No matter how you slice it the news was more good than bad when the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development released its unemployment figures for December. Racine’s unemployment rate for December was posted at 3.8 percent — a historic low. Yes, the city still topped the jobless list for Wisconsin cities and villages, but the December rate was 1.6 percent lower than December a year ago. The numbers pair with unemployment rates of 3.2 percent for Racine County, also down from 4.4 percent a year ago, and Caledonia and Mount Pleasant, both at 2.8 percent. Moreover, the jobless rate drop comes as southeastern Wisconsin continues to prepare for the construction of the massive Foxconn manufacturing campus, which is anticipated to create immense job opportunities area-wide.
Sometimes it’s good not to be on the list. That was the case this week when Bon-Ton stores announced it was closing 42 stores nationwide — including names like Boston Store, Younkers and Carsons. But while nine stores in the state were on the chopping block, the Boston Store in Regency Mall was spared and that’s good news for area shoppers, employees and the mall, which is currently undergoing an interior renovation under its new owner, the Hull Property Group from Georgia.
Smaller entrepreneurial efforts add up as well and Racine got notice of a couple of fledgling new projects this week — a Downtown bakery and a banquet hall in Uptown. The bakery, which operators say will be named The Main Street Bakery, will set up shop in the former Mathis Gallery, 328 Main St. and should be open by Easter. It is being operated by Maria Farnsworth, who has 35 years of baking experience at other local bakeries, in partnership with Eric Hamber and Crystal Meller. In Uptown, the former Easterday Office Equipment and Supply store at 1504 Washington Ave. is planned to be converted to a banquet hall and women’s boutique. The three-storefront building was purchased by Umar Nirman, owner of the Pakistani restaurant Kebab and Grill, who plans to name the hall Punjabi Banquet Hall and operate it with one of his sons.
Are you ready for some football? Well, frankly we’re less than enthused about this Sunday’s matchup between the New York Yankees — oops, no, the New England Patriots (the other ageless sports dynasty) and the Philadelphia Eagles, even if it is being played next door in Minnesota. Without the Green Bay Packers taking the field there is not much to cheer about and we might even have settled for the Minnesota Vikings as a Packer proxy since that would be the neighborly thing to do. Still, if you’re looking for a “Hometown Favorite” to cheer on, that might be Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose mom grew up in Browerville, Minn., a town with a population of 750 a couple hours northwest of Minneapolis. As a boy, Brady used to spend two weeks each summer visiting aunts, uncles, cousins and his grandparents. His grandfather was a dairy farmer and part-time barber; his grandmother was a hairdresser. “Tommy,” as his cousin Pickles Johnson (he got the nickname Pickles for selling pickles door-to-door) still calls him, learned to bobber-fish for sunfish, hunt, play in area quarries and even milk a cow.
A little closer to home, Racine native Chris Maragos will be on the sideline cheering on his Eagles teammates. The Horlick High School graduate, in his fourth season with the Eagles, suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 6 against Carolina, but remains a vocal leader for the team.
That’s about as close to Wisconsin as it gets this football Sunday.