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Veit Companies moves into Wisconsin market with Milwaukee office

Veit Companies, an earthwork, demolition and utility contractor headquartered in Rogers, Minn., is opening a Milwaukee office.

The company has already done work in Wisconsin, including foundations on the Epic Systems Corp. headquarters in Verona and demolition and earthwork for the Columbia St. Mary’s hospital project in Milwaukee, said Chuck Geisler, Veit executive manager of sales and marketing.

The company has Minnesota offices in Duluth, Rochester and Austin. The majority of its work is in the Midwest, but it does projects across the country, he said.

The contractor, which is signatory to a number of unions, is starting out with a handful of field supervisors, estimators and project managers in Milwaukee, and will take on more employees as needed, Geisler said.

Its office is at 1011 W. Somers St., Milwaukee.

Kenosha County Board urges Chrysler to keep Kenosha plant open

Kenosha (AP) — There was no opposition when the Kenosha County Board sent a message to Chrysler with a vote Tuesday night.

Supervisors voted 25-0 for a resolution that opposes Chrysler’s plan to shutter the city’s engine plant permanently by the end of 2010 as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

The resolution also expresses discontent with the automaker’s plans to expand operations in Mexico, including opening a new engine plant there.

Supervisor Terry Rose sponsored the resolution. He called Chrysler’s plans “inherently unfair,” noting that the company at the same time is taking $4 billion in recovery aid, with another $8 billion likely to come.

New president favors making Wisconsin state bar voluntary

Madison (AP) — A growing number of Wisconsin lawyers favor making membership in the State Bar of Wisconsin voluntary.

They include incoming bar president Doug Kammer. He said members don’t like being forced to pay for a group that sometimes lobbies for causes its members don’t support.

Lawyers are the only group in Wisconsin that must join a professional organization. The state bar has 23,000 members who each pay annual dues of $224. Fifteen thousand members live in Wisconsin.

Kammer said he wants to make the bar association a “strong, unified voice from the lawyers.”

He said some members may drop out if membership becomes voluntary, and the way to win them back is by providing good services.

A survey of attorneys last fall found 57 percent favored a voluntary bar.

PSC approves Kaukauna Utilities’ toilet rebate plan

Madison (AP) — Residential customers of Kaukauna Utilities will be offered a $50 rebate for buying a type of high-efficiency toilet to reduce water use.

The state Public Service Commission approved the rebate program for buyers of the toilets with the WaterSense label indicating they use at least 20 percent less water than existing toilets while also meeting performance standards.

The change can save on both the water and sewer bill.

Kaukauna Utilities’ rebate program is part of long-term efforts to manage ground water and conserve water.

Budget bill easing St. Paul loan heads to Minnesota governor for OK

St. Paul, MN (AP) — Legislation forgiving almost $33 million from a state loan St. Paul used to build a professional hockey arena a decade ago made its way to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday.

The Minnesota House voted 74 to 57 for the measure, part of a bigger economic development budget plan that cleared the Senate a day earlier.

The spokesman for the Republican governor said the Democrats who put the bill together “completely ignored” Pawlenty’s suggestion to link the loan forgiveness with paying for police and firefighters. Pawlenty has vetoed previous attempts to forgive the loan.

“Governor Pawlenty will consider this bill, but this provision is extremely troubling and it could jeopardize the entire bill,” spokesman Brian McClung said.

McClung said the governor’s office is studying whether the provision could be stripped from the bill using the line-item veto.

Nordic construction firm reports profit decline

Stockholm (AP) — Skanska AB, the Nordic region’s biggest construction company, on Wednesday said net profit fell by half in the first quarter as the financial and economic crisis resulted in slowing demand and stalled projects.

The Stockholm-based group reported net earnings of $55 million in the quarter, down 50 percent compared to the same three months last year.

Skanska’s Chief Executive Johan Karlstrom said the company’s results continued to be hurt by the financial turmoil, with order bookings falling as much as 30 percent.

For 2009, Karlstrom said his company is sticking to the forecast that sales volumes will shrink about 10 percent.

Skanska’s biggest unit, construction, saw demand weaken in all its markets during the quarter. However, with large government stimulus packages under way, the company expects demand to eventually pick up since projects which had already been approved were just waiting for financing to start.

Swiss cement maker reports drop in first-quarter profit

Zurich (AP) — Swiss cement maker Holcim AG reported Wednesday an 80 percent drop in first quarter net profit, as the global economic downturn and a harsh winter in Europe and North America hit the construction industry hard.

Holcim said profits attributable to shareholders were $65.3 million.

Sales fell 18 percent.

In Europe, the collapse of the housing market in Britain and Spain dragged sales down by 33 percent.

North American sales dropped 20 percent. Latin American sales declined 16 percent, while in Africa and the Middle East they dropped by 6 percent.

By contrast, sales in Asia dipped only 1 percent.

Looking ahead, Holcim predicted 2009 would be a difficult year and offered no guidance for how the company would fare.

Holcim said it would prioritize the group’s financial stability, cutting back on excess capacity to offset falling sales.

Texas homebuilder narrows loss by half in fourth quarter

Dallas (AP) — Centex Corp. said its loss narrowed by about half in its most recent quarter, but the homebuilder’s results were twice as bad as Wall Street expected.

The Dallas-based company said Tuesday it lost $402.8 million in the three months that ended in March. That compares with a loss of $910.5 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue dropped to $823 million, down 64 percent from the year before.

Centex’s financial performance was hurt by a loss of $352 million from declining land values and other assets.

Ford invests millions to retool plant for car production

Wayne, WI (AP) — Ford Motor Co. will invest $550 million to convert its old Michigan truck plant into a facility that will build compact modern cars, the car maker said Wednesday.

Michigan, Wayne county and the city of Wayne contributed more than $160 million in tax credits and grants to support Ford’s expansion.

The retooled facility, which once built sport utility vehicles, will build Ford’s new Focus.

The plant also will build a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market. That vehicle is expected to debut in 2011.

The struggling automaker said roughly 3,200 jobs will be created in Michigan because of the plant conversion.

The majority of Ford’s investment will be spent on manufacturing at the site and the remainder on engineering and launch costs.

Ford said it also will consolidate operations at its Wayne Assembly plant and transform two other truck and SUV plants — the Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico and the Louisville Assembly in Kentucky — as part of the retooling.

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