Business & Industry

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A group hoping to preserve freight rail shipping in the Northwoods is going to try for a third time to get a federal grant to get rail cars for use by loggers.

The Northwoods Rail Transit Commission has been working toward a plan to help the industry. Officials say the harvesting and transporting of logs throughout the Great Lakes forest area has long suffered from the lack of private investment to provide an adequate fleet of railcars dedicated to transportation of logs forest-to-mill.

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A study by the website gasbuddy.com found in some areas of the country, driving just a few miles could mean a wide variance in gas prices. In Wisconsin, not so much.

Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan says they found some of the widest gaps between cheaper and more expensive gas in California. He says there, motorists could save by just driving a few miles to a cheaper station. But in Wisconsin, DeHaan says prices tend to be closer...

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Housing numbers released by Wisconsin Realtors Association show the state's market has returned to pre-Great Recession levels.

Economist David Clark says the May 2016 numbers show a significant milestone as the median price reached $165,000...

"....the recession, given that it was primarily linked to the housing market had caused those median prices to drop to $136,000 by the time they got to May of 2011. Looking at those May median price figures, we have gotten back to those pre-recession levels....."

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Suspects are being sought for a scam involving counterfeit PlayStation 4 video games.

The scam involves several north-central Wisconsin Wal-Mart stores. In total, the loss is more than $3,700 dollars to Wisconsin Wal-Mart stores, including several in this region.

Law enforcement says a man and a woman approach the stores with a receipt and what appears to be PlayStation 4 video games. In Wausau, $250 were returned, along with what appeared to be a legitimate receipt from a store in Kansas. After the returns were sold again, they were found to be counterfeit.

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It's vacation time, but a state consumer affairs spokesperson says it's not time to relax as identity thieves can strike quickly if you let your guard down. Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Affairs spokesperson Jerad Albracht says a few suggestions include using a credit card instead of a debit card as the credit card offers more protection if lost or stolen. says be careful not to take along identity cards like Social Security, Medicare and banking cards. He says be very careful of ATM machines. A growing concern are skimmers.

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AAA Wisconsin is out with a new website designed to help travelers compare gas prices as they travel.

Gasprices.aaa.com  is a type of one-stop shop for consumers says AAA spokesperson Nick Jarmusz....

"....that can be used by either the media or consumers to check out what the average prices are in their area and compare it to the averages from previous days, previous weeks, a month up to a year ago...."

Jarmusz gives an example...

Wisconsin Public Service

Another week, another telephone scam has hit the Northwoods. This time officials at Wisconsin Public Service say scammers are upping the pressure to get you to pay a bill you don't owe.

Here's spokesperson Leah Van Zile....

".....scammers are contacting businesses and restuarants saying that they're going to be disconnected unless they make immediate payment with a prepaid credit card. That's something we'd never do, ask for immediate payment with a pre-paid credit card...."

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We're into the early part of the summer construction season, but a word of caution has been sent out from officials: careful where you dig or it could cost you big bucks.

Wisconsin Public Service spokesperson Leah Van Zile says before you dig, call 8-1-1 to make sure you're not going to accidentally cut utility service...

"....there are many utilities buried underground, from electric and gas to water cable and fiber optics. It's really important(to call) as there are some dangerous cables under the ground...."

Wi. Dept.of Tourism

Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett recently  presented a $30,000 Joint Effort Marketing grant to the Tomahawk Regional Chamber of Commerce for its new market research campaign.

Tomahawk Chamber's new Executive Director Jessica Witte outlines where the money will go...

"....the majority of the grant will be used to do some research, again, do some very pointed tourism research to see what is bringing people to the area. The second phase of the grant will be used to set up a marketing and branding initiative...."

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Homes are selling and prices are rising.

That summary from the April Wisconsin Realtors Association report of home sales and prices from April. Statewide, home sales rose 8.8 percent in April 2016 compared to that same month a year ago., making this April the strongest April sales volume since 2005. This sales pace helped push statewide median prices to $161,000, which is 4.9 percent higher than April 2015.

Economist David Clark of the Realtors Association says the growth continues after a tough period during the Great Recession...

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor announced salaried workers earning about $47,000 per year will be eligible for overtime pay beginning December 1. The prior level was roughly have that figure. Reaction was quick and negative from business groups and some politicians. But Dr. Robert Kraig is Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin and says contrary to what business and politicians are saying, these are productive workers not being paid for work they're doing...

Motorists to Enjoy Cheapest Summer Pump Prices Since 2005

May 17, 2016
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  Motorists will be filling up their tanks with the cheapest summer gasoline since 2005. That’s according to Senior Petroleum Analyst for the website Gas Buddy.com Patrick DeHaan. He says the national average is about $2.23 and is nearly 50 cents per gallon lower today than a year ago. DeHaan says the trend will stick around for a while…

 “…there may be some movements higher as we approach Memorial Day that’s just because we have significant refinery maintenance taking place just in our region that may affect us more than anyone else.”

Downtown Rhinelander Incorporated

Downtown Rhinelander, Incorporated is hosting a real estate open house so people with an interest in having space downtown can see available properties. This is the fourth year for the open house.

DRI President Dan Kuzlik says the idea a type of one-stop-shop where interested entrepreneurs get to see available properties...

".....we contact property owners who have their properties in downtown Rhinelander for sale or for lease. We get their permission, get their keys and we promote them...”

State of Wisconsin

An official says the recent development of Fab Labs in northern Wisconsin shows progress made under the state's Fast Forward program.

Department of Workforce Development Assistant Deputy Secretary David Anderson was in Rhinelander last week and heard a presentation by students and administrators from the Three Lakes schools Fab Lab. The lab is a technology-based manufacturing process.  Three Lakes was the first K-12 school in the state to have a Fab Lab, but others are coming on line.

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The public is invited to a forum on broadband expansion in the Northwoods, presented by Grow North Regional Economic Development Corporation.

Executive Director Angie Schreiber says the regional forum is designed to give the public the latest information....

"....we're going to have all our major(broadband)providers and it's going to be held in a panelist forum. Each provider is going to have a few minutes to talk about their individual companies and their build-out plans ...and then we're going to open it up to the floor...."

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