This is interesting.
Posted by Owen at 0524 hrs
Washington County is far outstripping the surrounding counties when it comes to growth in home sales. Last April, 118 homes were sold compared to the 165 that found buyers this April, marking a 39.8 percent increase in sales between this time last year and this year.
However, said Jim Emmer, president of the Emmer Real Estate Group Inc., in West Bend, that number is a little deceptive. A California hedge fund called American Homes 4 Rent has been buying properties in Washington County.
“Washington County saw a huge increase in sales, and (it) may be a sign of a new business model in the market,” Ruzicka said. “Brokers are reporting that investors are buying suburban homes to rent out for a period of time and plan to re-sell them when prices get back to prerecession levels.”
WASHINGTON (AP)—The government has sold another piece of its stake in General Motors Co.
The Treasury Department said Friday in its April report to Congress that so far this year it has sold 58.4 million shares of GM stock and earned net proceeds of $1.6 billion.
At the end of April, Treasury had recovered about $30.7 billion of the $49.5 billion bailout it gave the Detroit automaker. That means that taxpayers are still $18.8 billion in the hole.
GM stock sold in April in a range of $27.52 to $30.84 per share. For the government to break even on its investment, the remaining stock would have to sell for more than double the April high.
Yes, it’s a bit dry, but this is a pretty big deal. With the nation’s bond rating being lowered, there have been a rash of municipal bond ratings being lowered too. For West Bend to retain its rating is a great thing.
West Bend earned for another year a high bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service, New York, which is used to determine interest rates the city can obtain when it sells municipal bonds.
West Bend’s bond rating remains Aa2, said Phil Cossen, executive vice president at Ehlers Inc., Brookfield, the city’s financial advisor, this week.
The city team that presented its case for this year’s rating call with Moody’s included the mayor, Justice, Assistant City Administrator Steve Volkert, Finance Administrator Carrie Winklbauer, Deputy Finance Administrator Mary Kudek and Ehler’s associates.
Another story about failures at the WEDC.
Wisconsin’s flagship jobs agency has routinely failed to follow state laws, didn’t track loans and awarded money to ineligible projects, a scathing audit released Wednesday found.
Auditors also said employees of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., a quasi-private entity, made a number of questionable and unexplained purchases, including season tickets to UW-Madison football games and iTunes gift cards, and contracted for services without conducting open and competitive selection processes.
The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau said WEDC, which was launched by Republican Gov. Scott Walker nearly two years ago, needs to overhaul numerous policies and should report back to the Legislature’s audit committee later this year.
It’s clear that the WEDC is horribly flawed. It’s an embarrasment for a state government that has a stated focus on bringing jobs to Wisconsin. Governor Walker and the legislature need to find a way to fix it… now. BEFORE they have to report back “later this year.”
SOUTH MILWAUKEE — United Steelworkers Local 1343 on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a proposed six-year contract with Caterpillar Inc. that would have frozen wages, increased contributions to health care costs and offered senior union employees fewer protections.
“Everybody is scared,” said Ross Winklbauer, a Steelworkers subdistrict director for southeastern Wisconsin. “But our membership has stuck together.”¿
A vote count was not divulged.
The proposed agreement covers about 800 workers in South Milwaukee who, under the current contract, make $18 to $34 an hour. Caterpillar acquired the South Milwaukee plant in 2011 when it purchased Bucyrus International Inc., a maker of mining equipment, for $8.8 billion.
In voting down the contract, workers also authorized a strike. However, the union has yet to call for it. Workers are scheduled to work a normal workday Wednesday.
I don’t blame some union members for voting down the deal. It is crappy to take a pay cut, but the manufacturing industry has shifted. It is no longer a regional or national industry. It is global. And it’s never going back to how it was. You can change with it, find some other career, or be unemployed.Posted by Owen at 2049 hrs
My column for the Daily News is online. It’s called, “Rent-to-own unites polar opposites.” Here you go:
It is said that politics makes some strange bedfellows, and that is certainly true with the provisions that Gov. Scott Walker put into his budget proposal regarding the rent-to-own industry. What else could unite ultra-conservative Sen. Glenn Grothman, liberal Sen. Lena Taylor and former Gov. Jim Doyle?
Walker’s budget proposal includes some loosening of regulations that the rent-to-own industry has been advocating for many years. If passed, they would exempt the rent-to-own stores from the requirement to disclose the annual interest rate and limit the damages a consumer could receive in a lawsuit against the business. Wisconsin has some of the strictest regulations on rent-to-own businesses and these changes would bring Wisconsin more into line with most other states.
There are really two issues with Walker’s proposals. The first issue is that the proposed regulatory changes for a controversial industry are clearly not fiscal items that should be included in the budget. The Legislature has always included nonfiscal items in the budget because it is a way to get them pushed through without requiring a stand-alone vote. The minority party always complains about it and it always happens anyway. Such is the sausage of legislation, but given the diverse opposition to these regulatory changes, they should be put into their own bill to receive the appropriate debate.
The second issue with Walker’s proposals is their substance. First, we must take a step back and understand how the rent-to-own industry works and why it is so maligned.
Consumers come in all shapes and sizes. Some folks have cash or good credit to purchase goods outright.
Some other people do not have much cash or have bad credit, but they have a steady income. The latter people are the ones that the rent-to-own industry serves. It is a way for some folks to obtain that furniture, television, computer, appliance or whatever without having to make a large cash expenditure all at once. Essentially, it is allowing the person to convert a capital expense to an operational expense.
For this service, however, the rent-toown stores charge a significant surcharge. The same dishwasher that a person can buy for $400 may cost over twice that when eventually paid for through a rent-to-own store. This is the part of the industry that motivates the opposition to the industry. By its very nature, the people who tend to rely on rent-to-own stores are those on the lower rungs of economic success. The high total cost of goods purchased through a rent-to-own store is perceived by some as predatory on the poor.
This perceived predation is what unites those like Democratic Sen.
Taylor and Republican Sen. Grothman in opposing the loosening of regulations for the industry. Such a negative view of the industry is rooted in the paternalistic perspective that poor people do not understand that they are paying a premium for their goods. It is a valid argument and we do look to government at times to protect the more vulnerable in our society.
Yet at the same time, these same poor people would not have access to those products at all if the only option was to buy them outright. Which is more in line with the greater good? When things are tight, some folks make the rational decision to pay a premium to rent-to-own a necessary appliance or piece of furniture while they build their finances.
While we look to government at times to protect us, we do not necessarily have to do so by absolving personal responsibility. It is incumbent on the buyer to take ownership of their purchasing decisions. After all, no consumer is obligated to make a purchase from a rent-to-own store and more than any other store. Nor is it the role of government to protect us from ourselves.
Overall, Walker’s proposals for the rent-to-own industry are fairly benign.
They do not belong in the budget, but they warrant serious consideration.
The rent-to-own industry serves a legitimate segment of Wisconsin’s consumers and should not be singled out for overly burdensome regulation.
Tomorrow could be an interesting day.
The proposed contract also calls for a lower wage rate for workers hired after May. It would additionally freeze pensions and would, instead, direct employee retirement contributions toward a new 401k plan.
Caterpillar told workers in March it plans to lay off 40 percent of the workforce by June, citing lower demand for mining equipment.
On Sunday, some workers who attended the union meeting expressed frustration over the contract.
“There was a lot of anger in the room,” said Dewey Lewis, who was the union’s president when the current contract was negotiated. “It’s totally unfair. No self-respecting union would accept it.”
Caterpillar is also offering a $2,500 ratification bonus and annual bonuses through a new employee reward program.
My guess is that’s a low estimate.
Unemployment fraud is costing the government billions of dollars in paid benefits to people who are still working, no longer alive or are behind bars, according to a new report.
A study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve released last week found that of the $108 billion paid out in unemployment benefits in 2011, some $3.3 billion was paid out dishonestly The largest share of the fraud payments—$2.2 billion—went to people who were still working.
So help me understand this... Palermo hasn’t done anything wrong and people still want them punished? For what? Providing jobs for Wisconsinites? I sure hope that none of these kids need a job someday.
Posted by Owen at 1612 hrs
A dozen students occupied University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor David Ward’s office in Bascom Hall on Monday afternoon, demanding the university cut ties with Milwaukee-based frozen pizza manufacturer Palermo Villa., Inc., over the company’s labor practices.
Palermo’s has a licensing and sponsorship agreement with UW-Madison that allows them to brand themselves as ‘the official pizza of Bucky Badger.’
Meanwhile Monday, the National Labor Relations Board’s Washington, D.C., office upheld a local decision that Palermo Villa Inc. did not violate labor relations laws when it fired dozens of workers last year because they didn’t have appropriate documentation proving their eligibility to work in the United States.
“We’re well aware of the decision by the NLRB,” said UW-Madison senior Maxwell John Love, spokesman for protesters occupying the chancellor’s office. “But we don’t think it influences things here. Chancellor Ward should have cut the contraact already.”
The decision by the NLRB’s Office of the General Counsel denies an appeal filed by the Palermo Workers Union alleging unfair labor practices by the Milwaukee pizza manufacturer. The organizations claimed that the company fired the workers in retaliation for union-organizing efforts.
The number of people considered long-term unemployed — out of a job for more than a year — increased to 3.5 million, while the unemployment rate for those aged under 25 was a staggering 57 percent. The government body also said its survey found the number of households without anyone working rose by 72,400 to a 1.91 million.
The U.S. Bank survey says 47 percent of responding small business owners think the U.S. economy is in a recovery and 39 percent say it’s still in a recession. The rest are unsure.
The survey also shows about two-thirds of owners, in Wisconsin and nationally, are hesitant to make significant investments in their companies and probably would not do so in the next year.
Interesting. I’ve been seeing more and more of this too.
Here’s some feedback I received from the people doing the hiring here:
• Unemployed people make an application and then some don’t even call back when they are called for an interview. Go figure.
• When we convert a temporary worker doing a good job to permanent status, some of them stop showing up for work on a consistent basis. What’s that all about?
• The staffing companies are having a hard time finding temporary workers.
• It isn’t a lack of basic skills in reading, writing or math that’s the problem; it’s the work ethic.
Said one supervisor, “If they wanted to work, if they would come to work, they wouldn’t be unemployed.”
A proposal at the state Capitol would ban Wisconsin employers from asking workers or job applicants to hand over their usernames and passwords for social media and personal e-mail accounts.
State Representatives Gary Bies (R-Sister Bay) and Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) are offering the bill, which Sargent says is in response to concerns raised to her by students currently looking for jobs. The Madison Democrat says such requests go too far and the measure would offer a “reasonable protection” of personal privacy.
Don’t get me wrong… I think a business asking for that kind of information is intrusive, stupid, and a ridiculous practice. Frankly, if I saw that on a job application, I’d throw it away. I don’t want to work for a company that would even ask. But passing a law to forbid it? I don’t think it’s a good idea. Not every bad practice needs a law forbidding it and in this case, it’s a practice that doesn’t harm anybody.
Here’s a nice story about Grandcare, a business in West Bend run by Charlie Hillman. We’re proud of our West Bend businesses!
It’s all run by software that arose from Hillman’s vision and forms the basis for GrandCare Systems LLC, the West Bend firm he and his wife started.
GrandCare isn’t alone in targeting what looks like a promising market, but the little firm - currently 16 employees - has established an outsized reputation.
“You really have to give them credit because they were one of the quite-early companies to believe in monitoring older adults’ well-being in the home,” industry analyst Laurie Orlov said.
“A brilliant Wisconsin company,” said Tim Pethick, CEO of Saga Healthcare, an English firm that provides in-home care to 35,000 people and is now marketing and deploying GrandCare’s system in the United Kingdom.
Pethick was happy to discover GrandCare and surprised to find it where he did.
“You expect software to be developed in Silicon Valley,” said Pethick, who worked there during the dot-com boom. “And I think we’ve all got now a pretty entrenched view of what Silicon Valley looks like. . . .
“The basement of a bank in West Bend, Wisconsin, is about as far from that mental image as you could possibly imagine.”
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — One of China’s oldest and biggest medicine companies agreed Monday to sell only genuine Wisconsin ginseng at its 1,800 retail stores, an estimated $200 million deal that was finalized during Gov. Scott Walker’s trade mission to the world’s second-largest economy.
Under the agreement with the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin, Tong Ren Tang Health Pharmaceutical — a 364-year-old Chinese pharmacy — will pay for trademark seals indicating that for the next decade the company is selling genuine Wisconsin ginseng at its stores in China.
All products will be purchased from the Ginseng and Herb Cooperative, a Wausau-based association representing Wisconsin ginseng producers.
Wisconsin produces more than 95 percent of the ginseng in the United States, and China is the biggest foreign importer. Many Chinese consumers know Wisconsin for its high-quality ginseng products as herbal medicine and gifts.