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10/24/2006

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WisBusiness Tuesday Trends
October 24, 2006

By Brian E. Clark

RISING

Ashland

The Ashland marina is getting a $2.5 million upgrade. And last Thursday, Department of Natural Resources Scott Hassett gave Mayor Ed Monroe a check for $800,000 to get the ball rolling on the project. It was a nice present for Monroe's 59th birthday.

The mayor, who called the marina one of Ashland's "finest amenities," said the first part of the project is to restore the 720-foot-long wood bulkhead underneath the walkway leading out to the boats - wood that's been in place since the system was constructed in 1986.

The cost of the total construction effort is nearly $2 million, while design, engineering and other costs will add more than $500,000.  The city hopes to get the remainder of the funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Northern Wisconsin Environmental Infrastructure Fund, also known as Section 154.

MIXED

Upper Midwest

This region is struggling to leave its rust-belt past behind. Michigan's continuing economic troubles, sparked by its struggling car makers, has some wondering about the fate of the entire upper Midwest.

According to a new report dubbed "The Vital Center," economists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor say the region as a whole is in a "precarious position" if it can't revamp its economy and create new industries  to take the place of the old.

Though Wisconsin is among the 12 states that make up the Great Lakes region, it has bounced back somewhat better than many of its neighbors from the industrial downturn that peaked in 2001.  In the past three-and-one-half years, the state has gained a net of more than 177,000 jobs, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.  And nearly 9,000 of those jobs came in high-tech manufacturing, a key area for growth. See story at http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=75416

FALLING

Briggs & Stratton

Briggs & Stratton Corp., the globe's largest maker of small engines, is blaming a quiet hurricane season for a downturn in the sale of portable generators.  Slow sales of snowblowers also hurt the bottom line. As a result, the Wauwatosa-based company missed first-quarter earnings estimates. It also cut its full-year forecast.

The company said it lost $18 million, or 36 cents a share, compared with a profit of $4.7 million, or 9 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.  Briggs has thousands of employees in southeastern Wisconsin. Earlier this year, the company cut about 175 salaried jobs, roughly half of them in the Milwaukee area. And it has warned more layoffs may be coming.  Shares closed Monday at $25.51, down from a 52-week high of $40.43.


Written exclusively for subscribers. Tuesday Trends is Copyright © 2006.



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