From kenoshanews.com: “Albrecht: Gateway a key player in area’s economic development” — This is the first part of a three-part series of in-depth interviews with the heads of Kenosha County’s three major institutions of higher education.

Bryan Albrecht has served as the president of Gateway Technical College since 2006. As the college’s chief executive, he oversees its academic programs, educational facilities, budget and college foundation.

Gateway represents Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth counties.

Albrecht recently was announced as a finalist for chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, which is expected to select a new leader later this month.

Q: Quite a few things happened in 2013. Quite a few new companies came into Kenosha County. What role has Gateway played in developing training programs for new employees?

A: I’m very encouraged by the changes in our local communities. New developments, especially in the Kenosha County area, not only foster great relationships with Gateway and existing businesses but also put us in the spotlight to help new businesses coming to our community to sustain and develop the workforce they need to be successful.

Gateway has positioned itself quite well not only in building a workforce for existing employers but also being a part of the economic catalyst of what it takes to succeed in developing new companies — working closely with Uline, Amazon and companies like that that have established a footprint in our community and we know will continue to grow.

So it’s our responsibility at Gateway to be involved in helping better understand what skill sets are necessary for those companies today and tomorrow as we develop new programs to support new technologies.

Business and education partnerships have been one of the cornerstones for success at the college. We have great anchor company partners like S.C. Johnson Corp., Snap-on, InSinkErator, Twin Disc, Ocean Spray. We’ve provided customized training to those companies for many years.

For the last five or six years, we’ve really elevated our relationship with those companies to help develop an infrastructure for sustaining their business models. One example in Kenosha would be Snap-on Inc., where we provided the diagnostic certification program for Snap-on nationally and even internationally. So we’ve been able to work with their development teams to look at what skills are necessary for the auto technician industry and elevate our program to be a national model, which really helps us build our brand and helps enure our graduates have the right skill sets to compete not only locally but also nationally and internationally.

I think it’s the fact that Gateway is really invested in understanding what is necessary for today’s worker. Our technology infrastructure, the classrooms and laboratories we’ve been able to put together with support of the community and the private sector are models around the country, and we’re looked at as one of the leading colleges in the country to help develop workforce training programs that are aligned with industry skill standards.

Q: Would you say that Gateway is an innovator?

A: Absolutely. We’ve been very fortunate. Gateway was listed on the Great Lakes (Manufacturing Council’s) Best Practices for Manufacturing. We’re an M school for the National Association for Manufacturing. This year we were identified as a lead school for sustainability in part of the Second Nature Initiative, nationally one of 13 colleges to be selected and the top two-year college in America for sustainability. Our business programs were accredited, the first time a two-year college was accredited. So we align now with UW-Parkside in our business school. Our freshwater technology program is aligned with the Water Council out of Milwaukee. We continue to look for ways to elevate our programs to ensure students are getting the skills necessary for the job market but also necessary for advanced education.

Q: It sounds as if Gateway should be a four-year college.

A: We have a lot of four-year options. We have a 30-credit general education transfer agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. We have many program agreements where you can transfer up to 70 credits to UW-Parkside. About 20 percent of our student population at Gateway already has a baccalaureate degree. We do offer some baccalaureate transfer programs with the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Parkside, Carthage and Whitewater. Whenever we can align our programs with four-year programs we try to do that. We think it makes for a seamless pathway for adult learners.

Q: There is a new funding formula in place that helps to reduce some of the tax burden on local taxpayers. Could you explain how that works?

A: Currently this year the governor made an investment of $400 million to help buy down the property tax that had supported the technical colleges. Which means there will be a drastic reduction in the homeowners’ property tax bills supporting technical colleges. That money is being made up by the state revenues. A third of the technical college’s revenue will be funded by the state, about a third by the local property tax and about a third will come from tuition, fees and some federal programs we are supported by.

Q: Is there some additional funding?

A: Along with that, the governor added another $35.4 million for advanced training to help reduce the wait list for those individuals who had been trying to get into a technical college but for some reasons the courses were full or the programs were full. So now we have an opportunity to expand some of those programs.

Q: How does the new performance-based funding affect Gateway?

A: Because of performance-based funding, Gateway will receive $450,000 more from the state than it did last year.

Q: What is Gateway’s standing in the community?

A: We have a strong relationship with our community highlighted by our business partnerships. We have a 90 percent job placement rate of our students and a 97 percent job satisfaction rate by employers who are hiring our students. So I think Gateway’s position in our community is highly valued.

From kenoshanews.com: “Baldwin pushes bipartisanship at Kenosha chamber breakfast” – U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said rebuilding the nation’s economy takes a bipartisan commitment with federal and state Democrats and Republicans working together to find solutions that will promote business growth.

Speaking at a Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast Monday morning, Baldwin noted that the nation’s economy is progressing slower than expected. Applauding economic development efforts in Kenosha County, she noted how partnerships have been important in this region’s business growth.

The Wisconsin Democrat also noted how Gateway Technical College and other local entities are building the technology to address the employment issues of the future, and she praised the efforts of two Kenosha-based companies, Snap-on and Xten Industries.

“One thing that both parties should be able to agree upon is the need to create economic growth by investing in the workforce readiness that we need and advance manufacturing innovation making us more competitive in the state and in the nation,” Baldwin said during the event at the Kenosha Country Club.

“Our made-in-Wisconsin tradition, work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit deserve nothing else than our combined commitment,” Baldwin added. “Simply put, we need to find common ground and work across party lines. So wherever, I go throughout the state, people think we should have both parties working.”

 

From leadertelegram.com: “CVTC leader: State aid boost keeps job training in high gear” — Any way you look at it, Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement during his State of the State address Wednesday that Wisconsin technical colleges will receive an additional $35 million is good news, Chippewa Valley Technical College President Bruce Barker said.

Barker was enthusiastic after hearing Walker’s remarks about increasing funding for the technical college he oversees and others.

“It’s certainly good news,” Barker said of the additional money, part of a program dubbed Wisconsin Fast Forward. “It’s definitely more money for training and education, and that’s a good thing.”

However, Barker said while that money can be used to hire more teachers, he doesn’t believe it can be spent to add laboratory space, already in high demand at CVTC.

“It’s additional dollars, but we have to see what the requirements will be,” Barker said. “The problem is the capacity of our labs. Our welding lab goes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and these are year-round programs.”

The main components of Wisconsin Fast Forward aim to eliminate waiting lists in high-demand job markets such as manufacturing, agriculture and information technology, and help high school students get credits through dual enrollment programs between high schools and technical colleges.

CVTC has longer waiting lists for nurse hygienists and nursing programs than in manufacturing or agriculture programs, Barker said.

“We’re certainly seeing a big demand in manufacturing and transportation, for truck drivers. Both of those programs, we’re at maximum capacity,” Barker said.

State Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, who introduced Wisconsin Fast Forward in the Assembly, said the initiative is a step in the right direction.

“Linking job seekers with employers that target critical and in-demand jobs while working with tech colleges and workforce development centers across the state puts a sharp focus on employment issues at a local level, where need and demand can be best addressed,” she said in a news release.

In addition to those programs, Walker proposed replacing $406 million in property taxes for technical colleges with state dollars. That would be accomplished by lowering the property tax levy that technical colleges can assess on homeowners.

“It’s a step in the right direction for local taxpayers,” Barker said. “But with the switch to state dollars, you fear losing local control. You also fear a cut in the state budget.”

Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said in a statement Thursday that Walker’s plan brings better balance to the system’s funding structure. Foy said the system has “long sought greater equity between local and state investments.”

From jsonline.com: “Scott Walker, GOP legislators to focus on job training in fall session” — Madison — Ahead of a major jobs report expected this week, Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature’s top two GOP leaders said Tuesday they will spend $8.5 million more in state money over the next year and a half to train the state’s workers for in-demand jobs such as manufacturing.

Walker, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) laid out worker training as one of their legislative priorities for the fall, saying they plan to pass eight Republican and Democratic bills aimed at that goal. Walker said the three leaders would have more announcements in the coming days on creating jobs and improving schools.

One of the bills highlighted Tuesday by the governor would put $1 million more over the next two years into the state’s Youth Apprenticeship program that works with on-the-job trainees as well as high school students. Overall, the new proposals would pull down an additional $14 million in federal matching dollars over the next year and a half.

“People are hungry to do more things to create the economic environment in the state where businesses can create jobs,” Walker said of state leaders.

So far, Republicans have outlined a modest agenda for the remaining legislative session ending this spring, including a bill to allow a mining company to close off its land to protesters, hunters and the public and another to hold private voucher schools receiving taxpayer money to standards similar to those of public schools. Other potential bills include an overhaul of election laws and a ban on taxpayer money covering abortions under public employee health plans.

Over the past 21/2 years, GOP lawmakers and Walker have passed so many elements of their conservative agenda that they’ve been moving slower since they returned to the Capitol this fall. The Assembly chose not to take to the floor in September, putting off votes until next month.

Democrats have criticized Walker and Republican legislators for cuts they made to technical colleges and their training programs two years ago. The current budget gives tech schools $5 million more in state money over two years, but that doesn’t make up for the 30% cut passed in 2011, which dropped state funding for technical schools from $119.3 million a year to $83.5 million.

“It’s inadequate to a state that is significantly lagging in job creation,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said of the proposals highlighted Tuesday. “This is far too little far too late to really have the kind of impact that’s necessary at this time.”

The state’s economy will play a key role in the re-election campaign next year for Walker, who in his initial 2010 campaign promised to create 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first four-year term.

With 16 months left in that term, the state has created 89,882 jobs, according to a PolitiFact Wisconsin analysis of the latest estimates. That’s a little more than a third of the way toward his goal.

Fitzgerald said he hoped to pass the jobs bills by the end of the year, saying they would improve on the state’s current efforts rather than make a radical departure.

“I think what you’re seeing is a fine-tuning of existing programs,” he said.

The bills would:

■ Pay for up to 25% of the cost of tuition for an apprenticeship program, with maximum payments of $1,000 per student.

■ Give incentive payments to school districts of up to $1,000 per student if they developed programs encouraging students to get certificates in high-need industries before they graduate from high school. The measure would initially provide $3 million in additional funding for schools.

■ Provide $4 million in state funds for vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. The program is expected to lure $14 million in federal funding as well, helping to serve another 3,000 people over two years.

■ Create a scholarship program for top students who want to pursue a technical education.

■ Revive a program that allows people to get job training while they are unemployed and continue to receive unemployment benefits while they do so.

■ Allow students to take state licensing exams before they complete their training, with the license issued as soon as they finish their training. This would prevent graduates from having to wait weeks or months before taking a licensing test.

■ Create a new transitional jobs program outside of Milwaukee so low-income people could build their job skills. The program would supplement one for Milwaukee included in the state budget.

In other news Tuesday, Wisconsin ranked as one of the best states in the country in a monthly index of economic activity issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Last week’s report from the state Department of Workforce Development showed that Wisconsin added an estimated 7,300 private-sector jobs in August, though those preliminary numbers are subject to heavy revisions.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate also declined last month to 6.7% in August from 6.8% in July. The rate fell mainly because several thousand unemployed Wisconsinites quit looking for work, which removed them from the official tally of the unemployed.

Nationally, the proportion of Americans working or looking for work fell to its lowest level in 35 years.

The most comprehensive set of jobs numbers for Wisconsin — a more reliable but less timely report covering the first three months of 2013 — comes out Thursday.

Lawmakers won’t just be considering jobs bills this fall.

The Senate, for instance, has yet to decide what to do with two abortion bills passed by the Assembly this year. One would ban abortions that are chosen because of the fetus’ sex and the other would bar public workers from using their government health insurance to pay for the procedure.

In June, the Assembly also approved a bill allowing online voter registration and doubling the amount of money donors can give candidates for governor and the Legislature. Senate leaders have not determined what they will do with the measure.

An earlier version of the measure included changes to election laws, and Assembly leaders have said they would like to adopt at least some of them later this session. The earlier package would have made it harder to recall municipal and school officials, limited early voting and modified the state’s voter ID law, which has been blocked by a judge.

 

From madison.com: “Innovation, not controversy, defines North Woods economy” — By Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Council – ASHLAND — C.G. Bretting Manufacturing has been bending metal on the shores of Lake Superior since 1890, but its global footprint in the paper converting industry defines the company’s 21st century approach to innovation.

Entrepreneurs such as Bruce Bowers, Mirka Nelson and Mark Snow all represent new companies — or, in some cases, no company at all — but they’re guided by the same innovative spirit that drives the big boys.

Welcome to the new North Woods, where efforts to redefine the economy involve companies large and small, as well as a broader community that understands the need to secure the region’s long-term prosperity.

For some in Wisconsin, the North Woods have become a frozen banana republic, with eco-terrorists and paramilitary guards roaming the forests of the Gogebic Iron Range within a half hour’s drive of Ashland.

For those who live there, however, those headlines are a far cry from everyday life. Although residents are divided over the mine, they’re also determined that the controversy surrounding it not become the North Woods’ defining image.

That was evident during a recent visit to Ashland, where executives at family-owned firms such as Bretting, entrepreneurs who are just starting businesses, and leaders in the political and economic development communities seem aligned in their vision for the future.

“We are all very active and passionate about making our community a better place,” read a welcome letter from nine industry, education and local government leaders to the Wisconsin Technology Council board.

That was evident at Bretting, which makes custom machines — folders, rewinders and more — for paper companies that produce napkins, tissue paper and similar consumer products. The company’s high-tech, lean manufacturing setting has enabled it to capture significant shares of the paper converting market in North America as well as globally, with

60 large paper firms counted among its customers.

Bretting’s workforce of 450 or so people has virtually no turnover outside retirements, in part because the company’s leadership stresses innovation, teamwork and customer service as a matter of course. “This is our home,” said president and chief executive officer David Bretting. “We have faith in the community and the people who live here.”

At Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Ashland, a different brand of innovation was on display when a small group of entrepreneurs practiced their two-minute business plan “pitches” for a panel of judges. The Entrepreneurs’ Edge event, organized by the Wisconsin Innovation Network’s Lake Superior chapter, was a precursor for the larger Lake Superior Business and Technology Conference. That day-long event will be held Aug. 9, also at Indianhead Tech.

Presenters at the pitch practice reflected a range of ideas, mostly driven by hands-on experience.

Bowers is a musician who has built a lighting prototype for theater, music and studio settings where control and information surfaces must be well lit without spillover to performing or audience areas.

Nelson wants to build a recreational and observation tower — with a possible high-tech twist — to attract tourists as well as adventuresome athletes who may want to try climbing, rappelling or zip lines.

Snow is a Marine Corps veteran and radio professional who wants to syndicate regular programming for veterans and current military personnel.

Other ideas pitched at the event involved a more energy-efficient window for homes, bottled water from Ashland’s aquifer, environmentally friendly marketing materials, custom iron artwork and the world’s thinnest wood veneers, which can be used for everything from labels to box coverings.

Not all of those ideas are destined to be the next Google, but they’re examples of Main Street entrepreneurism that can add economic value.

The Lake Superior region’s economy will likely always rest on some traditional pillars — timber, transportation, tourism and taconite (iron ore) — but technology is becoming a fifth “T” in the lineup. It is embedded in manufacturing companies such as Bretting and the ideas of entrepreneurs.

Don’t be misled by the images of protesters and armed guards: The economy in Wisconsin’s North Woods is becoming more diverse as the community works to keep its best people and ideas close to home.

 

 

From wkow.com: “Job training program moving forward in Wisconsin” — The state is moving forward with a new job training program.

Leaders from the Department of Workforce Development, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Technical College System signed an agreement to team up for the “Wisconsin Fast Forward” initiative.

It’s a $15 million grant program designed to help workers with job training.

“The Wisconsin Fast Forward initiative is quickly moving forward to provide workers with the training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Governor Walker said.  “These grants will be used help Wisconsin workers gain new skills, connect workers with jobs, and foster job creation and expansion by offering innovative training solutions that match employers’ current needs.”

Officials hope to get it off the ground by the end of the year.

 

From ashlandwi.com: “Business and technology conference to be held in Ashland” — Are you interested in growing businesses and creating jobs in northwest Wisconsin? If so, join the other entrepreneurs, business and community leaders and economic developers who will be attending the upcoming 2013 Lake Superior Business & Technology Conference – Growing Superior Ideas in the North on Friday, August 9 at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Ashland. Onsite registration and networking starts at 8:30 a.m., the program begins at 9 a.m. and the conference concludes at 3:30 p.m. The registration fee for the conference is $30, which includes lunch. You can register online by going to wisconsintechnologycouncil.com.

Keynote speaker Rob West, current Chief Executive Officer of GPM, Inc., an $18.8 million privately held heavy-duty pump manufacturing firm, and past President & CEO for the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) headquartered in Duluth, Minn., will kick things off with a presentation on “How to Grow and Nurture Entrepreneurs.” Rob is a very dynamic speaker with a wealth of experience as an entrepreneur, business executive and economic developer. He’s been a company executive at marketing/advertising, home improvement product and manufacturing firms.

Rob has also taught at the University of St. Thomas and University of Minnesota-Duluth. He has an MBA from Western Michigan University and was an Officer in the United States Army.

Rob’s presentation will be followed by two back-to-back panels, the first featuring speakers who will describe how area producers are using technology to grow their agriculture business in northwest Wisconsin. The second panel will include presentations from representatives of three area firms, TACMoto, LLC, Soft Lines Inc. and Ancientwood, Ltd., who will describe how they’ve been able to make their business thrive using the Internet.

Following lunch, Molly Lahr, Director of the Wisconsin Innovation Network of the Wisconsin Technology Council, will moderate a Business Idea Contest, finalist’s presentations and critiques session. Conference attendees will have a chance to hear the top 11 Business Idea Contest finalists pitch their business ideas and compete for over $5,000 in prize money before a panel of expert judges who will rate and critique their business ideas. A range of innovative and creative business ideas will be presented. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three-rated business idea presenters, as well as to the presenter with the “greenest” business idea and also to the presenter who receives the most votes from the conference audience.

The conference is sponsored by: the Lake Superior Region Wisconsin Innovation Network, Wisconsin Technology Council, City of Ashland, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, C.G. Bretting Manufacturing Company, Inc., Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Memorial Medical Center, Associated Bank, Superior Light & Power Company/Allette Energy, UW-Superior Small Business Development Center, Ashland Area Development Corporation, Bayfield County Economic Development Corporation, The Development Association, Twin Ports I & E Club, Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX), Alliance for Sustainability, Bayfield County, UW-Extension and Northland College.

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