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11/7/2006

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WisBusiness Tuesday Trends
November 7, 2006

By Brian E. Clark

RISING

Credit unions

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will give the Madison-based World Council of Credit Unions $8.7 million in grants to help poor workers in Africa and Latin America save money and obtain reasonably priced loans. The grants include $6.7 million to the council itself and $2 million to the council's foundation. World Council focuses on providing opportunities to save as well as to borrow.

The aid is aimed at increasing membership in nonprofit credit unions among Third World residents - many of whom live on less than $2 a day. The grants are the first by the Gates Foundation to stimulate credit union expansion in disadvantaged parts of the globe.

Peter Crear, World Council chief executive, said many people in developing countries are left out of the traditional financial system. With the expansion of credit unions, he said residents' economic sophistication is improved, while their exposure to predatory money lenders is decreased.

MIXED

Ski resorts

Ah, Mother Nature. After temperatures consistently dropped below freezing at night during October, Wisconsin ski and snowboard resorts decided to begin making snow to open at least some of their runs.

Tyrol Basin - in the hills near Mount Horeb west of Madison - was able to open two of its 16 runs on Saturday, the earliest in its history. Elsewhere, Trollhaugen Ski Area in the Polk County town of Dresser in northwestern Wisconsin and Sunburst Ski Area in Kewaskum, about 40 miles north of Milwaukee, both opened Friday.

So then guess what happened? Summer decided to return, with temperatures predicted to be within kissing distance of 70 degrees by Wednesday. Even though making all that snow isn't cheap, Tyrol Basin manager Don McKay said it was worth the expense to generate excitement for the rest of the season.

FALLING

Snowmobiles

Thanks to a series of slushy winters, sales of motorized sleds that roar over the snow have fallen to a 13-year low in the United States. Wisconsin is no exception.

With nearly 220,000 registered snowmobiles, the Badger State ranks third after Michigan and Minnesota in the sport's popularity. It remains a major part of winter tourism in northern counties, where the sport supports hotels, restaurants and taverns - when there is snow.

Another reason for the downturn in sales is because riders have shifted to all-terrain vehicles instead of sleds, with the number of ATVs sold in the U.S. outstripping snowmobile sales in the past decade. Now, Wisconsin has more than 200,000 ATVs registered, which is twice the number of 10 years ago.


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



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