Category Archives: Economy

Walmart Stops Selling Some Ammo and Nags Customers

It seems that Walmart misunderstands their customers.

Walmart said Tuesday it will discontinue all sales of handgun ammunition and sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition that can be used with military-style weapons, following two “horrific” shootings at Walmart stores this summer. It will also stop all handgun sales in Alaska, marking its complete exit from the handguns category.

The biggest retailer in the world also is asking customers at Walmart and Sam’s Club to no longer openly carry firearms in stores, in states where “open carry” is allowed, unless they are authorized law enforcement officers. Open carry legislation is currently on the books in more than 26 states, Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs, said during a call with members of the media.

I doubt that very many people who shop at Walmart will boycott over this. But for the gun owners who used to buy their ammo there, they are going to have to buy ammo – and likely all of their other shooting supplies and accessories – somewhere else. If I were Bass Pro Shops, I’d announce a sale on handgun ammo by the end of the day.

Foxconn to Partner with Johnson Controls for Smart Buildings

Cool!

MILWAUKEE — Johnson Controls will collaborate with Foxconn to transform building data analytics through artificial intelligence and machine learning to advance smart building and smart-city technologies and achieve comfort, security and sustainability goals, according to a Wednesday announcement.

As part of the global technology strategic partnership, Johnsons Controls will become the preferred provider of building management products and solutions at Foxconn’s planned manufacturing facilities in Mt. Pleasant and potentially extend to Foxconn’s global footprint. The buildings will incorporate smart, safe, and sustainable technologies provided by Johnson Controls and enhanced by Fii’s industrial AI and Smart manufacturing technologies.

“We look forward to this collaboration with JohnsonControls, a global leader in building technology, to apply their expertise to leverage our expertise in Artificial Intelligence to further advance into

the next generation of smart technology solutions,” said Brand Cheng, Fii CEO.

The smart buildings and cities of the future will rely on buildings with a highly predictive network of integrated data analytics and artificial intelligence applications, combining building data with external data such as utility pricing, energy storage use, social media tracking and weather data to help consumers manage their home environment, home security, lighting and a host of other in-home functions.

Foxconn Continues to Grow in Wisconsin

All of the lefties sure have gone quiet on Foxconn.

WAUKESHA — Foxconn has hired nine more subcontractors for ongoing work at the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park, many of which are from southeastern Wisconsin.

The combined total contract value for this bid package exceeds $15 million. The total value of all subcontractor awards to date is more than $175 million.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Indeed.

Now USSF President Carlos Cordeiro is pushing back. He wrote an open letter explaining that he directed U.S. Soccer staff to conduct “an extensive analysis of the pa st 10 years of U.S. Soccer’s financials.” He said the analysis was “reviewed by an independent accounting firm.” The analysis showed that the women’s team was paid more than the men’s team.

The fact sheet includes bulleted information about the different pay structures for the men’s and women’s teams. USSF claimed that it paid “women $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses and we paid our men $26.4 million — not counting the significant additional value of various benefits that our women’s players receive but which our men do not.”

For example, the women’s team has a guaranteed salary thanks to their collective bargaining agreement with USSF. They receive a base salary of $100,000 each year and an additional salary of $67,500 to $72,500 for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League. Male soccer players do not have such an agreement.

That agreement means women soccer players earn a guaranteed salary of $167,500 to $172,500 each year. On top of that, they are paid bonuses. The men’s team only earns bonuses. Yes, those bonuses can be larger, but that’s because they don’t have the guaranteed base salary. The women’s team, according to USSF, also receives benefits including a 401(k) plan and health insurance, as well as maternity leave and injury protection. The men’s team does not receive any benefits.

Finally, USSF points out that the “hypothetical per game comparison” making the media rounds isn’t even plausible. Neither the men’s nor the women’s teams have ever played 20 friendly matches in a year, yet this is what the hypothetical scenario is based on.

“That said, if the men and women ever did play in and win 20 friendlies in a year and were paid the average bonus amount, a women’s player would earn more­ from U.S. Soccer than the men’s player — the women’s player would earn at least $307,500 (WNT and NWSL salaries, plus game bonuses) and the men’s player would earn $263,333 (game bonuses only),” USSF claimed.

No More Sales Tax Holiday in Wisconsin

Thanks, Governor Evers.

Since back to school shopping can get pretty expensive, Wisconsin held its first tax free holiday for shoppers in early August last year. During that time, shoppers could buy select clothing, technology, and other supplies without paying the 5% sales tax.

“I think they should have the tax free weekend because it helps a lot of parents. Especially when they only have one income and grandparents have to help,” said Callahan.

[…]

But Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has confirmed that the state will no longer participate in the event this year. He said it was a one-time deal enacted under the former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“I think parents are going to be purchasing school supplies whether they have an incentive or not. I just don’t think the incentive actually worked,” said Evers.

I agree that the sales tax holiday doesn’t work as an economic stimulant, but it sure was nice for parents and teachers who are spending hundreds of dollars on school supplies.

Dollar Store Backlash

Darn those stores for offering products people want at competitive prices.

New York (CNN Business)As dollar stores sweep across America, they are facing growing scrutiny from opponents who argue that discount chains stifle local competition and limit poor communities’ access to healthy food.

Dollar stores have never been more popular. Yet a wave of cities and towns have passed laws curbing the expansion of Dollar General (DG) and Dollar Tree (DLTR), which bought Family Dollar in 2015. The companies are the two largest dollar store operators in the country, combining for more than 30,000 stores throughout the United States, up from under 20,000 a decade ago. By comparison, Walmart(WMT), America’s largest retailer, has 4,700 US stores.
Advocates of tighter controls on dollar stores say the big chains intentionally cluster multiple stores in low-income areas. That strategy discourages supermarkets from opening and it threatens existing mom-and-pop grocers, critics say.
“The business model for these stores is built on saturation,” said Julia McCarthy, senior policy associate at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and a critic of dollar stores. “When you have so many dollar stores in one neighborhood, there’s no incentive for a full-service grocery store to come in.”
Opponents also express concerns that dollar stores don’t offer fresh produce. Dollar General and its dollar store rivals mostly sell snacks, drinks, canned foods and vegetables, household supplies and personal care products at rock-bottom prices.
However, Dollar General and Dollar Tree argue that they benefit communities by offering shoppers convenient places to grab food and essentials at low prices.
“In rural places without existing grocery stores, having a Dollar General might be viewed as an asset,” said Christopher Merrett, director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. Dollar stores bring in new sales and property tax revenue for cities, create jobs and expand shopping options for customers, he added.

Kewaskum Looking for New School Board Member

The most interesting part is that he sold his home in 2 hours! Housing is still hot.

KEWASKUM — The Kewaskum School Board is looking for a replacement after member Jay Fischer resigned Monday.

He wrote a letter to board President Mark Sette and fellow board members explaining his decision, and asked for a day to call the members himself before the information was shared.

“The reason for my resignation is that we will be downsizing our home situation and relocating out of the district,” he wrote. After another child graduated and moved out, he and his wife wanted a smaller home, and sold theirs in less than two hours.

West Bend to Add New Industrial Park

Excellent.

WEST BEND — The city could pay nearly $3.15 million to buy a swath of rural property off its southeastern border for a future industrial park — something city leaders have said West Bend needs but that some neighbors have said they don’t want.

The Common Council on Monday night approved a purchase agreement authorizing the city to pay $20,500 an acre for the targeted roughly 153.5-acre plot near the corner of River Road and County Highway NN.

Closing on the sale could take place in January, and Mayor Kraig Sadownikow noted the final sale price could depend on the land’s precise acreage,

which has yet to be officially platted. The seller, meanwhile, would keep a small portion of property near the River Road-County NN intersection.

City Administrator Jay Shambeau had previously said West Bend would combine the newly acquired land with a neighboring 63-acre parcel the city annexed earlier this year. That would give the city room for a new, roughly 215-acre industrial park — which Shambeau and other city leaders have said West Bend badly needs.

Of course, this is not without controversy. There is a lovely little neighborhood next to this parcel. It is farmland now and contributes to a nice, quiet, rural-like neighborhood. That will change when there are a bunch of light and heavy industrial businesses popping up. That’s a shame, but it’s no reason to retard the city’s growth. This particular site is ideally located with easy access to the interstate, a railroad spur, and across the street from several other businesses that run semi trucks up that road all the time.

Taco Bell Hotel

With industrial commodes.

Taco Bell’s latest marketing venture, a pop-up hotel, opened at 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Thursday. The rooms sold out within two minutes.

The resort has been called “The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort.” It’s located in Palm Springs, California.
The company is taking over the V Palm Springs hotel for an extended weekend in August. The plans for an exclusive, Taco Bell-themed resort were released in May.

Facebook Money

It’s an interesting plan and Facebook certainly has the wherewithal to try it. The greatest flaw I see is that Facebook is, perhaps, the least trusted company on the planet. They are continually getting caught lying and abusing their users. Currency is all about trust that the value tomorrow will be consistent or predictable – with acceptable variances. Who is going to trust a Facebook currency?

Facebook Inc. unveiled plans for a new cryptocurrency called Libra this week. When it launches in 2020 or later, it will be a stablecoin–a digital currency that doesn’t fluctuate much because it’s supported by established government-backed currencies and securities.

The world’s largest social media company published a 12-page white paperon Libra and has more than 20 partners for the project. But there are still many questions. After a week of analysis, here’s what Bloomberg reporters and editors know about Libra, along with key unknowns that remain:

Joe Weisenthal, executive editor: digital news at Bloomberg:

For sure: Libra is being touted as a cryptocurrency, so it’s natural to use existing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum as mental models for what it could be. But it’s probably better to think instead about traditional peer-to-peer payment networks. Whether you’re talking about PayPal, Venmo, Square, WeChat, or even Western Union, all of these networks are in some way layered on top of the traditional financial system in order to ease some type of transaction (e-commerce, check-splitting, remittances). The problem is that these networks aren’t interoperable, and in many cases the fees can be quite high. Like all these other networks, Libra will be layered on top of the existing financial system, since each coin will be backed by traditional money in the bank to support a stable price. Unlike these other networks, however, there is an opportunity to create payments unification on a global scale, and at potentially a much lower cost. And in theory, anyone will one be able to build payment applications on top of Libra. Some might focus on friends splitting the cost of dinner. Others might be focused on remittance payments to developing markets. In the most extremely successful version of Libra, it’s not so much a cryptocurrency, but a global operating system for moving fiat money around.

China Threatens US Over Rare Earth Metals

It is not impossible, but it is very difficult to win a trade war against a totalitarian regime. Their leaders can withstand decades of a down economy because they never have to stand for election. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try for vbetter terms and look for alternative trade partners. China only controls about a third of the known rare earth metal deposits, but that’s mainly because they are willing to take on the high cost and negative environmental consequences to mine them. If China pulls back, it opens the market for other countries to get in. Unfortunately, that will take years.

A Chinese state-run newspaper has warned the U.S. not to underestimate Beijing’s capabilities with its resources of rare earth minerals during a trade war between the two countries.

People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China‘s ruling Communist Party, hinted serious consequences to the Trump Administration using a diplomatic term usually reserved by Beijing to signal the start of an armed warfare.

‘Don’t say we didn’t warn you!’ The newspaper said in a commentary today as it commented on the possibility of China suspending its exports of rare earths to the U.S.

Wisconsin Unemployment Drops to 2.8%

Seriously. With 2.8% unemployment and thousands of jobs that employers can’t fill, why is anyone on our welfare roles?

MADISON – The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) preliminary employment estimates for the month of April. The data showed that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate declined to a new record low of 2.8 percent. Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate remained at 67.5 percent in April.

The “Bar”

Interesting concept. I’m not sure it would ever work in Wisconsin.

A bar without booze sounds like an oxymoron, like an aquarium without fish or a bakery that doesn’t serve bread. But in cities like New York and London, where bars often function as second living rooms for apartment dwellers with little space, an alcohol-free nightlife option can appeal to people who, for whatever reason, would prefer not to drink.

Sam Thonis, who co-owns the bar with Regina Dellea, got the idea for Getaway three years ago, when he and his brother, who doesn’t drink, were trying to find a place to go out together at night. “There weren’t many nightlife options in New York that didn’t revolve around alcohol or weren’t trying to push that on you in some way,” Thonis says. “The more I talked to people, some of whom are sober and some of whom aren’t, the more I felt that people wanted that kind of space.”

In response, Thonis and Dellea made their bar a studiously 0% alcohol space, meaning that not even non-alcoholic beers that have a trace amount of alcohol are allowed on the menu. In the US, the term ‘non-alcoholic’ may be applied to beverageswith 0.5% alcohol by volume or less, which means many popular non-alcoholic beers aren’t actually alcohol-free.

“It’s 0% as much as humanly possible, so if you’re sober and it’s an issue for you, or you don’t even want the smell of alcohol around you, you’ll be safe,” Thonis says. But it still looks and feels like a bar – it only opens in the evenings, the lights are low and no one appears to be working on their screenplay.

Getaway, which opened in April, is part of a growing global wave of nightspots that specifically cater to people who are avoiding alcohol, but still want to go out and socialise in spaces that have traditionally been dominated by drinking. There’s Vena’s Fizz House in Portland, Maine and The Other Side in Crystal Lake, a suburb of Illinois. In London, alcohol-free Redemption bar now has three locations, as well as a menu of vegan, sugar-free, wheat-free food. In January, The Virgin Mary, an alcohol-free pub, opened in Dublin.

Unionizing Efforts

Heh.

Delta Airlines is facing significant criticism after posters discouraging its staff from joining a union were widely shared online.

“Union dues cost around $700 [£540] a year,” one of the posters states.

“A new video game system with the latest hits sounds like fun. Put your money towards that instead of paying dues to the union,” it continued.

The posters point to a website featuring Delta branding which encourages workers not to unionise.

Without confirming it produced the posters, a spokesperson for the airline said it had “shared many communications, which on the whole make clear that deciding whether or not to unionise should not be taken lightly.”

[…]

Politicians and union representatives were among those to condemn the posters online.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said the posters were “a disgrace”.

“I say to Delta: Stop trying to undercut workers’ right to form a union and negotiate for better wages,” he tweeted.

The pro-union people are permitted to say any outlandish thing they want about the company. They tell the workers how evil the company is… how greedy they are… how selfish they are… how badly they treat employees… and on and on and on. All of this in an effort to encourage people to unionize. But when a company makes the slightest effort to discourage the employees from unionizing, the socialist bullies immediately pounce on them.

No, Bernie, Delta wasn’t trying to “undercut workers’ right(s).” They were merely presenting a counter-argument. That is allowed in a free country, but not in Bernie’s socialist paradise.

Rideshare Driver Career Path

In response to my post yesterday about the rideshare driver strike, a helpful reader sent me this Career Map for a rideshare drier. Seems about right…

Rideshare Drivers Strike

Looks like unions are trying to kill Uber and Lyft at a critical time in their corporate development.

Rideshare drivers are striking and protesting in major cities across the United States, with many participating in a 24-hour strike of the Uber and Lyft apps that began at midnight on 8 May.

Cities affected by the stoppage – which varies in length from two-hour strikes to day-long boycotts – include Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, San Diego, Philadelphia and others. Strikes are also expected overseas in Britain, Australia and elsewhere.

The protests come the day before Uber launches its shares in a public offering on the US stock exchange.

The 4,300-member Rideshare Drivers United in Los Angeles is picketing outside Los Angeles international airport throughout the day in addition to participating in a 24-hour strike.

“All of us had to guess when Uber’s [share launch] was, knowing this would be a key moment the public, investors and elected officials would be looking at Uber to see what kind of company it is, and we knew the voices of drivers had to be elevated in this. And that’s why we chose this time to organize,” said Nicole Moore, a part-time Lyft driver and organizer with RideShare Drivers United.

I have used both Uber and Lyft extensively. I used to be an Uber guy, but I switched to Lyft because I can get Delta Skymiles using Lyft. The friction of their growth is being driven by the new business model. Remember that Uber and Lyft are not cab companies with a labor force. They are simply apps that connect a transient labor force with consumers. The key to the financials is that they have to make the price low enough to be acceptable for consumers while also providing enough money to attract enough drivers to fill demand. The apps serve as real-time supply & demand measurement devices and seek to hit the sweet spot for maximum profitability.

Frankly, they aren’t working right yet as evidenced by the fact that neither Uber or Lyft are profitable. Meanwhile, as a customer, I can tell you that the pricing is OK, but not vastly better than a cab in most cities. And depending on the city, the customer experience is very uneven. Some Lyft and Uber cars and drivers are great. Some are pretty shabby. What keeps me as a customer is the convenience and transparency of the app and the easy receipts for business expenses. But I have been at an airport more than once and jumped in a cab when the app tells me that the driver is 10 minutes away. Again, it’s about convenience.

Back to the strike… remember that Uber and Lyft were never set up with the intention of having full-time drivers. The drivers are supposed to be people with other jobs who choose to drive from time to time to make some extra money. In order to attract these workers in the Gig economy, Uber and Lyft have to set the rates high enough to attract drivers. What SHOULD happen is that if enough drivers look at the rates and decide it isn’t worth the effort, they just don’t log on. If Uber and Lyft can’t attract enough drivers, then they will have to raise the rates. The problem is that they can only raise prices so much before customers balk. Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft are both struggling to be profitable taking a cut as the facilitator. Now that some of the Uber and Lyft drivers are unionized and treating their labor as a full-time gig instead of a side hustle, it increases the upward pressure on driver rates and aggravates the problem.

So at the root of it all, we have to question whether, after all of the hype, are rideshare businesses structured like Uber and Lyft a sustainable business model? Perhaps this opens up the market for new entrants who will find another model. The problem is that people who travel a lot don’t want 15 rideshare apps on their phones. The cab companies have come to the table (late) with a pretty decent app that provides the convenience of ridesharing with a dedicated labor force. Is that the answer? Maybe. The problem with cabs that Uber and Lyft sought to fix was the convenience and quality. The Curb app addresses the convenience and the competitive pressure has helped equalize the quality.

We are going to know a lot more in a couple of years. As public companies, Uber and Lyft won’t have the same ability to raise capital if they can’t get profitable. And one inevitable recession will shake out overly-optimistic investors.

New Hotel and Office in Downtown West Bend

Good news from the Washington County Insider.

May 6, 2019 – West Bend, WI  The City of West Bend has entered in to an agreement with RafRad LLC and Kinseth Hospitality with the intention of constructing a hotel and office building in the downtown on a portion of the 8-acre site formerly home to Gehl on the southwest corner of Water Street and Forest Avenue.
In partnership with the Washington County Site Redevelopment Committee (SRC), the City of West Bend completed a hotel study specifically dedicated to the former Gehl site. City staff approached SRC and identified the site as a high-priority redevelopment site.
Paul Stangl, of RafRad LLC, has been a driving force behind bringing a hotel to our downtown. Along with Kinseth Hospitality, Stangl has a history of successful hotel development. Many residents may be familiar with their developments and most specifically with their development of the Hampton Inn and Suites located in the City of West Bend.

Wisconsin’s Economy Had Strong Growth in 2018

So we fired our governor smh.

Wisconsin’s real gross domestic product grew 2.5% in 2018, the second largest increase in the Midwest and the state’s strongest year of economic growth since 2010.

The 2018 growth rate marks the first time Wisconsin’s real GDP has increased by more than 2% in a year since 2011. After two years of negative growth in 2008 and 2009, Wisconsin posted 3% growth in 2010 and 2.1% in 2011. From 2012 to 2017, the state averaged 1.3% annual growth.

Wisconsin now ranks 17th in the country last year for economic growth. The U.S. economy as a whole grew 2.9% last year while the Great Lakes region grew 2.2%, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The state of Washington had the strongest economic growth at 5.7%, followed by Utah, Idaho, Arizona and Florida.

Among nearby states, Michigan had the strongest growth at 2.7%. Wisconsin outpaced Minnesota, 2.2%, Iowa, 1.4%, Illinois, 2.1%, and Indiana, 1.9%.

And you’ll note that the overall growth would have been stronger and outpaced Michigan if we has not also been shrinking government, which is a good thing.

Government cut growth by 0.28 percentage points.

Wisconsin Won Amazon Facility Over Michigan and Ohio

Cool

Amazon.com picked Oak Creek for a nearly 2.2 million-square-foot fulfillment center over similar projects it considered doing in Michigan and Ohio, according to state documents and a source involved in the project.

The new facility, announced last year, is described as Amazon’s flagship Wisconsin facility and will ship around 1 million packages per day. The company’s Kiva branded robots will operate throughout the building, which will house around 25 million items, according to state documents.

The project is eligible for $7.5 million in state tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Those credits are in addition to the $10.3 million previously awarded to Amazon for its facilities in Kenosha.

The company was deciding between Wisconsin and Michigan for the investment, according to a WEDC staff review for the new credits. A source involved with the project said Amazon was also considering Ohio for an investment, but noted the company is often simultaneously considering investments in multiple locations.

Teaching Office Life

Not a bad thought.

If you’ve spent much time working with recent graduates – people who have just finished university without much work experience – you’ve probably witnessed your share of odd office behaviour.

For instance, the new grad who shows up dressed for a night of clubbing, or the entry level worker who doesn’t realise the CEO in a Fortune 500 company doesn’t want his opinion about their new brand strategy, or the new grad who takes all her calls on speakerphone without noticing the colleagues glaring in her direction.

We’ve all heard the stereotypes about entry-level workers who think they should get a corner office or have their own assistant right off the bat – but in my experience, those are outliers.

Of course, we’ve all been there at the start of our own careers … because we don’t do a very good job of teaching students and recent graduates how to navigate office life. We teach them other things – how to write a research paper or analyse a poem or conduct a lab experiment – but we don’t have many formalised mechanisms for teaching the sort of skills that will have a huge impact on how to succeed in your first few years of work: skills most of us think of as just how to be in an office.

Part of the problem is that the people who could do the teaching work in academia and don’t have much, if any, recent experience of industry

Instead, we just throw young people in and expect them to figure it out … which of course leads to plenty of professional faux pas along the way, some of them only mildly embarrassing but some quite embarrassing indeed.

We’ve all heard the stereotypes about entry-level workers who think they should get a corner office or have their own assistant right off the bat – but in my experience, those are outliers. What’s much more common are young workers who haven’t fully processed that they’re adults now and don’t need to ask for permission to go to lunch, or to leave a meeting to use the bathroom, or who feel awkward calling their older colleagues by their first names, or are afraid of asking questions because they think they’re already supposed to have all the answers.