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1/19/2007

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WisBusiness Tuesday Trends
January 16, 2006

By Brian E. Clark

RISING

Winter tourism

Monday’s snowfall – which brought upwards of five to six inches to much of the state – is a shot in the arm for Wisconsin tourism. Resort operators and innkeepers hope it will put locals and visitors alike in the mood for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. "This is money falling out of the sky," said Jerry Huffman, communications director for the State Department of Tourism.

Vicki Baumann, manager of the Granite Peak Ski Resort in Wausau, said the new snow has improved conditions at the state’s largest ski and snowboard area. “It really whitened things up and made it pretty again,” she said. "This is a real stimulator to get people out here." In addition, Baumann said frigid temperatures means snowmaking machines can run 24 hours a day. She predicted 100 percent of the resort will be open by this weekend.

Further north, Conrad Heeg, executive director of the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, said five inches of snow fell Monday and improved conditions on the region’s snowmobile trails. Rain had washed away snow during a warm spell from Jan. 3-10. He predicted as many as 30,000 visitors will come to Eagle River this weekend for the World Championship Snowmobile Derby on the town’s half-mile track.

MIXED

Spectrum

Atlanta-based Spectrum Brands, which has nearly 600 employees in Madison and Middleton, says the recent layoff of 50 workers – part of a reorganization – means the company is solidifying its Wisconsin base. According to the company – formerly known as Rayovac – the reorganization means a larger part of Spectrum is based here.

Spectrum is now selling assets to reduce some of its $2 billion debt. According to the business news service Thedeal.com, specialty chemicals company Chemtura Corp. will buy Spectrum's lawn and garden and pesticide businesses for $820 million. Spectrum shares closed Friday at $11.97, down from a 52-week high of $22.42.

FALLING

Overture Center

Downtown Madison’s Overture Center is in need of more money and officials say its long-term financial stability is in danger without increased fundraising. The center has a projected $735,000 gap in its 2007 budget and will have to cover it with one-time funding, officials said. It will also have to use $440,000 from its foundation assets to fund this year’s $11 million budget.

Tom Carto, who started work as director of the Overture Center on Monday, was hired in large part because of his fundraising prowess for arts groups. He said he hopes to raise money from corporations, foundations and wealthy individual to help stabilize the center’s finances. He also said the center needs to rent out the center for meetings, wedding and other events and improve programming.


Written exclusively for subscribers. Tuesday Trends is Copyright © 2007.



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