Entries for July 2015
posted on July 30, 2015
(Beloit, WI) Whitney Helm Beloit Daily News
A little more than six months into her Town of Beloit Fire Department internship, Pauline Schork said she’s already experienced her first fire call and her first code blue in the same week.
Last week the department responded to a car crash.
“It was a really difficult call,” Schork said. “I learned a lot on that call. It was interesting seeing the way everyone interacted from the scene to the hospital.”
The new internship program began in January and is a partnership between Milton, Edgerton and Clinton fire departments as well as the Town of Beloit Fire Department.
Schork and other interns get to experience everything that a full-time firefighter would, including fire calls and ambulance runs.
“They do everything from scrubbing the toilets in the morning to the fire calls,” said Town of Beloit Fire Chief Gene Wright. “They’re also getting mentoring and learning those soft skills that you don’t learn in a textbook.”
The four departments started with a pool of 10 interns.
The program was initially slated to only accept students enrolled in technical colleges, like Blackhawk Technical College, but Wright said the decision was made to widen the scope to former students. Each intern is staying with their sponsoring department for a year and then rotating to a different department. There were four slated at the Town of Beloit department, however, the department is now down to two interns.
Wright said the decrease is a good thing.
“We had some really good people that after being here decided that this wasn’t the job for them,” Wright said. “I think that’s just as an important of a lesson as finding what you want to do.”
The program has also inspired a regional hiring process, where an applicant could complete applications for several departments in the area. Wright said that application process should be available in the fall.
The next round of interns will be able to apply for the program in August.
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posted on July 28, 2015
(Janesville, WI) By Elliott Hughes, Gazette
A new building housing a metal fabrication company that promises to bring 90 jobs to Janesville will be finished by the end of the year, now that the city council has approved tax increment financing agreements with two companies.
The deals approved Monday, worth about $2.5 million in tax incentives, will relocate the company, A.M. Castle, to Janesville as it closes operations in the Chicago and Twin Cities areas.
“I think this is a really exciting endeavor, especially when we can take business from Illinois,” council member Sam Liebert said. “I look forward to watching that building go up fast.”
The council approved the deals unanimously, with Liebert and President Douglas Marklein stating they were happy to see that future employees would be paid about $15 per hour.
The 208,000-square-foot facility will be owned by 3800 Enterprise, Inc., a local, recently formed development company. The company is named for the space where the building will be located, 3800 Enterprise Drive.
The space will be leased to A.M. Castle, a publicly traded company that has experienced financial trouble in recent years. It's headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, and has operations throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
The deal for 3800 Enterprise includes:
—The city handing over 22.7 acres of land valued at $502,200 to build a 208,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. With the facility, the property's value would increase to $10.5 million.
—The city providing a $1.7 million forgivable loan for the construction of the facility.
—An annual property tax payment of $250,700 by 3800 Enterprise for the 22.7 acres in question after the building is constructed.
The deal for A.M. Castle includes:
—Creating 90 jobs over the first two years of operation and maintaining them for 10 years.
—A pay-as-you-go incentive from the city totaling $337,000. The money would be paid annually over 10 years. If A.M. Castle prematurely closed its operations, the annual payments would stop. If the company failed to produce 90 jobs within that time frame, it would receive $370 less for every job short of 90.
Gale Price, Janesville's economic development director, said his office recommended the pay-as-you-go approach with A.M. Castle because of recent turbulence within the company.
According to news releases, the company has shuffled leadership positions since spring, with new faces taking over at the CEO and board of directors levels. The company also formed a finance committee and restructured its executive management.
A.M. Castle plans to consolidate up to 10 of its facilities by early 2016, according to a news release.
The company reported net sales of $979.8 million in 2014, down from $1.05 billion in 2013, according to a news release. Its credit rating was also downgraded by Moody's Investors Service each of the last two years due to market share loss, inconsistent demand for its products and other factors.
"We do believe they'll be successful in their reorganization, but the city has a responsibility to protect its citizens," Price said, referring to the pay-as-you-go incentive structure.
Several members of the board acknowledged A.M. Castle's recent trouble. But Price said he told them that if the company vacated the building, the facility would be attractive enough to lure in another tenant within six to eight months.
“It's a higher, more-substantially built building,” Price said. “It's thicker floors; it's designed to carry heavier loads, have overhead cranes. When you think about reuse of the building, this is an optimal size.”
Preliminary work on the building's construction was already underway before the council convened Monday. Price said that risk was taken on by 3800 Enterprise.
“We're moving full-steam ahead,” said Allisen Lasse, a minority partner with the company. “We have few loose ends to tie up.”
Price said 3800 Enterprise comprises three main investors: Tom Lasse, Norman Weitzel and Todd Bogner. They formed the company earlier this year, he said.
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posted on July 27, 2015
(Janesville, WI) By Marcia Nelesen, Gazette
Duane Snow was in an Arizona airport and wearing his Rock Aqua Jays shirt when somebody said: “You're from Janesville. We've been to your show.”
Because of Janesville's reputation, “If you mention the Rock Aqua Jays, and you're in the water ski world, they will know who you are and where you come from,” Snow said. “You can go just about everywhere.”
The club's home in Traxler Park on the Rock River is also part of that reputation, and the premiere venue is well known for its calm waters and choice views.
The Aqua Jays consistently score among—if not at the top of—the best, and other clubs aspire to be as good, one water show ski expert noted.
Locals who take in the occasional water ski show likely have no clue of the team's world prowess.
The Aqua Jays formed in 1961, one of many show ski teams in the state. Wisconsin has 26 teams, more than any other state, and is its own region under the umbrella of the National Show Ski Association.
Teams from up north, such as in Rhinelander, were formed by vacationers, usually from Illinois, Snow said. Most Aqua Jays live within 30 miles of the club.
A strong core of members who train all year helps Janesville consistently achieve top scores in tournaments.
“It is not only the board of directors, but many of the adults that are committed to the team itself,” Snow said.
“Without a question, we have enjoyed this core group of people, like Gerry and Cathy Luiting, for instance,” Snow said. “And they're the pinnacle, the cornerstone, of our water show team.”
Gerry Luiting has been show director many times and has skied all over the world. He, his wife, Cathy, and son, Aragorn, currently ski for the Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells.
“So many people over the years have made the club what it is today,” Snow said.
Entire families join the Aqua Jays, to the club's benefit, he added. Family members get to watch one another progress and become outstanding skiers, Snow said. They help out with tournaments and events.
“We want them to join so the whole family experiences the fun of ski shows,” Snow said.
“We've enjoyed that family aspect. That's what makes us very strong. I would say that we have a stronger family core group than many teams have because a lot of the northern teams travel back and forth to Chicago.”
Snow, who was an active member from 1972 to 1990, recalled when club members set a goal to win tournaments rather than simply put on shows.
Snow went on to organize the national tournaments in the mid-1970s. Later, he organized the world tournaments.
The first four national tournaments—from 1975 through 1978—were in Janesville.
The Aqua Jays won their first national tournament in 1979 in DuQuoin, Illinois.
“Our reputation and abilities and skiing quality had progressed from that date,” Snow said. “And, of course, it's all due to the talent in the club and the ability to attract good skiers.”
From then on, “We've never been lower than fourth,” Snow said.
“We've won 19 national titles,” Snow added. “We've won 10 or 11 Triple Crowns, and I forget how many Wisconsin State Tournament Championships we have right offhand.”
The club hosted the 2012 and 2014 world championships, pumping millions into the local economy.
The 2014 world tournament was so popular that it ranked in the top three live sporting events streamed online the weekend it was held in Janesville.
Snow figures the club has sent about 40 skiers to the professional ranks.
“There are a lot of very good water show ski clubs that send skiers to the professional ranks,” he said. “But we're recognized throughout the water show ski industry for having excellent talent. I would say from a single team, it's probably more than a lot of other teams.”
The Aqua Jays' skiing venue in Traxler Park is one reason the club continues to attract tournaments, and not only for ski shows. The club will host the 2015 Pro Wakeboard Tour in August.
The site's development is the result of a partnership between the club, its sponsors and the city of Janesville.
The site is well sheltered from wind. “It has to be a very odd wind to produce wind that comes straight up the river,” Snow said.
“We are really in a protected situation.”
The shoreline has lots of grassy areas so people can spread out.
Additional bleachers were just installed, and the venue can seat about 4,000 people.
The club's goal is to seat 5,000 so it can host the X Games, an annual extreme sports event organized by ESPN. Snow figures a bleacher fund drive will be held soon.
Scott Atkinson is director of communications for USA Water Ski, the governing body for the sport of water skiing in the United States. He also is editor and publisher of The Water Skier magazine.
Atkinson said the Aqua Jays and Janesville are well-known in the world of water show skiing, especially since hosting the last two world championships.
“Obviously, countries around the world that have show skiing and water skiing are quite familiar with Janesville and the Rock Aqua Jays based on the coverage and the social media,” he said.
The Aqua Jays do a wonderful job of developing show skiers, including hosting clinics, which results in the solid team it has had for years, Atkinson said. He noted the club's community presence and the support the club receives in return.
The Janesville ski club's worldwide reputation isn't something the occasional visitor to club's shows would ever guess, he said.
The show ski shows are great community family nights out, Atkinson said. The shows are free and laid-back, although donations are encouraged.
“You wouldn't think that you're watching a world-class show ski team,” Atkinson said.
“The performances are entirely different than the competitive show team,” he added.
History is proof of the quality of the skiers here, Atkinson said. The club has won more national titles than any other show ski team.
“They're at the top of the sport,” Atkinson said. “Most show ski teams would want to aspire to the success that the Aqua Jays have had.”
“They have proven that they're one of the very best, if not the very best.”
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posted on July 27, 2015
(Rick County, WI) (Rock County, WI) The County's economy continued to demonstrate growth, as reported by today's release of the Q2 2015 Rock Ready Index. Highlights from the Q2 report include the following:
Unemployment Rates, as measured by annual averages, continued to decline. To date, these figures represent the lowest annual average rates since 2007 - for the county, state and nation. Meanwhile, job postings – which have exceeded 20,000 for nine out the last 14 quarters – continued to signal an active employment market.
Average sale prices and the number of residential sales throughout Rock County continued to track upward, as Q2 2015’s price points were the highest in seven years. Transactions were equally strong, posting the best quarterly numbers in eight years.
Sales Tax Collections for the County continued to rise, as Q2 2015 set a new record at $3 Million. Compared to the same time periods in 2014 and 2013, these collections were nearly 9% and over 23% higher, respectively.
Energy consumption, as measured by the number of electric meters and total kWh usage, remained strong. When comparing these figures to previous quarterly data, the impacts of weather or seasonality are evident.
The Rock Ready Index (RRI) is a quarterly economic development dashboard compiled and distributed by the Rock County Development Alliance. The RRI covers four topical areas: Workforce (Job Postings and Unemployment Rates), Real Estate (Residential, Commercial or Industrial) Trends, Sales (Tax Collection) Activities and Energy Consumption (Meters & Usage). Each Index also includes a Project Profile section, which highlights project specific news during a given quarter.
For additional information, visit www.RockCountyAlliance.com .
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posted on July 23, 2015
(Whitewater, WI) By Nick Crow, Gazette
Regardless of your feelings towards Taylor Swift, her music does serve a purpose, Janesville teacher Melissa Baier de Garcia proved Wednesday.
Baier de Garcia played a music video for Swift's latest single "Bad Blood" to a mixture of Chinese and Janesville School District students in Whitewater. She then had them practice reading the first verse using several emotional tones.
"'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood. You know it used to be mad love. So take a look what you've done. 'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood."
The students were paired to practice reading the verse angrily, happily, with sadness, as someone's mother, as a rapper and as if they were tired.
"Not only are they practicing pronunciation, but it's making them think about how they would interpret a native English speaker," Baier de Garcia said. "Mandarin (Chinese) is a very tonal language, but not to the extent that English is. In English, you can tell if someone is happy. They speak in up tones, and it's important for the Chinese students to be able to interpret that."
As part of the district's third international summer institute, the Chinese students are taking classes at UW-Whitewater in cross-cultural communication, iVideo, English language and ACT prep on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They take classes in chemistry, robotics and computer coding at Craig High School on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
"I think it's been great so far," said Candace Chenoweth, director of the Center for Global Education at UW-Whitewater. "The Chinese students seem very open, I think, and the American students dove right in and interacted with them and started to make friends. So I think having the American students participation is so key because it really gives the Chinese students an opportunity to talk with people they want to talk with."
The 18 Chinese students are staying in dorms at UW-Whitewater from now until they leave on Aug. 3. Ten Janesville students are joining them in the classes.
"The education systems (in China and the United States) are very, very different," Chenoweth said. "The U.S. class system demands more participation, more teamwork and more self-directed thought. Being here this summer will allow them (the Chinese students) to start to reflect on the changes they'll need to make in order to be more successful here."
"I think the first time you go to a country it can be so overwhelming, but the second time you go everyone has more confidence, is less anxious and can start to integrate into the culture more easily," she said.
This is the first year the Janesville district has partnered with UW-Whitewater for its summer institute. Attendance to this year's institute was limited to only foreign high school students because of the logistics of busing and housing younger students at UW-Whitewater.
Last year, 27 elementary students and 77 middle school students attended classes at Kennedy Elementary School in Janesville. Craig hosted the 21 high school students for the summer institute. The foreign students stayed with host families or in hotels.
Two years ago, 27 international students in grades 4 through 12 attended the institute.
A memo from superintendent Karen Schulte to school board members in June noted that the summer institute would have fewer students from last year because of "a conflict in schedules."
"We decided to continue the partnership with UW-Whitewater because it is a valuable partnership to our own students and to the SDJ," she wrote.
Foreign students attending the summer institute are being targeted to attend school in Janesville full-time for the 2016-17 school year. Each international student is paying $2,500 to attend the institute. Chaperones are paying $700 to attend.
Chenoweth said she is hopeful students attending high school in Janesville will then consider attending college in Whitewater.
"Our goal is to more than double the number of international students here," Chenoweth said. "We'd like to have about 600 students. Right now we have about 200. We have our work cut out for us."
UW-Whitewater has about 30 students from China, Chenoweth said.
Ding Yitan said he came to the summer institute to make American friends.
"It can give me a lot of experience attending summer camp in the USA," he said.
Qian Jinmeng said she has learned that Americans are more outgoing than she expected.
"I was curious about how Americans take class," she said. "It's different than taking Chinese class."
Janesville teacher Bob Getka said he enjoys seeing the interaction between the two groups of students.
"The kids have become fast friends," Getka said. "It's been neat for me to see the kids from China pushing our kids."
Chenoweth said the partnership between UW-Whitewater and the Janesville district has been important because it gives both the American and Chinese students the ability to reflect on their own cultures and the cultures of others around the world.
"Right now, these American students are having a global experience," Chenoweth said. "It's not the same as going to China, but for two weeks they can learn a lot about themselves and about Chinese culture."
"As they begin to reflect, they'll start to be able to manage the emotions that go along with interacting with a new culture," she said. "We're trying to give them that kind of a framework."
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posted on July 17, 2015
(Beloit, WI) Excerpts Courtesy of the Beloit Daily News
More Beloit Turner High School students are taking AP tests, earning a 3 or higher and earning AP Scholar recognition.
During the 2014-2015 school year, 105 students completed an AP course at Turner High School. It marked the fourth consecutive year where the number of students completing AP exams at Turner High School increased.
As a school, 22.9 percent of Turner’s total student body completed an AP exam during the 2014-2015 school year, exceeding the state average by 7.2 percent. Turner High School also experienced an increase in the number of AP tests administered to students. This is the sixth consecutive year where the number of AP exams administered to Turner High School has increased.
While the number of students participating in AP courses has increased, the percentage of Turner High School students earning a 3 or higher has consistently exceeded 60 percent over the past two years. According to the 2014-2015 AP results, 61 percent of Turner High School students earned a 3 or higher on their AP exam.
Sixteen students have been recognized individually by the College Board. The AP Scholar Awards recognize individual students for their exceptional achievement on AP Exams. The College Board recognizes several levels of achievement based on students’ performance on AP Exams.
Turner High School continues to experience significant growth related to the performance of their AP students and number of courses being offered.
During the 2014-2015 school year, Turner High School students completed exams in nine different courses. The classes included: AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Psychology, AP Government and Politics, AP Statistics and AP U.S. History.
Students also have access to 11 additional AP courses being offered through the Beloit Turner Virtual School. These classes include: AP Art History, AP Computer Science, AP English Language & Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP European History, AP French, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Physics, AP Spanish and AP World History.
The district is also scoring well with regards to its music program, as the Board of Education recently approved a $60,000 per year plan to purchase new band equipment.
The school was looking to reduce fees for students and families, said Superintendent Dennis McCarthy at the meeting.
The district has five bands between the middle school and high school levels. Ultimately the plan would allow students to bypass additional costs and rent through the school.
Beloit Turner High School Band Director Will Brown said the plan was a wise investment.
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posted on July 06, 2015
(Janesville, WI) By Nick Crow, Gazette
Ahtziri Sanchez had never experienced robotics or coding at her home school in Guadalajara, Mexico.
"I think it's a new experience, and at the time I wasn't 100 percent sure to come," Sanchez said. "But I'm so glad I did. I've learned many different things because, in my school, I haven't taken robotics or coding."
"It's new, and I like it," she said.
Sanchez was one of nine Mexican students who joined 10 Janesville high-schoolers at Craig High School's summer offering: 21st-Century Thinking Skills for a Global World.
"This is one of the first times we've offered an academic enrichment like this," said teacher Melissa Baier de Garcia. "I think it has been beneficial for both sides. They (Mexican students) have gotten to see a lot of our community. Janesville is quite different, but they are finding it to be enjoyable."
According to data from the United Nations, Guadalajara has a population of 1.5 million people. Its metropolitan area is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second most populated area in Mexico after the Mexico City metropolitan area.
This summer course was a first for Craig. Students spent two weeks splitting their time between courses in robotics, coding and global studies.
In the robotics course, Parker teacher Bob Getka taught them about designing and programming a robot and the basics of coding.
"The students are learning the skills they need," Getka said. "So many jobs now need these types of skills."
"There are so many places they can carry over, to things they may not have thought of before," he said.
Parker junior Jeff Waite, a member of Parker's Rock 'n' Robots team, volunteered his time to help the exchange students with their robots.
"I felt like it would be a good experience to deal with international students," Waite said. "They've picked it up pretty quick."
Getka said his goal is to help teach kids skills in robotics and coding they might not have learned.
"The Mexican students seem very excited to do something they've never done at their school," Getka said. "Each robot looked the same on day one. Over the last two weeks, the robots have picked up the personality of the students, and each looks different."
In the global studies portion of the program, students produced public service announcements about water scarcity. They also discussed water distribution in countries such as Nepal, Kenya and Ethiopia.
"The PSAs are designed to call attention to water crises all over the world," Baier de Garcia said.
The students created the announcements on computers with voice-overs, music and photos. The project was designed to create interaction between the American and Mexican students, while helping Janesville students practice Spanish and the Mexican students practice English.
"It's always interesting for them to make these connections," Baier de Garcia said. ""You're a teenager here. I'm a teenager there. But we're not that different. They work together and build friendships because of this program."
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posted on July 01, 2015
(Rock County, WI) Excerpts Courtesy of NewGeography
According to the 2015 Best Cities for Job Growth, which is an index released by NewGeography.com, the Janesville-Beloit Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was ranked #1 in the U.S. – in the small cities category – for Information Sector Jobs. This index, which measures and calculates industry sector employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics per their North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), provides a snapshot of a MSA’s present and prospective employment outlook.
MSA employment data was measured and weighted according to the following mathematical computation to 1) recent growth trend: the current and prior year’s employment growth rates, with the current year emphasized (two points); 2) mid-term growth: the average annual 2009-2014 growth rate (two points); 3) long-term momentum: the sum of the 2009-2014and 2003-2008 employment growth rates multiplied by the ratio of the 2003-2008 growth rate over the 2009-2014 growth rate (one point); 4) current year growth (one point); and 5) the average of each year’s growth rate, normalized annually, for the last 10 years (two points).
The weighted index score for the Janesville-Beloit MSA was 99.3. Meanwhile, Rochester (MN) was ranked #2 with a total weighted score of 94.3 Of the Top 20 MSA locations in this specific industry sector ranking, four were from Wisconsin. In the Medium Cities category, the Madison MSA was ranked #6. In terms of overall employment growth, according to all NAICS groupings in the small cities category, the Janesville-Beloit MSA was #71 out of 258. This was an improvement from its 2014 index ranking of #94.
These rankings follow a pattern of consistent, upward trending economic indicators for Rock County, WI. For example, the area’s unemployment and industrial vacancy rates continue to fall pre-Great Recession levels. Sales Tax collections remain very strong and tracking along a yet projected year of record-setting collection figures. Residential price points and transaction activities have returned to their pre-Recession levels, respectively. Meanwhile, the number of bankruptcy and foreclosure filings for the area are declining. Growth and usage, as reported by Alliant Energy’s electric meter data, continue to climb upward. Lastly, the number and scope/scale of the commercial and industrial projects announced throughout Rock County is extremely steady. This data, as well as other relevant marketplace information, can be found online by visiting www.RockCountyAlliance.com .
NewGeography.com is devoted to analyzing and discussing economic development, metropolitan demographics, and community leadership. It is a joint venture of Joel Kotkin and the Praxis Strategy Group .
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