Some of the top business stories from the past week include:
MORE SPENT, FEWER JOBS: The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded nearly $90 million more in economic development awards last year than the previous year, according to a recent report. But those awards are expected to create or retain almost 6,000 fewer jobs and result in $400 million less in capital investment.
Most of the additional funding resulted from a historic rehabilitation tax credit that Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature expanded in 2013. Even without those credits, total awards increased $13.5 million, while promised job creation and capital investment dropped.
A WEDC spokesman says job numbers dropped because of declining interest in a tax credit program. Democratic lawmakers on the WEDC board repeated their call for replacing the agency with a new public entity.
JOBLESS RATES DROP: Unemployment rates have dropped between July and August in every Wisconsin county and large city. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development reported the latest figures Wednesday.
They show that unemployment rates dropped in each of the 32 largest cities and in all 72 counties between July and August. Racine has the highest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent, down from 8.3 percent in July. Milwaukee was second highest at 6.4 percent.
Madison had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.7 percent, down from 3.2 percent in July. The statewide unemployment rate in August was 4.5 percent, which is below the national rate of 5.1 percent.
SWIVELOC PURCHASED: Neenah Enterprises Inc., Neenah, has purchased the assets of Swiveloc. The privately held Michigan-based company owns patented Swiveloc and Stabiloc technologies – a unique manhole cover restraint system designed to prevent unauthorized access to vital infrastructure and to mitigate explosions common in underground utility electrical vaults.
For three years, NEI’s Neenah Foundry division has provided the ductile iron manhole covers that are integral to the Swiveloc system.
NEI makes durable castings for municipal and industrial sectors across the world. Facilities provide casting, forging, machining and assembly for key component parts for heavy truck, agriculture, construction, HVAC and a host of other industries.
BRINGING JOBS BACK: Broan-NuTone is bringing back 50-plus manufacturing jobs from overseas for its InVent Series line of ventilation fans. Additional jobs were created in other areas of the Hartford plant and among local manufacturing partners. Broan-NuTone currently employs 800 employees at its global headquarters in Hartford.
PLANT CLOSURE: W.D. Hoard and Sons Co. will close its print division located at 521 Edwards St. and 28 Milwaukee Ave. W, Fort Atkinson, following a merger with Royle Printing Co., Sun Prairie. The closure is expected to result in the loss of 33 jobs and the reduction of hours for one employee during the 14-day period around Nov. 21.
CARGILL CHANGES: Cargill plans to convert a beef processing plant in Columbus, Nebraska, to make cooked meat, and two other beef plants in Wisconsin and Texas will be expanded to handle the work currently done there.
Cargill said Thursday the changes will cost roughly $111 million. About 80 of the 250 jobs in Columbus will be eliminated during the conversion.
The project will begin in December in Columbus. The plant is expected to begin producing cooked meat in the middle of next year and reach full production in 2017.
Cargill says workers who lose their jobs in December can apply at one of the company’s other plants in the region and relocation help will be provided.
Cargill will spend $27 million to expand beef plants in Butler and Forth Worth, Texas.
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CEO RESIGNS: Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned Wednesday, days after admitting that during his tenure, the world’s top-selling carmaker had rigged diesel emissions to pass U.S. tests.
No replacement was announced, and VW still has no easy exit from a scandal that has suddenly dented a reputation for trustworthiness that took decades to build. The smog-test trickery has wiped out billions in VW’s market value and raised the specter of criminal investigations and billions more in fines.
Winterkorn took responsibility for the “irregularities” found by U.S. inspectors in VW’s diesel engines, but insisted he had personally done nothing wrong.
HOME RENTALS SLOW: U.S. home rents rose at a slower pace in August, a downshift that may reflect the rise of apartment construction in many major cities.
Median rents rose a seasonally adjusted 3.8 percent from a year ago, off from the annual pace of 4.2 percent in July, real estate firm Zillow said Tuesday. Rental prices are still climbing at a faster pace than average earnings, increasing the financial burden of housing and potentially delaying the accumulation of savings to buy a home.
HOME SALES DROP: U.S. home sales slid in August by the most since January as tight supplies and rising prices discouraged potential buyers. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of existing homes fell 4.8 percent from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.31 million, the lowest level since April. That’s down from 5.58 million in July, which was the highest in more than eight years.
DOWNLOAD SALES DROP: Digital downloads of songs continued to fall out of favor with Americans in the first half of the year, while free and paid music-streaming revenue kept growing, even without much of a bump from the launch of Apple Music.
That’s according to mid-year sales figures released by the Recording Industry Association of America on Monday. They show overall music industry revenue fell a half percentage point to $3.2 billion.
Revenue from paid subscriptions to services like Spotify and Rhapsody grew 25 percent to $478 million, while revenue from free services like Pandora grew 22 percent to $550 million. Streaming revenue as a whole surpassed $1 billion in the first half of the year for the first time.
The week ahead
Business events scheduled for the coming week include:
MONDAY: Commerce Department releases personal income and spending for August; National Association of Realtors releases pending home sales index for August.
TUESDAY: Standard & Poor’s releases S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for July; The Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for September.
WEDNESDAY: Germany releases unemployment figures for September.
THURSDAY: Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims; Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, releases weekly mortgage rates; Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for September; Commerce Department releases construction spending for August; Automakers release vehicle sales for September.
FRIDAY: Labor Department releases employment data for September; Commerce Department releases factory orders for August.
Associated Press and the State Journal archives contributed to this report.