There's a surplus

You probably saw this in our paper last week: the state is likely to see a $1.3 billion budget surplus.

The state budget office released its economic forecast on Thursday and credited the surplus to improved revenue and decreased spending.

As Assistant Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, D-Woodbury, put it: the surplus is like a bonus — not a new salary.

There has been a lot of chatter about the economic report and surplus. Here’s a watered-down version of why it matters:

  • The forecast guides lawmaker’s work in the upcoming 2020 legislative session.

  • It’s already lead to some arguing over what to do with the surplus — do we save it or spend it?

  • The state’s reserve fun now sits at approximately $2.4 billion.

  • The surplus could soften the blow if the economy takes a downtown in the coming year.

Who is working and where

We just got access to the monthly employment report from September, which shows 0.6% job growth in the Duluth-Superior area.

Government employers added the most jobs, with 2,300 new jobs that month. These jobs were split nearly even between state- and local-level positions.

The report also notes that people older than 65 are working longer. In 2003, they made up 2.7% of the workforce, while last year they made up 4.8% of the state’s workforce.

More on these figures and more are in the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s employment report.

Have a business idea for Wisconsin?

You’re in luck. The annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest is now accepting entries until Jan. 31.

It’s designed to spur tech-based startup companies in the state.

But what’s in it for the winner? It connects start-ups to a large network of entrepreneurs, experts, management talent and capital sources. They also win major cash and service prizes.

Since its start in 2004, finalists of the contest have raised more than $200 million in angel ventures, grants and venture debt.

Record shattered on Black Friday

Americans did some serious retail shopping from the comforts of their homes this Black Friday, as the holiday of spending set records for online retail in the U.S.

People shopping online that Friday spent $7.2 billion in digital sales in the U.S. — an increase of 14%, according to reporting from Forbes.

Mobile orders were also up by 35%, making up over half of the online sales.

These figures, notably, don’t include Cyber Monday sales.

Throughout the holiday season, it’s estimated online sales will be up by 15%.

Kelly Busche covers business and the health care industry for the News Tribune. She wasn’t a contributor of online Black Friday sales, as she prefers to buy all her gifts frantically at the last moment.