• The Lakeshore
Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties
Wigwam lays off most of its workforce, may reopen
Sheboygan-based Wigwam Mills laid off nearly all its employees effective June 1. In a state and federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act filing the company submitted in late May, the company stated it would lay off 121 of its 142 employees.
The sock maker said it had lost business and seen a dramatic drop in sales due to COVID-19, leading it to “substantially curtail its manufacturing and administrative operations.” Wigwam further said it was unable to provide the required 60-day notice of the layoffs due to the “sudden unexpected and unforeseen adverse circumstances” stemming from the pandemic.
Siblings and fourth-generation family owners Chris Chesebro and Margaret Newhard have taken over leadership of the company and announced their intent to reopen operations.
In early June, former CEO Thomas Wheeler sued Wigwam, saying he was fired without cause on April 13. The suit states Wigwam failed to provide sufficient notice for his termination and has not paid him the 12 months of salary as severance promised in his contract.
• The Northwoods
Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties
Manufacturer refuses to test wells for contaminant
A Marinette manufacturer of firefighting foam says it will not test 500 private wells for PFAS contamination after state regulators claimed Tyco Fire Products failed to complete work around its fire technology center as part of an ongoing investigation.
PFAS, which include perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are found in everyday products. The chemicals do not break down easily in the environment and have been linked to health issues, including cancer.
In February, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources directed Tyco, a subsidiary of Johnson Controls, to sample drinking water wells in a large area around its fire protection center. In May, the DNR issued a notice of noncompliance, the first step in a series of DNR enforcement measures. Tyco responded in early June with a report saying it found no evidence to suggest PFAS moved through groundwater to the south and west of its facility.
If Tyco fails to comply with the DNR’s order, the department may seek additional enforcement, including sampling the wells itself and seeking reimbursement from Tyco for the work.
• West Central
Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties
AbbyBank provides grants to Shawano County organizations
AbbyBank has allocated a $20,000 grant it received from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago to help nonprofits in communities it serves. The bank matched the grant and advised each of its locations to identify where the funds were most needed in their communities.
AbbyBank, which includes locations in Appleton, Shawano, Gresham, Wausau and Weston, donated $2,000 to St. Michael’s Food Pantry in Keshena and $3,000 to Flo’ing With Kindness, a Gresham food pantry. It distributed $3,700 each to Shawano Area Matthew 25, Shawano Area Food Pantry and Resource Center, Wolf River Habitat for Humanity, Safe Haven Domestic Abuse Facility, Georgia’s House and the F.R.E.S.H. Project.
In addition, AbbyBank purchased gift cards from local restaurants and businesses in the communities it serves and distributed them to those in need.
• interstate 41 Corridor
Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac Counties
2020 U.S. Venture Open moves to virtual format
COVID-19 has led to changes for the 2020 U.S. Venture Open. Now being held virtually, the event will include an online fundraiser and auction as well as a regional media-thon fundraiser in partnership with WBAY-TV and Woodward Radio Group leading up to Aug. 12 — a day of celebration and final fundraising.
Donors can visit usventureopen.com to contribute or text USVO to 76278. U.S. Venture underwrites all expenses associated with the U.S. Venture Open, so every dollar raised goes to help area nonprofits.
Last year’s event featuring outings at several golf courses in the region and a dinner raised $4.3 million and a gift of $925,000 from the David A. Thiede estate, totaling a record-breaking $5.2 million in a one-day event.
Matching grants from regional partners are key to sustaining the work of the Basic Needs Giving Partnership. The J. J. Keller Foundation will match $800,000, along with other lead grant partners including Oshkosh Corp. at $250,000, ThedaCare at $200,000, and the Thrivent Foundation at $200,000.
With U.S. Venture’s added $800,000 donation, the grant matching will increase to $2.25 million, effectively matching every dollar donated through the U.S. Venture Open in 2020.
“We all miss the celebration and fellowship of group events, but our collective resources are absolutely critical right now,” said Greg Vandenberg, director of giving and community engagement for U.S. Venture. “Rising unemployment, the economic downturn and other effects of the pandemic are hitting at-risk populations the hardest.”