Penny Mustard Furnishings’ Ads Harken To What Is Best About Radio

I very much enjoy the radio, with WGN (AM 720) in Chicago being the home spot on the dial for at least 40 years. While there have been many wonderful personalities over the years who were invited into my home or car such as Paul Harvey, Orrin Samuelson, Steve and Johnnie, and the “Girlfriends” as they made me think, laugh, or cry there have also been radio ads that linger.  Not as brain worms because they are so awful there is no way to remove them but rather because they are perfectly done, year after year after year.  Well-crafted ads that remain long after the radio is turned off due to the way they play to the strengths of the medium which benefits advertisers and listeners, alike.

The Huth Boys growing up.

Penny Mustard Furnishings radio ads are ones that I never tire of hearing, and with their newest freshly opened store located in Madison, more people will get the chance to know what I mean. The business is located in the former Ganser Company and Pier 1 Imports along the Beltline. 

The ads feature folksy humor and down-home values at times about family and the importance of being a good person.  I have, over the years, much enjoyed their ads on special days like Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day.  While the ads are clearly aimed to sell home furnishings, they also underscore what radio is best at doing.  Creating images in one’s mind and being a companion either while home chores are underway, or a car tip is in progress.  No rudeness or bombast or trash talk—just sharply written and genuinely presented radio ads that do not seek to insult but to make for a smile among listeners and, hey, let’s check out that business for our next home needs. As a former radio broadcaster, I value their style of radio ads.

I constantly applaud those who respect radio listeners and know ad buys connect best when businesses know the importance of being invited, just like one would a person at the front door, into the home. Penny Mustard Furnishings is such a business, and while I have no stake in the company I do thank them for having high standards for their ads and public relations. The type of folks it would be a pleasure to chat with over a cup of coffee.

Campaign For Wisconsin Governor Must Address Labor Shortage, Need For Immigrant Labor

With the campaign for Wisconsin governor moving in full steam towards the November election voters are being offered an array of pretty much the same fare as past fall races.  This year there is alpha-male posing from Republican nominee Tim Michels while Tony Evers unveils a cheesy tax cut. Voters know aggressive masculinity does not equate to good governance, and that our transportation budget needs state funds far more than individuals do with an extra couple hundred bucks in their wallet.

Yes, we are now in that time when candidates will say and do anything for a point bump in the polls or a series of favorable headlines.  I understand the need to press all the buttons and make every effort to prevail at the polls, but there must also be a real conversation with the electorate about issues that matter.  One of those topics is something I have talked about for at least 20 years.  Count the number of graduates leaving high school in May and then count the new faces entering kindergarten in September.  We have a genuine worker shortage, in every business sector and in every region around the Badger State.

On Sunday Tom Still, who I believe should be in the kitchen cabinet for whoever wins the governorship, stated most clearly why there is a need to focus on our state’s worker shortage.

Economists and demographers in Wisconsin have been warning for decades that a shortage of workforce-age people was inevitable. The St. Louis-based research arm of the Federal Reserve reports Wisconsin’s “labor force participation” rate declined from 74.5% in late 1997 to 66.4% in June 2022. That rate reflects the number of all employed and unemployed workers divided against the state’s civilian population.

Stills also noted a sobering fact about the dismal rate of growth from those moving here from another state.

At a time when much of the United States is on the move, Wisconsin isn’t a leading destination. About 1.1 million people moved from one U.S. state to another in 2021, the conference was told, yet only 3,400 or so wound up in Wisconsin.

Among the various factors Still connected to the worker shortage, was the fact our state will need to view immigration in a different light if we are to meet the economic needs we face. Nine years ago, in 2013, he wrote a column about immigrant workers in the Badger State.

Immigration reform can help the Wisconsin economy at a time when the demographics of an aging society are chipping away at the state’s workforce, from its kitchens, farms and resorts to its research laboratories and tech companies.

In a global economy, Wisconsin looks much less international than even its neighbors. Compared to Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, Wisconsin has a smaller share of foreign-born population and total labor force, as well as fewer foreign-born business owners.

During the primary season, there were countless television ads by Michels where “illegals” were mentioned. We learned that he aligned with Donald Trump concerning a wall at the Southern border. He ground down with campaign rhetoric about “no drivers’ licenses, no benefits, and no tuition” for immigrants.

We too often hear conservative pols use dehumanizing language regarding immigrants.  Over the past years, we have had too many truly sad examples of political discourse that was xenophobic and racist. The facts are of course that immigrants are human beings in search of a better life, fair wages, safety, and security.  Additionally, we know that Wisconsin requires their labor and skills.

While the usual theatrics of a campaign season is upon us it appears that once again the long-term problem of a shortage of workers in our state will be left behind.  Slogans and heavy rhetoric about red meat topics will not address the shortage of workers businesses confront year after year in the construction trades, farms, or on the manufacturing floors. Voters should be provided ideas by the candidates for governor about how our state deals with this pressing problem.

What Is Happening To Our Work Culture?

Friday, June 3rd, I stopped at my usual Madison grocery where I shop weekly, arriving at 7:45 P.M at the deli so to pick up some various lunchmeats. A young woman behind the counter had already spread out a plastic-type of sheet and was further expanding it over meats not yet covered.  I knew from experience the deli closes at 8P.M. There is even a sign noting that time on the top of the deli counter.  

When I asked for some meat, the worker told me she had met her 40 hours for the week and with tone and body language strongly inferred I should not ask for service. I asked that she be professional and honor the sign on the deli.  I then bought three types of meats at about a $20 cost.

Upon finishing the transaction, she told me she had now worked 8 minutes overtime.  I did not know how to respond to what was a rude comment for doing nothing more than shopping in a grocery store during open hours.  I am not sure if she was totally aware it is due to customers who shop at the store that then allows her to earn a salary.

I follow business news closely and know of angst among workers, issues of salary, and the great transitions underway in the workplace. I am sympathetic to some of the larger issues at hand. But I have never encountered a face-to-face service industry employee who exhibited such behavior that made me write a letter to the manager.

I know about working longer hours than expected, as I was a radio broadcaster where over-time Brewer baseball games from the West Coast would force the FM station to be on the air past our normal midnight sign-off. But I stayed and did the job even though I had passed my 40-hour work week, too. I would have been rightly fired had I just decided to cut the power to the station. Or place a plastic sheet over the studio microphone and cared not what the listening audience thought about the ongoing sporting event.

In 1984, I worked the board for a game that at the time was the longest OT to be played, with the league rules forcing a resumption of play the following afternoon due to the late hour. That was May 9th, when the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers played in a 25-inning game. The game was the longest in MLB History. On top of the very long night, I also note I am not a sports fan.

The episode Friday night leaves me pondering what is happening to the work culture in our nation when there is no longer regard for doing a job completely and with a determination at doing it properly.

Now It Is OREO Cookies…..Why Do Some Conservatives Thrive On Bigotry, Buffoonery?

There seems to be no end to the protracted culture wars that some people are just determined to start and continue. Who cares if people are hurt along the way, there are political points to be scored.

One of the first items on my email list this morning was a news story about blowback over cookies! It started with a major company reaching out through a truly impressively made video to showcase a resolve to stand with gay men and women.

The two-minute short film (at bottom of this post) about the, at times, difficulty of coming out, was produced in tandem by Oreo and PFLAG. As we are too aware, such positive moves that align with dignity and understanding for gay people, often run smack dab into some conservatives who wish to head back to whatever time their red hats are calculated for.

This morning I read that some of the mouthpieces for the far-right are all set and ready to boycott “gay cookies”. I suspect, however, those same conservative shouters are morally fine with Herschel Walker’s primary senate campaign in Georgia, even though the troubled football player was accused by his ex-wife of making multiple threats against her life. In 2005 she secured an order of protection against him. His now ex-wife stated Walker pointed a pistol at her head and said, ‘I’m going to blow your (I do not allow this world on my blog) brains out.’ 

But Walker is straight, and never finished college…so he fits in perfectly for the likes of Ben Shapiro. The ones to fear are not the abusers of women, but the cookies!

The Note,” is filmmaking with wonderful lighting, a few well-placed words, music that drives the mood, and compassion for a young Chinese-American man practicing a coming-out speech before a few close family members. Before the young man shares his truth with his grandmother, his mom slips him a note. “She might be my mother,” it reads, “but you are my son.”

The video ends with a message for viewers to pay it forward. “Coming out doesn’t happen just once,” it says. “Be a lifelong ally.”

What possibly could be the reason for the vitriol from the right about this video, and now the start of what will be a phenomenal failure at boycotting OREO cookies?

Why are bigotry and buffoonery the only way to connect with the conservative base? When we answer that question we may know far more as to why our politics are so dysfunctional.

And so it goes.

Four-Day Workweek In Offing For Americans?

During the pandemic, I have found it most interesting to follow closely certain economic news. Such as the selling price of homes in certain parts of the nation, supply-line issues, inflation, and how workers in many cases are demanding more pay and benefits.

Today, I read more about the growing movement for an idea I have long favored.

The four-day workweek.

There is no doubt, even prior to the pandemic, the stress level in the workplace combined with the lack of time to invest in personal ventures left many employees very unhappy. Not only with their jobs, but sadly, also their lives. The idea of a shorter workweek in our nation has many economists enthused as it is often noted in such work environments an increase in productivity is the result of more time with family and personal plans.

People are taking stock of their lives and the too-real awareness, in the midst of the pandemic, about a stronger sense of mortality and making use of time constructively. Hence, more workers are concluding this idea has merit.

As noted in the article..Working fewer hours per day would bring many parents’ schedules more in sync with those of their school-age children, giving parents opportunities to be more present and less exhausted during family time.

With the “Great Resignation” still in full-swing, and work-induced burnout an official occupational hazard according to the World Health Organization, a growing number of employers — and countries — are rethinking the standard 40-hour workweek. Iceland led the way in experimenting with shorter workweeks, without pay cuts, over several years. The experiment has largely been hailed as a success, with an estimated 86 percent of workers expected to adopt it.

Now Belgium has announced it will allow workers to request permission to compress their work hours into four days. Companies in North America are following suit; a coalition of U.K. companies is expected to replicate the experiment this summer. In the United States, U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) has proposed a bill that would reduce all standard workweeks to 32 hours, requiring overtime pay for anyone working beyond that.

An idea whose time has come?

And so it goes.

Will Children Be Able To Sleep Next To Proposed Amazon Facility In Cottage Grove?

As I wrote last week, I am very supportive of Cottage Grove officials who are working to make sure a job-creating Amazon facility is constructed and operating within 18 months. Tonight more reporting of the proposal was covered on local news.

David Stampli also lives a few hundred feet away from the planned facility and he’s also concerned about noise pollution. “I’ve two daughters, nine and 13. (on WKOW News Thursday evening he stated on-air “they keep asking”) How are they going to be able to sleep at night? There’s going to be trucks entering this facility 24/7.”

That reminded me of another father-child ‘conversation’ that many might recall from the pages of history.

In October 1980, President Carter said in his debate with Ronald Reagan, “I asked Amy the other day what the most important issue was. She said, ‘nuclear weaponry and the control of nuclear weapons.'”

Yeah.

And so it goes.

Amazon Perfect For Dane County Employment Growth

Here we go again.

A great opportunity has presented itself for job growth and increased tax revenue for the Madison area and Dane County. But some naysayers are already building their soapboxes so to undermine the effort.

Headlines were made Friday that Amazon is hoping to build in Dane County one of the largest distribution centers in the country. The massive retailer that finds customers in scores of homes nationwide (at least twice a week here with Prime) has proposed a five-story, 3.4 million-square-foot facility on 145 acres near the intersection of County Highway TT and County Highway N, just north of Interstate 94, in Cottage Grove.

And the selling point for the county is that this project would employ 1,500 people. It is hoped that construction could begin this year if local officials sign off on the deal, with the facility opening about 18 months later. Approval for the project has already received preliminary approval from both the Plan Commission and Village Board.

Local news reports have underscored the economic bounce this facility would provide to the county.

The proposed Amazon project, which is taking about half of the land, could mean a full build-out of the property in 10 years and increasing the village’s tax base by $300 million to $400 million.

But reports have also let it be known that there are some residents who are not pleased with the scope of the plan.

As we enter the third year of the COVID pandemic it is more than fair to write that our county has experienced economic hardships. With the disruptions to businesses, jobs, and the bottom lines of owners and workers alike we need true signs of renewal.

Therefore, it was my hope that upon first learning of this proposed plan a united effort from the local community, to the county as a whole, would be squarely behind the idea. Agreeing that job creation, along with an enhanced tax base that is good for everybody seems more than logical.

After all, we have witnessed the destruction of jobs and livelihoods with COVID and it is in the best interests of our area to stir the pot and create some hope for the future. Is that not part of the job of elected officials? So I applaud the people who worked from the beginning to marshall this idea to a top headline in Saturday’s Wisconsin State Journal.

There will be, in addition to the people who reside closest to the proposed site, others who will reject the idea simply because it is Amazon coming to the county. While I can understand the concerns of homeowners who have invested their lives in the community where the facility will be built, I can not find any rationale for thwarting a massive job creation effort because those jobs are not the correct jobs that should be created.

The dialogue from the anti-Amazon folks forgets about the need for more employment opportunities with good-paying jobs. I would like to think–in the same manner which I watch Washington politicians–that the naysayers might try to find a way they could say yes to the plan in question. Or is the rigidity of their views about Amazon the sole determining factor?

Yeah, it takes no time to ponder that question.

I come from perhaps an old-fashioned background concerning local government. In times of turmoil and economic upheaval, there is a need to lift citizens up, show resolve at pointing to better days ahead, and marshal our governing tools to demonstrate hope for the future.

The local people governing in Cottage Grove are doing that very thing.

And they deserve applause from the entire county. After all, the ones who are unemployed or seeking stable work opportunities should have someone on their side, too.

And so it goes.

Wonder Bar In Madison Saved, But At What Cost?

It is always amusing what issue can energize enough people to take action so as to impact the larger issue at hand. This year in Madison the ‘necessity’ of securing the Wonder Bar from demolition caught my attention.

An 18-story development project aimed at housing and commercial interests had been proposed for the site where the Wonder Bar and another drinking establishment in close proximity now exist. The proposal was a smart idea for a city that does like to talk often about the need for more housing, and knowing the added tax base is always required for the needs of our communities.

But then it seemed a number of locals found themselves to be history buffs and demanded that the 1930s Prohibition Roadhouse built by rivals of Al Capone be saved. After a number of meetings and letters to the editor of the local paper, it was decided that the Wonder Bar would be physically moved so to save it.

The cost of such a move would seemingly require a lot of cookie sales from the proponents of saving it. Or should we just expect the developer to bite that cost, too?

Over the 30 years of living in Madison, I have found myself on both sides of development projects. How it impacts those who live near such a proposal and the economic benefit to the city are two of my major concerns. When the Wonder Bar is the central issue, however, the end result is not difficult to discern.

There should have been strong and unbending support for the development proposed by McGrath Property Group. Tepid support does not cut it in this time of economic dips and uncertainty.

So the news this week about the down-sized plans for the project is not in any way surprising.

“The decision was made due to the continuing unprecedented increases in construction costs which was exacerbated by the high costs of relocating the Wonder Bar on site,” McGrath told the State Journal Tuesday evening. “We get routine feedback from our general contractor on pricing as the design evolves. In this case, costs kept trending in the wrong direction.”

The total cost to move the Wonder Bar was over $1 million and added three months to the construction schedule, he said.

“We are still planning to go forward with a project but it will be a lower scale project, likely four-to- five stories of wood frame over two levels of parking, and the Wonder Bar will remain in its current location,” he wrote to city staff.

There are times when developers have put forth in this city ideas that were truly in need of a total transformation. Then there are those projects where the need exists and the economic uptick for Madison can be clearly demonstrated with density development. It is that last point that sums up what could have occurred–and should have been realized on Olin Avenue.

The Wonder Bar should now sharply increase the costs of their drinks so to help with revenue to the city and to make up for what we are losing from a much-limited development project.

And so it goes.