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5/7/2010

Below is an excerpt from the most recent edition of WisBusiness Thursday Trends. The full version of this weekly look at the state of Wisconsin business is now available for free to anyone who signs up for the Thursday Trends mailing list. The full product includes several items in each of the rising, mixed and falling categories plus a look at upcoming business events across the state.

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RISING

Cranberries: The cranberry industry -- of which Wisconsin is the largest producer in the nation -- brought in record harvests over the last two years, which created a market surplus and drove prices down. But after several congressmen urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to step in, the department obliges, announcing it will purchase $18 million worth of cranberry products as part of a package that will go toward federal food and nutrition programs. U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, says the purchase will eliminate surplus inventories and provide price relief to the struggling industry, which says it supports 7,200 jobs and provides $350 million of economic activity to Wisconsin alone.

MIXED

Biotech: Wisconsinís growing biotechnology sector was hurt by the recession, and the stateís 24,694 biotech jobs still only represent a fraction of the 1.4 million such jobs nationwide. But a new report notes that Wisconsinís biotech jobs have grown by nearly 16 percent since 2001 and the state is one of relatively few making headway in all four biotech sectors historically tracked by the report -- agricultural feedstock and chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical devices and equipment, and research and testing. The report, unveiled at the annual BIO conference in Chicago, ranked Wisconsin in the top two-fifths of all states in bioscience and biotechnology activity and credited the Badger State for its commitment to academic research and a growing venture capital market. A series of announcements by Gov. Jim Doyle at the BIO conference looks to boost that perception. First, the long-awaited Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery facility will open in December on the UW-Madison campus. Doyle also announces Madison will host next year's Small Business Innovation Research National Conference, expected to draw 850 attendees from across the country. And there's good news from outside the Chicago conference as well, as Madison-based Stratatech announces it's completed a $3 million funding effort to advance clinical trials of a human skin substitute tissue. But the state's stem cell industry is also dealt a potential setback in a patent decision. California-based Consumer Watchdog and the Public Patent Foundation of New York have long held that the patents on stem cell research owned by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation are invalid. Their lawsuit challenging the patents was rejected in 2008, but that rejected is overturned this week on appeal to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. WARF says it intends to appeal the latest decision, and adds that the patents, set to expire in 2015, should be protected by additional patenting measures for much longer.

FALLING

Janesville: The embattled Wisconsin city was tabbed by Forbes Magazine in mid-April as no. 114 on its list of "Best Small Places For Business And Careers." But it lands much higher on a much more disappointing list this week. Janesville ranks 7th in the country on Forbes' list of the "10 Worst Cities For Jobs," down 16 spots from the 2009 list based on its percentage change in non-farm employment rate -- it dropped by 7.1 percent from 2008 to 2009. It ranks behind only Morristown, Tenn., two cities in Indiana and three in Michigan, which saw Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills take the top spot on the list. On the local beat, Madison weekly Isthmus declares the Rock County city "on the brink," saying it risks spiraling into "the same abyss as deindustrialized cities like Youngstown, Ohio, and Flint, Mich."
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