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'UPFRONT' recap: Generac CEO discusses hurricane response, labor market and inflation

WISN Milwaukee 10/2/2022
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Generac Power Systems CEO Aaron Jagdfeld says the company’s hurricane response teams will be in Florida for at least the next two weeks working to fix and maintain backup generators after Hurricane Ian.

"It can be anything from a data center to a hospital to a wastewater treatment plant," Jagdfeld said on WISN's "UPFRONT," which is produced in partnership with “Our teams are down there on the ground really helping our distribution and getting those machines up and running."

The Waukesha-based company is also in the midst of expansions in Wisconsin and South Carolina, including adding a $20 million research and development center to its Wisconsin headquarters and a new plant in South Carolina with some 500 employees.

"We felt like we needed to expand kind of beyond the Wisconsin borders," Jagdfeld said. "A lot of our growing markets are in the Southeast as you can image where you do get hurricanes and some of these weather disturbances in particular. We wanted to be closer to our customers."

Jagdfeld said the company continues to battle a global labor shortage, adding it may be one of the biggest long-term hindrances to growth.

"I'm worried about it being a problem for us in the long-term," he said. "And it's not just our employees, but it’s our distribution’s employees."

In the short-term, Jagdfeld said record-high inflation has impacted the company’s costs on everything from labor to raw materials but said it appears to be leveling off at least for the moment.

"We've had to pass that along with prices increases to our customers and that’s painful," Jagdfeld said. "But it's part of being a viable business."

Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin says opening Fiserv Forum as an in-person early voting location in Milwaukee is just the start of a larger effort to encourage greater voter participation.

"I think one of the goals, the objectives of the owners became kind of citizens or stewards of this team is how do we create this meeting place, how do we leverage this for the city of Milwaukee and this is one of those great ways to do it," Feigin said.

Fiserv Forum will host in-person early voting on six different days leading up to the Nov. 8 election.

"We have a lot of people who don’t vote,” Feigin said. “This would be a great conduit to get those folks to come and vote for the first time.”

Meantime, the NBA’s executive director of its social justice coalition praised the Milwaukee Bucks’ move and said the league is increasing its efforts, including holding no NBA games on Election Day.

“Why we’ve gotten such a positive reaction from so many quarters is that very few people are against the idea of voting," James Cadogan said. "Very few people are against the idea of democracy. The more that we get involved, the more we encourage people to participate, the better our outcomes for all of our communities."

Cadogan, who is the first executive director to the post in charge of addressing racial inequity and advancing social justice causes, rejects any criticism the league is advocating for one party or another.

"Our civic engagement efforts have always been nonpartisan, and that’s the most important principle regardless of where you are on the political spectrum," Cadogan said. "Personally, we want you to come out and vote."

Darrell Brooks, the man accused of killing six people and injuring dozens of others in the Waukesha parade attack, will defend himself when his trial starts Monday.

"It'll look completely different than if counsel were proceeding on behalf of Mr. Brooks," Craig Mastantuono said, a defense attorney and legal analyst. "On one side the defense team has left and so Mr. Brooks will be alone at counsel table and in a really unpredictable setting."

Jury selection begins Monday.

The trial has received nationwide political attention, especially given the face Brooks was out on a $1,000 bail for a previous charge, an amount District Attorney John Chisholm called “inappropriately low.”

Mastantuono said that, though, will likely have no place in the upcoming trial.

"I doubt any of it will make the trial proceedings," he said. "I don’t think it would be considered relevant. I think the judge would have a pretty short leash for any party attempting to introduce that, and I don’t expect the parties would."

Former RNC chair and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus says Wisconsin's races for U.S. Senate and the governor will be a "dog-fight" until the end.

Priebus, now chair of the RNC host committee, was in Milwaukee this past week for an event hosted by the Milwaukee Business Journal that brought together community and business leaders ahead of the 2024 convention.

"It doesn’t surprise me because Wisconsin is a split state," Priebus said. "You look at these polls, and it shows 48% for one person, 48 for another, and only 4% of the people are undecided. So, basically, you’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting over 50,000 people. It’s pretty wild."

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