more than twice as fast as the insurance industry,” said Acuity President and CEO Ben Salzmann. “It shows that we are a strong, stable market for independent agents.”

Headquartered in Sheboygan, Acuity has doubled its top-line revenue in the past eight years. The company’s growth has led to additional jobs. The insurer has hired more than 900 employees over the past five years and nearly 200 in 2019 alone. Acuity employs more than 1,400 people.

Acuity has achieved balanced growth across personal and commercial lines. In personal lines, Acuity reached nearly $410 million in written premium, while in commercial lines, the insurer set a record for written premium at $1.25 billion.

West Central

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Village of Fremont starts construction of community center

The Village of Fremont has begun construction of a new community center.

The Friends of Fremont is leading the effort that will make major changes to the former Channel Cats building at 204 Wolf River Drive.

The group has partnered with Keller Inc. and McMahon Associates on the design and build of the new community center. Changes include demolition of the south half of the structure, new exterior finishes, reestablishing the banquet area, accessibility improvements, dock improvements and creation of a new outdoor community space. Work will continue throughout 2020 with a combination of volunteer and professional contracting help.